Documents on the history of nuclear proliferation, the arms race, and disarmament efforts. See also the related collections in the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. (Image, US Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile, US Army)
May 23, 1974
National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 202 on Nuclear Proliferation
Following India’s nuclear weapon test, the US must reassess its nuclear non-proliferation policy and how best to deal with India in the future. The author of the memo determines that nuclear non-proliferation is still necessary and can be “effectively pursued.” The memo is followed by a series of documents outlining courses of action to help deter further proliferation.
June 03, 1974
National Security Decision Memorandum 255, Henry Kissinger to Secretary of Defense et al., 'Security and Other Aspects of the Growth and Dissemination of Nuclear Power Industries'
This memo states that the President has read the report by the NSC Under Secretaries Committee and approved the recommended consultations with other countries. In the memo, Henry Kissinger endorsed consultations with suppliers to establish “common principles regarding the supply of sensitive enrichment technology or equipment” and encouraging multinational frameworks for “enrichment, fuel fabrication, and reprocessing facilities,” among other measures.
June 18, 1974
Memorandum of Conversation, 'Indian Nuclear Explosion; World Food Conference; Pacific Coast Tankers; NATO Declaration; Middle East; Trade Bill'
Canada’s safeguards had failed to prevent India from converting spent fuel from the CANDU reactor into plutonium. Kissinger acknowledged to Canadian Foreign Minister Mitchell Sharp that U.S. safeguards had also proven to be “lousy,” failing to prevent India from using U.S.-supplied heavy water for its nuclear activities. Sharp asked Kissinger how the proliferation of nuclear technology could be prevented and what should be said to the Argentines and the Egyptians, who were also seeking to use nuclear energy. But Kissinger evidently had no answer.
June 24, 1974
Under Secretary Sisco's Principals' and Regionals’ Staff Meeting
Encourages interest in a close look at nuclear export policy were negotiations, pre-dating the Indian test, over nuclear reactor sales to Israel, Egypt, and Iran. Chairing the meeting in Kissinger’s absence, Under Secretary of State Joseph Sisco expressed dismay that nuclear nonproliferation had lost high-level support during the Nixon administration.
July 07, 1974
Memorandum of Conversation Energy; North Sea Oil; Foreign Assistance; Nuclear Non-Proliferation; CSCE; Trade Bill
Near the end of a discussion with British Foreign Secretary James Callaghan, Kissinger realized he needed to tackle the problem of nuclear exports and asked his aide, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, to arrange a staff meeting.
July 11, 1974
Executive Secretary George S. Springsteen to Secretary of State Kissinger, “Analytical Staff Meeting,” enclosing “Discussion Paper on U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy"
This report provided a comprehensive take on the problem of nuclear proliferation and the state of U.S. nonproliferation policy. Among the specific issues reviewed were the status of the NPT, export control issues, the problem of “peaceful nuclear explosions,” the implications of the Indian test, and long-term steps for controlling the proliferation of nuclear capabilities. Prepared by Jerome Kahan and Charles Van Doren, respectively with the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
July 31, 1974
Memorandum to the Secretary of State from ACDA Director Fred Ikle and Policy Planning Staff Director Winston Lord, 'Analytical Staff Meeting on Non-Proliferation Strategy'
To help Kissinger prepare for a follow-up discussion, ACDA and State Department officials prepared a "Non-Proliferation: Strategy and Action Program” to help guide policy. A key proposal was for “high level political approaches to key exporting countries to enlist their support for safeguarding transfers of nuclear materials.” While Washington had to approach a number of nuclear exporters, consultations with France “constitute the most crucial and urgent step to be taken.”
August 02, 1974
The Secretary's Analytical Staff Meeting on Non-Proliferation
Kissinger presided over an important staff meeting in early August where he made a decision to go ahead with the suppliers’ project, beginning with approaches to Moscow and Paris. While noting that the U.S., as a sponsor of the NPT, had a “special responsibility” to curb nuclear proliferation, Kissinger did not believe that it had a unique responsibility
August 14, 1974
Telegram No. 84, Permanent Mission of Hungary to the U.N. in Geneva to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry
A telegram from the Hungarian mission to the UN in Geneva stating that the Indian government had provided the Soviets advance notice of their May 1974 nuclear test and that one of the purposes of the test was to reinforce then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's flagging position.
August 26, 1974
Memorandum to the Secretary of State from Fred Ikle and Winston Lord, 'U.S. Policy on Nuclear Proliferation'
While U.S. nonproliferation strategy focused on several problems, such as ratification of the NPT by key countries, interest in a conference of major nuclear suppliers solidified. According to Kissinger’s advisers, “A conference of nuclear industrial states offers an opportunity for realizing a coordinated approach in placing effective controls, including safeguards and security measures, over transfers of commercial nuclear equipment and materials.”
September 18, 1974
Memorandum to the Secretary of State from Lord and Ikle, 'Consultations with the Soviets on Non-Proliferation Strategy'
This memo consists of an analysis of an approach to the Soviets regarding multilateral nuclear safe guards, along with talking points which include greater supplier coordination and a suppliers' conference.
October 05, 1974
Memorandum to the Secretary of State from 'Talks on Reactor Safeguards and Related Matters with the Soviets on October 15'
Once Kissinger approved an approach, State Department officials prepared the substance of communications with Moscow, which included a basic five-point paper constituting proposed “undertakings” for a suppliers’ group. The proposed guidelines for nuclear exporters included no “peaceful nuclear explosives” for non-nuclear states, IAEA safeguards for nuclear supplies, and “special restraints” over exports of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies, including comprehensive safeguards and multinational plants.
October 17, 1974
Memorandum from Winston Lord, Fred Iklé, and Helmut Sonnenfeldt to the Secretary, 'Follow-up with French on Nuclear Export Controls'
With an approach to the Soviets already in the works, Kissinger’s top advisers emphasized the importance of a parallel approach to the French, given their centrality to the prospects for a suppliers’ group. While no one could be sure whether the French would abandon their “case-by-case” approach to nuclear exports, the advisers believed that the French disliked nuclear proliferation and wished to remain the only nuclear weapons state in Western Europe.
October 22, 1974
Memorandum from William H. Luers, Executive Secretariat, to Winston Lord and Fred Iklé
Kissinger agreed that in his absence Acting Secretary of State Robert Ingersoll and ACDA Director Fred Iklé should meet with French Ambassador Kosciusko-Morizet and that the British, Germans, and Canadians should receive copies of the five-point paper, and also be informed of the approaches to the French and the Soviets.
October 31, 1974
Memorandum, Hungarian Foreign Ministry, on India's Policy on Nuclear Disarmament
An extended Hungarian Foreign Ministry memorandum explicating the development of India's policy on nuclear arms and disarmament from the 1960s as well as a discussion on the reasons that the socialist countries--including Hungary--have chosen not to condemn India for its May 1974 nuclear explosion.
December 21, 1974
George H. Springsteen, Jr., Executive Secretary, to Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, 'Briefing Paper on Non-Proliferation'
In the course of a background paper on the nuclear proliferation problem and policy options, the State Department updated the White House on the state of play of the nuclear suppliers’ initiative: the British, the Canadians, and the Soviets had agreed to attend a meeting; the Germans would agree “if all key suppliers” (France) accepted; and the Japanese, who had also been asked, had not responded. The French had not given an answer and bilateral discussions would take place to go over the issues.