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March 15, 1963

Meeting Minutes, Council of Ministers of the Netherlands, 'Atlantic Nuclear Weapons Plan'

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Council of Ministers

15 March 1963



2c. Atlantic nuclear weapons plan (See C[ouncil].[of ]M[inisters]. minutes 8 February 1963, point 2 d)


Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Luns reports that Minister [of Defense] Visser, State Secretary [of Foreign Affairs] Van Houten and he spoke about the nuclear weapons plan in a combined meeting of the House commissions for foreign affairs and defense. It became apparent that the parliamentarians of the PvdA [Labour Party] [approximately 14 words illegible].


Minister Visser thinks that the members of the PvdA construe the matter too narrowly. They say that in NATO it has repeatedly been put forward that too little is done about conventional armament. Presently it is being proposed that the countries of NATO launch a new effort with regard to nuclear armament, which will include a contribution by America as well by the other NATO countries. This means, however, that it will detract from conventional armament, which is not enough to begin with. Speaker admits that this argumentation may be technically correct, but the political point should not be neglected. NATO is not supranational, which makes it possible for France to carry out many defense matters on its own. The danger now is that the German Federal Republic also moves in that direction, arguing that it has insufficient confidence in the American government’s performance at the right time. The political point then is to dam this danger by bringing the German federal government to participate fully in the new plan. Minister [of Social Affairs] Klompé poses the question of whether this means that, from the outset, the agreement that Germany is not allowed to produce nuclear weapons will be violated.


The prime minister [de Quay] would on the one hand find it regrettable if the Netherlands did not participate in the new nuclear weapons plan, but if the Netherlands were not to be given any say in it, this would also be unacceptable. He thinks that if the Netherlands were not to participate, America would go through with it anyway, while possibly France and the German Federal Republic would also proceed. This latter scenario would pose great dangers. If these are to be avoided, the Netherlands will have to take a positive attitude toward the nuclear weapons plan and will have to try and get the Federal Republic on board as well. Minister Visser reports that the members of parliament in the commission meeting were of the unanimous opinion that under no circumstances a European nuclear policy should be executed. Minister Luns agrees with this. Yet speaker regrets the way the Americans have acted toward England, especially now that he has learned that the rift between the positions of the American government and the British about the Nassau agreement (particularly articles 6 and 8) is deeper than he had initially thought. While the English government first wants to commence with the execution of art. 6 of this agreement, the American government is preoccupied with a further elaboration of art. 8.


Minister [of Finance] Zijlstra asks how the new nuclear weapons plan will proceed. Minister Luns replies that the permanent NATO council has decided that articles 6 and 8 of the Nassau agreement will be studied simultaneously. Subsequently it will be seen whether the multilateral construction aimed at by article 8 of this agreement (creation of a multilateral NATO nuclear force with Polaris missiles without nuclear warheads on submarines) can come into existence, after the inter-allied force referred to by article 6 (inclusion in NATO of American forces, the British bomber command and tactical nuclear weapons present in Europe) has come about. Speaker believes that if it is not very clear from the outset that the multilateral force is substantive, the Russian government will say that it is only a misleading cover for nuclear armament of West Germany.


The prime minister assumes that from the Dutch side anything that would lead to a continental nuclear force will be opposed. Minister Luns replies affirmatively.


Referring to the visits by the American representative Livingston Merchant to England, Italy and the German Federal Republic, speaker reports the following. In London it was said that at this stage few details can be discussed, since the American plans are not yet fully developed. The Italian government has promised a contribution, depending on what America and the German Federal Republic do, on the condition that Italy be given a seat in the governing committee. Minister Visser adds that the Italian government, in the area of conventional weapons, [a few words illegible]. The American government wants to have this matter settled before 1 May. Speaker is alarmed by the fact that the American representative Merchant discussed the matter in a vague way in London, in a formal way in Rome, but in-depth in Bonn. The intention is to invite the leadership of NATO as well, once the matter is elaborated further. The aim is to create a new organization like the European Defense Community used to be. Resistance from the French is not expected.


Minister Zijlstra concludes that the preceding means that the Dutch government cannot even begin to take a position regarding cooperation with the plans before there is a new cabinet.


The prime minister’s opinion is that if the German Federal Republic and the United States come to an agreement with regard to a nuclear weapons plan, with the cooperation of the other NATO countries, this is still more advantageous than German-French cooperation with regard to nuclear armament.


Minister Luns thinks that the American government should not realize this plan beside NATO, but within NATO. Furthermore it should not push the English government aside to commence implementation together with the German Federal Republic. Speaker is of the opinion that the American government is going to rather great lengths to persuade the German government to participate.


Minister Zijlstra thinks that in the background of the American government’s motivation there is the wish and the willingness to involve France in a common defense policy once more, in a roundabout way. If a nuclear top-level group of America, England, Germany and France is now formed, France will see its desire for a NATO directorate fulfilled in a roundabout way.


The Council discusses the danger of the German Federal Republic moving to acquire an independent nuclear force. Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns regrets the American focus on the Germans at the expense of the British. Resistance from the French regarding the plan is not expected.

Document Information


National Archives, The Hague, Council of Ministers, access number, inventory number 753. Obtained and translated by Bastiaan Bouwman.


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