Germany, the NPT, and the European Option
First of all, I would like to explore the present-day meaning of the issue we are discussing today: the option of a common European nuclear force. Secondly, I will discuss this option in the context of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): Could the European option be compatible with the obligations of the Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) under the NPT? Thirdly, I will give a brief overview of the historical meaning of the European atomic community, EURATOM. And finally, I will deal with the prospects for a German nuclear option and its relationship to the European one.
Common European Defense PolicyDuring the coming months and years, Western European defense policy will be a central topic on the European agenda. In 1996, the European Council will address this point in order to set the course for a revised version of the Western European Union Treaty, which might terminate in 1998, after 50 years of validity. Volker Rühe, the German minister of defense, made clear what the German government would like to achieve, when he demanded in April 1995 that Europe become "an equal partner to America, capable of acting at a global and a strategic level without being dependent upon the involvement of the United States".(1) There is a certain interest to loosen up the transatlantic alliance in order to establish a European Union military body capable of acting independently, which could still serve, when required, as the European pillar of NATO. The goal is to achieve equality at a strategic level. This cannot be achieved, however, without a nuclear weapon capability.
Will the member states of the European Union - as required by the NPT - reject Volker Rühe's "idea" by supporting nuclear disarmament and gradually integrating the French and British nuclear arsenals into the START disarmament procedures? If so, Germany would, presumably, remain a Non-Nuclear Weapon State. Or, will the European Union support nuclear arming and modernization in order to catch up with the nuclear capacity of the United States, and thus be capable of replacing it in the long run? Would Germany remain a Non-Nuclear Weapon State in that case as well? Or, should that happen, would the German government be keen on changing its nuclear status in order to influence future European nuclear weapons policy, and thereby realize the so-called "European Option" - the option of establishing a common European nuclear force?
Today, I would like to discuss these questions as far as the official German position is concerned. The demands of senior government advisors, such as Michael Stürmer, head of the Ebenhausen-based "Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik" (the German equivalent to the US RAND Corporation), are quite clear. "The unification of Europe demands, at present, a joint foreign and security policy as a common interest axis", he wrote in 1995. "Thus, we are not only confronted in a new way with the question of the German nuclear renunciations of 1954 and 1990 within a European context, but also with the question of French and British control over nuclear weapons as an expression of the desire to remain masters of their own fate." (2)
Professors Karl Kaiser and Erwin Häckel - the leading proliferation experts in the government-oriented Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (German Society for Foreign Affairs) - also emphasized this point in 1994 when they wrote that Paris and London must be prepared "for their weapons to function extensively as European" in order to avoid a new proliferation case in Europe.(3) "It must be seen that while German renunciation of nuclear weapons has certainly been expressed without conditions, it cannot be meant to be unconditional." (4)
So, what about the NPT, which has just been extended indefinitely in New York? Does the Treaty allow the participation of "have-nots" within the framework of a European nuclear force?
Special Interpretations and Loopholes of the NPTKeeping open the European option was West Germany's primary goal during the NPT diplomacy of the Sixties, and it was partially successful. There is, for example, a little-known loophole in Article II of the NPT, which may still be of considerable significance for Western Europe's nuclear policy. Whereas the "have-nots" are banned from manufacturing their own nuclear weapons, they are not banned from assisting in the weapons production of a Nuclear Weapons State. Thus, the NPT allows countries like Belgium, Italy, and Germany to buy their way, as it were, into the nuclear weapons production of France or the United Kingdom with nationally-produced plutonium and/or national know-how.
In reply to a question by the Greens in the Bundestag, the German government confirmed that "the transfer of nuclear products or nuclear technology to Nuclear Weapon States (was not subject to) any restrictions".(5) For politicians with clear ambitions, such as Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss, it was precisely this point - "the development and manufacture of European nuclear weapons (...) through scientific and financial contributions from other states in the European Union" - that was the principal instrument for establishing a kind of European nuclear power.(6) This loophole may have some relevance today.
