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April 3, 1968

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of Political Affairs, Disarmament, 'Note: The Question of the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons'

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






Paris, April 3, 1968



a.s. The question of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.


The question of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons has entered a new phase since the agreement reached in the first days of March between the Americans and the Soviets about the final text of a draft treaty. It now passes from the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) to the United Nations General Assembly. The latter must, in principle, resume its work on April 24 to decide on the report that the Geneva body sent to it on March 15 about the whole affair.

The purpose of this note is to analyze the objectives and methods of the draft treaty through the stages which marked its elaboration,

I - Origin of the idea of ​​non-proliferation[1]

The desire to prevent any further increase in the number of countries possessing atomic weapons grew out of the failure of efforts in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War to


ban the use of nuclear energy for military purposes.

By the first one of its resolutions, approved unanimously by its members, the General Assembly of the United Nations had created on January 24, 1946, a “Commission for control of atomic energy and the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.” We know what happened to this program. The cold war and the preoccupation shared by Washington with Moscow about maintaining a strategic balance between the two blocs prohibits any agreement on disarmament in general and on the nuclear problem in particular. As for the plans presented by the Americans to operationalize the concept of ​​control, whether it be the Baruch Plan of June 1946 or the suggestions made seven years later by President [Dwight D.] Eisenhower to “put atoms at the service of peace,” they only led in October 1956 to the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It was then that, failing to be able to achieve the goal of a general and complete disarmament, the United Nations turned more and more to projects for partial measures thought to be suitable for promoting détente and that on Ireland’s initiative was launched, in particular, on October 17, 195[8], the idea of ​​a ad hoc committee, “to study the dangers inherent in further dissemination of nuclear weapons and recommend [to the 14th session of the General Assembly] appropriate measures for averting these dangers” (October 17, 195[8]).

However, this suggestion was not taken up, and it was only on December 5, 1961, thanks to the new turn of event in the American-Soviet relations, under the impetus of Mr. Khrushchev and President Kennedy, and after the outline of a common disarmament[2] policy was approved by Washington and Moscow, that the United Nations unanimously recommended the establishment “of an international non-dissemination agreement.”[3] The Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee, then set up, was to,


under the co-presidency of the Americans and the Soviets, serve as a setting for the negotiations, in the absence of France who, from the outset, declared that it would not take part in this work. In the meantime, we had proceeded with our first nuclear explosion (February 13, 1960), bringing the number of members of the atomic club to four.

A delay of four years was still necessary before the negotiations really got underway. In the meantime, the Cuban missile crisis and talks on the cessation of nuclear tests had forced the problem of non-proliferation to the background. But once the Moscow Treaty was signed (August 5, 1963), the multilateral nuclear force project brought up by the Americans eight months earlier and the first Chinese nuclear explosion (October 16, 1964) would accord it renewed priority. The U.S.S.R. wanted, by means of a non-dissemination agreement, to deprive the FRG of any hope of gaining access to nuclear weapons; the United States found in the Chinese explosion a confirmation of their concerns about the development of nuclear capabilities in the world.

So, on June 1[5], 1965, the Disarmament Commission, meeting at the request of the Soviets, instructed the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee to “accord special priority to the consideration of the question of a treaty or convention to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” Two months later the negotiations opened in Geneva and two draft treaties were prepared, one on August 17, 1965, by the Americans before the ENDC of, the second on September 24 by the Soviets before the United Nations.


II - The problem of sharing nuclear responsibilities within alliances, Articles I and II of the draft treaty.

Barely started, the talks were going to stumble over the case of Germany. Indeed, Washington and Moscow, equally eager to succeed, were nonetheless deeply divided on


the question of the sharing of nuclear responsibilities within alliances.

For the Americans who wanted to maintain the possibility of creating a multilateral nuclear force, there was proliferation only if the number of States or groups of States having “control”[4] of nuclear weapons were to increase. Accordingly, the weapon could be transferred to a state or organization of states that did not possess it, as long as the nuclear power retained a right of veto over its use. The transfer of control itself was allowed if it did not lead to an increase in the total number of States or organizations of States effectively controlling the weapon. Thus, a federal Europe could have become a nuclear power as a successor to the states which would have participated in its constitution.

