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February 15, 1967

Letter, Minister Franz J. Strauß to Chancellor Kurt G. Kiesinger

This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)


Federal Minister of Finance


February 15, 1967



To the

Chancellor of the

Federal Republic of Germany

Mr. Dr.h.c.[3] Kurt Georg Kiesinger[4]


53 Bonn

Federal Chancellery


[Handwritten: 15/II signature]


Dear Mr. Federal Chancellor!

Dear Friend Kiesinger!


The reading of the press in recent days and some other information, including calls from members of the EEC[5] Commission in Brussels, have prompted me to express to you in writing my position regarding the Non-Proliferation Treaty imposed on us.

I have the impression that Federal Minister Brandt[6], although he expressed certain misgivings in America, has received in return some reassuring explanations, but has finally hinted at the forthcoming German signature. I am aware of the argument that a "No" to this treaty will lead us into complete isolation. Allegedly, we are also threatened by the United States with withdrawal of the enriched nuclear fuel. We must not sign a treaty here out of fear of "world opinion” nor under the pressure of the American blackmail; [a treaty] that would ultimately degrade Germany to the divided object of a super-cartel of the world powers, eliminate Europe’s prospects for a political unification and destroy even the remaining alliance spirit within NATO. A German government, for which still do exist the terms of nation and history, cannot and must not sign this treaty. A government that does sign this treaty has relinquished the most essential right of sovereignty out of weakness or blindness as to the consequences. I am warning emphatically of the consequences for domestic and foreign policy.

For the sake of honesty, I am stating in advance that under no circumstances I am going to consent here to a cabinet decision (“we anyways have no choice”), arrived at through conditions God knows how. I will fight with ultimate vigor against the Yes to this treaty, first within the respective bodies, but then also in public. For me and for many others, the limit has been reached here for what is called conscience. This is where opportunism and tactics are ending; here the realm of ultimate responsibility is beginning.


Yours sincerely

[signed F. J. Strauß]


[1] Dr. Honoris Causa (honorary doctoral degree).

[2] Franz Josef Strauß (1915-1988). West German Minister of Nuclear Issues (1955/56), Defense (1956-1962), and Finances (1966-1969).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1901-1988). West German Federal Chancellor between 1966 and 1969.

[5] European Economic Community.

[6] Willy Brandt (1913-1992). Governing Mayor of West Berlin 1957-1966, West German Minister of Foreign Affairs 1966-1969 and Federal Chancellor from 1969 to 1974.

In a stern letter to the Chancellor Kiesinger, the Minister of Finance Franz Josef Strauß explained that he would “fight against” the NPT. Strauß was chairman of the Bavarian CSU and had served as Minister of Defense between 1956 and 1962. His point was that a decision to accede to the treaty was unthinkable as long as he remained minister in Kiesinger’s cabinet and, hence, with the CSU participating in the ‘grand coalition’. Strauß’ letter also indicated his suspicion of Foreign Minister Willy Brandt and his disposition towards the NPT which Strauß apparently regarded as submissive.

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Letter, Minister Willy Brandt to Chancellor Kurt G. Kiesinger

After 1 July 1968, when the NPT had been opened for signature, Brandt brought up the accession question in a letter to the Chancellor, arguing that the “credibility of our détente policy” depended on Germany’s stance toward the NPT, which in his review it should sign by “early autumn." Brandt’s letter mirrored arguments made previously by Georg-F. Duckwitz, who was State Secretary in the Foreign Office.

July 2, 1968

Letter, Minister Franz J. Strauß to Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Willy Brandt

Strauß asked the Foreign Minister to comment on a translated “note on problems” of the NPT which he claimed to have received from “French friends”. The note argued that the ambiguous wording of NPT articles I and II concerning indirect transfer of control of nuclear weapons would pose problems. The Soviet Union might politically exploit it over time to “put Germany on a path towards neutrality.” The document also alluded to a concern that the Soviet Union might later argue that non-nuclear weapon states’ (NNWS) participation in “nuclear NATO” (such as allowing nuclear weapons deployments in their territories) violated their NPT commitments.

July 25, 1968

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Brandt answered Strauß by forwarding a memorandum from the Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control, Ambassador Swidbert Schnippenkötter, who clarified that the ambiguity in wording reflected “a quite conscious dissent” between the United States and the Soviet Union. Concerns about this point of legal ambiguity remained central to the lines of argument taken by NPT opponents and many NPT skeptics in Bonn through late 1969 and, to a lesser extent, though 1973 and 1974 when NPT ratification was debated.

September 5, 1968

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September 16, 1968

Otto Hauber, 'Note requested by the Federal Chancellor regarding the consequences of a potential German non-signing of the NP [Non-Proliferation] Treaty'

At Ruete’s request, an additional assessment of what could happen if West Germany did not sign the NPT was prepared by a specialist from the Commissioner’s subdivision in the Foreign Office, Otto Hauber, who coordinated it with other officials in the ministry. As Hauber told Ruete, his “political evaluation” differed from those of the three Ambassadors and it was impossible to find a “common denominator”

Document Information


Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik, St. Augustin (ACDP), Nachlass Kiesinger, I-226-285. Contributed by Andreas Lutsch and translated by Bernd Shaefer.


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