For West Germany, in particular - and for Italy, with qualifications - keeping the so-called European option open was an essential precondition for accession to the NPT. In a specific interpretation agreed upon within the NATO Council, it was stipulated that the NPT does not preclude the creation of a new nuclear armed European federal state as long as that state centralizes its foreign and defense policies.(7) Such a federal state was, of course, just as unlikely a proposition then, as it is today. In official statements by the German federal government, that clause has always been described as being "too narrow" and priority has shifted to a plan for a European Union with responsibility for a common security policy.
During the ratification debate, Willy Brandt and the conservative chairman of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee, Gerhard Schröder, began developing a new formula for the European option. Talks on this resulted in an additional statement by the West German government with respect to the deposition of the instruments of ratification. In this statement, Bonn declared that it was prepared to accede to the NPT only on condition that "no regulation of the Treaty be interpreted in such a way that it would hamper the further development of European integration, especially in the establishing of a European Union with its corresponding areas of competency".(8) In contrast to the US interpretation of the NPT - which permitted the transfer of nuclear weapons only after the establishment of a European federal state (9) - the West German interpretation demanded that all the intermediate steps on the road to becoming a European nuclear power be defined as being in conformity with the NPT.(10)
The interpretations and loopholes of the NPT continue to be valid for today's united Germany, for they also serve as the basis for the clause on Germany's nuclear status in the "2 plus 4" Treaty outlining German unification. The NPT, as interpreted by both the United States and the Western European governments, provides, as a senior advisor of the German government wrote, "the framework for future developments in the field of military-nuclear cooperation; it makes clear what is not allowed and so reduces the possibilities of opposition in this area to cases of proven infringements of the Treaty".(11)
EURATOM and the EurobombThe founding of EURATOM - the European Atomic Energy Community - in 1957 was inextricably linked with France's atomic weapons project. One aim of the EURATOM Treaty was to support the peaceful use of atomic capacity. The establishment of a nuclear arsenal, however, remained possible for only some countries, while military use of nuclear energy was possible for all states. In Bonn, too, EURATOM was regarded as a precondition for the development of a European - or German - bomb.
In September 1956, Konrad Adenauer declared that EURATOM would, in the long run, grant the Federal Republic "the possibility of developing nuclear weapons in a normal way. All other countries, including France, have gone further in this matter." (12) In the minutes of a cabinet meeting, Adenauer was also quoted as saying that he "wanted to achieve, through EURATOM, as quickly as possible, the chance of producing our own nuclear weapons".(13) At the end of 1957, according to the memoirs of Franz Josef Strauss, a triangular cooperation between France, Germany, and Italy had been suggested by then French Defense Minister Chaban-Delmas, for the purpose of producing nuclear warheads.
Strauss said in 1958 that "the preliminary draft of the Treaty was discussed down to the very finest detail. The central issue was the joint development and production of atomic explosives. The Treaty was initialled, and each of the signatories took a copy." (14) All of this was conducted in total silence and secrecy. Chancellor Adenauer was, next to Defense Minister Strauss, the only person fully informed of this nuclear weapon project. He is said to have told Strauss, "Do it, but should there be any trouble, I know nothing at all about the entire business." (15) This secret contract, however, was voided in the autumn of 1958 by the new French President Charles de Gaulle.
Franco-German nuclear relations involved both dependency and mistrust. France wanted money and technical know-how but did not want to have its nuclear decisions influenced by others, which was exactly what West Germany wanted. However, both partners agreed on one aspect: keeping international safeguards out of EURATOM's nuclear business. EURATOM never really had much impact as far as nuclear energy research is concerned but it has been quite successful in keeping the influence of the IAEA safeguards in Europe to a minimum.
To quote a US State Department official, "The Europeans insist that a subordinate status implicit in US inspections would make the community politically unacceptable to the participating countries. Inspection by the (International Atomic Energy) Agency, when neither the United States nor Great Britain are prepared to accept similar inspections, would be equally unacceptable." (16) This statement was made in 1956. Two years later EURATOM succeeded in establishing an independent safeguards system.
