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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Nuclear Proliferation

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)

  • 1975

    Cables between the Brazilian Embassy in Washington and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry on the Transfer of Nuclear Material

    A series of correspondence between Brazilian Foreign Ministry and Brazilian Ambassador to the US about the transfer of nuclear material from France to Brazil. Myron Kratzer, Acting Assistant Secretary for Scientific Affairs in the US, expressed his concern over the fact the nuclear material was of American origin.

  • January 16, 1975

    Memorandum to the Deputy Secretary from Winston Lord, 'Next Steps for the Nuclear Suppliers’ Conference'

    Memo of suggested issues to be discussed at meeting regarding nuclear suppliers' conference, specifically what to say to other suppliers regarding recent bilateral talks between France and the U.S. and further instructions for the French-U.S. bilateral talks regarding France's participation in the nuclear suppliers' conference.

  • February 24, 1975

    Memorandum of conversation, 'French Participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Conference'

    This memo outlines the process that the French said they would take in order to reach a decision regarding their participation in the nuclear suppliers' group conference. These steps include France presenting a paper on their position, the U.S. responding, and then more bilateral talks before a final decision is reached.

  • March 23, 1975

    State Department telegram 65502 to US Consulate, Jerusalem, 'Action Memorandum: Nuclear Suppliers' Conference'

    This telegram lists the complications that would arise if France does not agree to participate in the nuclear suppliers' meeting or if it delays its decision. Also lists ideas of how to overcome the challenges of the bilateral talks between the U.S. and France, and sends these various options to Paris.

  • March 26, 1975

    State Department memorandum, 'Nuclear Suppliers Conference/French Participation'

    This memo describes the details of the nuclear suppliers' conference, specifically the details of French participation. Cites the need for common understanding regarding nuclear exports is needed and therefore invites Great Britain, the Soviet Union, West Germany, Japan, and France to participate in the conference. Also details the process of trying to persuade France to participate and dissuading their reluctancy.

  • April 09, 1975

    Memorandum from George S. Vest, Bureau of European Affairs, to Secretary of State, 'French Foreign Minister's Response on Nuclear Suppliers Meeting'

    This memo includes a response from the French Foreign Minister Sauvagnargues regarding the nuclear suppliers' meeting. The French said that they will participate based on certain conditions. The memo also includes the U.S.'s reactions to these various conditions, which the U.S. believes it can fulfill.

  • April 19, 1975

    State Department telegram 90533 to US Embassy Paris, 'Exploratory Meeting of Nuclear Suppliers'

    Kissinger met with the French ambassador and provided the necessary assurances. Agreements would be based on consensus, decisions would not be retroactive, and the suppliers meetings would be “informal and confidential.” This arrangement assured that the suppliers’ group would operate on a lowest-common-denominator basis, but there was no choice because French participation was vital.

  • June, 1975

    Briefing Paper, 'The Nuclear Suppliers Conference'

    The U.S. delegation agreed to develop a policy paper that would take into account French and other views so as to reach agreement on the most “stringent” safeguards possible. A central but divisive issue was whether safeguards should apply to the entire nuclear fuel cycle (later known as “full-scope” safeguards). Another issue was whether multinational auspices for reprocessing and enrichment plants should be mandatory or a matter of discretion by a supplier country. This document specifically addresses the concerns of West Germany.

  • June, 1975

    Briefing Paper prepared for the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament, 'Status Summary of Nuclear Suppliers Conference and Relevant Bilateral Discussion'

    This document summarizes the nuclear suppliers' meeting on June 18-19. Topics covered included whether safeguards should apply to the entire nuclear fuel cycle (later known as “full-scope” safeguards). Another issue was whether multinational auspices for reprocessing and enrichment plants should be mandatory or a matter of discretion by a supplier country. On these matters and others, the French position was central.

  • June 14, 1975

    Memorandum from Thomas O. Enders to the Secretary, 'Draft Letter to Sauvagnargues'

    This memorandum describes Henry Kissinger's response to French Foreign Minister Sauvagnargues who requested a 27 member group to meet on issues similar to the previous nuclear suppliers' group meeting. Kissinger lists the complications that could arise from this and suggests not doing so. Document also includes another letter from Kissinger to Sauvagnargues regarding the important of nuclear export issues, as well as Kissinger's advisers suggestions to not send the letters to France just yet.

  • June 19, 1975

    U.S. Embassy London telegram 9376 to State Department, 'Nuclear Export Policy: Bilaterals with FRG'

    The U.S. delegation agreed to develop a policy paper that would take into account French and other views so as to reach agreement on the most “stringent” safeguards possible. A central but divisive issue was whether safeguards should apply to the entire nuclear fuel cycle (later known as “full-scope” safeguards). Another issue was whether multinational auspices for reprocessing and enrichment plants should be mandatory or a matter of discretion by a supplier country.

  • September 15, 1975

    U.S. Embassy London telegram 14177 to State Department, 'French-U.S. Consultations on Nuclear Suppliers Meeting'

    Telegram illuminates the U.S. –French dialogue over safeguards and other provisions in the nuclear suppliers’ guidance. Arguing that full-scope safeguards was “alien to [their] philosophy,” the French suggested that a “traditional interpretation of the contamination principle (i.e., requiring safeguards on any materials produced in exported facilities),” would make it possible to achieve “the practical equivalent” of the Canadian proposal.

  • September 23, 1975

    Memorandum from George S. Vest to Secretary of State, 'September 16-17 Nuclear Suppliers' Meeting'

    The September 1975 meeting of the suppliers’ group brought out a conflict over a decisive issue, whether supplying countries should require recipient countries to place all nuclear facilities under safeguards or require them only for the technology and supplies at issue in the contract (“project safeguards”). The Canadians strongly supported the former, “full scope safeguards” (their terminology, which caught on), which the French saw as “tantamount to imposing NPT obligations” --a reference to the Treaty’s Article III--which they would not accept.

  • October 10, 1975

    George Vest to Mr. Sonnenfeldt, 'British Comprehensive Safeguards Initiative re Suppliers Conference'

    This document describes the differing views regarding safeguards. The Canadians strongly supported the former, “full scope safeguards” (their terminology, which caught on), which the French saw as “tantamount to imposing NPT obligations”--a reference to the Treaty’s Article III--which they would not accept. Arguing that full-scope safeguards was “alien to [their] philosophy,” the French suggested that a “traditional interpretation of the contamination principle (i.e., requiring safeguards on any materials produced in exported facilities),” would make it possible to achieve “the practical equivalent” of the Canadian proposal.

  • October 15, 1975

    Briefing Paper, 'Nuclear Suppliers Conference,' Secretary's Trip to Ottawa

    This document describes Canada's position on safeguards as well as the United State's position and how the U.S. will respond to Canada. The Canadians strongly supported the former, “full scope safeguards," and although Washington had included the substance of full-scope safeguards in the original five-point paper but Kissinger would not go against the French and risk the hard-won understanding that had brought them into the group.

  • October 15, 1975

    Memorandum of Conversation, 'Visit of Secretary of State and Mrs. Kissinger to Canada; Luncheon at 24 Sussex Drive'

    This memo contains a transcription of the conversation that took place when Secretary Kissinger and his wife visited Canada and had lunch with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, along with many other officials.

  • December 18, 1975

    Memorandum to Holders of Special National Intelligence Estimate, SNIE 4-1-74: Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

    This estimate updates the 1974 predictions, and analyzes the “earliest dates of the technical feasibility of possession of a nuclear device” of the Republic of China, Pakistan, South Africa, The Republic of Korea, Argentina and Brazil, among others.

  • December 31, 1975

    Memorandum from George S. Springsteen, Executive Secretary, to National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, 'Nuclear Suppliers Guidelines'

    This document comprises the instructions which the White House approved for the September 1975 suppliers’ meeting. At the November meeting, the suppliers completed negotiations on guidelines. Basic provisions included agreement to seek assurances by recipients of supplies not to produce nuclear explosive devices, physical security for installations and materials, transfer of trigger list items only under IAEA safeguards, restraint in transfer of sensitive technologies, facilities and materials, and the encouragement of supplier involvement in, and multinational controls over, sensitive installations. Appended to the guidelines was a two page “trigger list” based on the Zangger Committee’s list.

  • January 27, 1976

    George Vest to the Secretary, 'Nuclear Suppliers Status Report'

    In this document regarding the final agreement, George Vest wrote Kissinger that it “served to close many of the loopholes and inadequacies of previous nuclear cooperation agreements between suppliers and recipients.” It also put the French and West Germans on record to restrict access to sensitive nuclear technologies. Nevertheless, as Vest noted, the guidelines would not prevent “indigenous” development of nuclear capabilities and “unsafeguarded developments” or the acquisition of sensitive technology.

  • June 11, 1976

    George Vest to the Secretary of State, 'London Nuclear Suppliers Meeting'

    This document provides an overview of the London Nuclear Suppliers' Meeting which included the addition of the five newest countries to the original seven. Most old and new members were receptive when Washington lobbied them to support a “long term and stable regime of restraint” on the export of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technology. While the French were supportive of the moratorium proposal, the Germans were uncomfortable with it, not least because of the implications for their deal with Brazil.