In 1967, negotiations on the NPT nearly failed because of EURATOM's insistence on keeping out IAEA inspections on EURATOM soil. In the Federal Republic the bonds with EURATOM were especially strong, and rejection of IAEA controls was correspondingly very firm. Protecting the Community from IAEA inspections was thought to be the prerequisite for any future European atomic power. Bonn, which had already renounced the Multi-Lateral Force (MLF) option - a common NATO nuclear force proposed by the United States in the early Sixties - was not prepared to let the prerequisites for the development of a European option slip away.
Although no public connection was made between maintaining EURATOM and the European option, it was certainly present in the minds of the parties directly involved. Even in 1985, the IAEA found it necessary to complain publicly about the continuing "difficulties and disputes" with EURATOM. David Fischer, former IAEA director, added, "EURATOM has focused most of its safeguards concerns on keeping the role of the IAEA to a minimum".(17) Ten years later, even the "prior consent" clause of the United States concerning US-origin plutonium reprocessed in Europe, has become "politically, legally, and technically unacceptable" to the Europeans, as Wilhelm Gmelin, the head of the EURATOM Safeguards Agency, has written.(18) This "prior-consent" clause is based on the 1978 US Non-Proliferation Act and implies that the use of US-origin plutonium or enriched uranium by any country other than the United States must be approved by the US government.
Bonn Threatens With Its Own BombIf the foreign policy of the new German state does not achieve its major goals by persuasion, then blackmail and threats may be used. Let me give an example. There was a candid threat by Germany that it might repeat the German "Sonderweg" and split the European Union, if France did not stop attacking Germany's desire to incorporate some Eastern European states into the European Union (EU). This threat was part and parcel of a paper by Christian Democrat Chairman Schäuble concerning future European policy, which was published and widely read in the fall of 1994. "Without such further development of European integration, Germany could be asked - or, because of pressure to maintain her own security, compelled - to manage the stabilization of Eastern Europe alone and in a traditional manner." (19)
It is possible that French and British reservations about a stronger German nuclear role in Europe will be matched with intimidation, as well. In December 1989 - only one month after the fall of the Berlin Wall - the influential foreign spokesman of the German Conservative Party, Carl Lamers - who supports European nuclear arming - presented the following perspective:
"La derive allemande" - a kind of German solo attempt at saying goodbye to the West and embracing a national atomic option - has not been rejected as fantasy by the ruling German elite. In fact, the opposite is true: the national option has been brought back into the diplomatic game. Playing on the fears of many European nations of a resurrected Germany once again capable of being a player of major strength in Europe, Germany has issued an implicit threat: "Dear Frenchman, be careful. You'd better give your Force de Frappe a European function in time!"
This kind of blackmail can even be found in the official papers of the Western European Union (WEU). The WEU Defense Committee report of May 1994 on "The Role and Future of Nuclear Weapons" noted an increasing lack of credibility in the US guarantee on nuclear weapons, and a new interest in the German problem connected to it. "In this framework, Germany must be provided with a credible nuclear deterrent (...) to avoid its being compelled to develop its own nuclear deterrent", states the report. "Purely Franco-British cooperation might be experienced by Germany as a force that had to be counter-balanced."
Without Germany's plutonium storage in Hanau, the fear of such a counter-balance, and the threat of Germany creating its own nuclear deterrent, would, of course, be nothing more than hollow words. "A nation with a stockpile of separated plutonium is a nation with a nuclear option", as Victor Gilinsky, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), once put it.(21) Germany's plutonium stockpile, which contains some 3,000 kilograms of plutonium - besides Japan the largest amount stored in any Non-Nuclear Weapons State in the world - is a threat. It seems clear that Germany's withdrawal from the plutonium industry is not a basic energy policy issue but a matter of German foreign and defense policy. As long as "adherence to the European option (...) still continues to be the consistent model for Germany's defense policy", as a leading member of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP) puts it, Germany will not withdraw from the plutonium industry.(22)
Today, the possibility of both a German and a European option is being kept open. Both options, however, should be closed. Those who say "A" do not necessarily have to say "B". They can also recognize that their "A" was a mistake. There are better proposals to help enhance the international non-proliferation regime on a European level.
A similar European approach would imply a substantial strengthening of the international non-proliferation regime. Any movement in the direction of a European nuclear force, however, implies further proliferation and a weakening of global non-proliferation by completely putting its credibility at stake.
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