For the Soviets, on the contrary, an agreement on non-proliferation should not allow any kind of transfer and their project was so restrictive that one could wonder whether it did not call into question the arrangements which ensured the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe.

On November 23, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved, on the initiative of several non-aligned countries, a resolution proclaiming that the treaty should be “free of loopholes.”[5] Although approved by the United States as well as by the USSR, it did not prevent the negotiation from stalling for several months, when during the autumn of 1966 a sudden change occurred. The Americans, who had increasingly questioned the advisability of the multilateral nuclear force, accepted, in the end, to enshrine in practice its abandonment in the definition of non-proliferation which they then agreed with the Soviets.


This definition, the terms of which the authors have never agreed to modify, constitutes Articles 1 and 2 of the draft treaty. By virtue of these articles, not only the States which do not possess nuclear weapons[6] undertake not to manufacture them and not to acquire them, but the nuclear powers are prohibited from transferring possession of or control over them to any entity whatsoever, which excludes especially the possibility for a nuclear power to equip any multilateral force with the weapon. Moreover, the prohibitions on the manufacture, acquisition or transfer of the weapon are extended, because of the similarities between them, to all nuclear devices, even if they are intended for peaceful purposes. The final draft treaty will specify that nuclear power means a state “[having] manufactured or having exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967” (Article 9 paragraph 3).[7]

The arrangement reached between the Americans and the Soviets was not immediately disclosed, but it enabled the Americans to give their sponsorship to a draft resolution initially presented against them by the Soviets before the 21st session of the General Assembly of United Nations. This project, which condemned any action that could hinder the conclusion of a non-proliferation treaty, was unanimously approved[8]. It was concluded from this that the Americans and the Soviets would be in a position to submit to the Geneva committee, when it resumed its work on February 21, 1967, a common plan for a treaty. This was indeed the intention of the United States, but the consultations which were undertaken with its NATO partners delayed the expected deposit until August 24, 1967. They came up against obstacles that they had apparently not foreseen.



III - The debate between the United States and its allies: German objections to Articles 1 and 2.

It was mainly with the Federal Republic of Germany and, to a lesser degree, Italy, that the United States met its main obstacles. France, which, from the start of the discussions, had made it known that it had no intention of signing a non-proliferation treaty, kept itself out of the debate. As for the Benelux countries, if they added their voice to those of the Germans and the Italians, when it came to the subject of defending the status of Euratom against certain fallout from the treaty, they nevertheless clearly showed that they nonetheless supported the efforts of the United States for which the support of Great Britain, Canada and the Scandinavian countries was, moreover, entirely assured.

No sooner had the Americans handed their partner a draft treaty on January 23 than the German press leaked the text and launched a violent campaign against its main provisions. The government of the Federal Republic, for its part, began intensive diplomatic action. It resented the agreement reached between Washington and Moscow at the expense of the hopes of which the Americans had given it a glimpse and that its participation in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Committee continued to nurture. It nevertheless refrained from protesting against the very principle of non-proliferation and argued on the contrary that, in this area, Germany had set an example when, in 1954, it had renounced, when the Brussels Pact was concluded, manufacturing atomic weapons on its territory. But for this unilateral gesture would be substituted a contractual commitment which, according to it, undermined the principle of “equal rights”. This commitment would bind it, moreover, to Eastern bloc countries in a domain where it no doubt did not intend to modify the status quo, but where it also did not want to consent to a renunciation of an international character without


obtaining in return a beginning of settlement of the German problem.

The Federal Republic Portal went on the offensive on two fronts. She pointed out the dangers that the treaty would, according to her, pose to the defense of the West and the obstacles that would remain to the free development of peaceful nuclear activities.

Objections of a military nature were without effect on the negotiation. They did not find a friendly ear with the partners of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States had partly warned them by accompanying the preliminary draft treaty with a series of interpretations on which, they claimed, the Soviets agreed to “varying degrees”.

According to these comments, everything that was not prohibited by the treaty remained permitted. The nuclear arrangements within NATO were not threatened since there was no transfer of the weapon or its control during peacetime. The constitution of a European nuclear force would not be impossible if Western Europe were one day to federate. Finally, in the event of war, the effects of the treaty would be practically suspended, which would leave the United States completely free to make available to their allies all or part of the nuclear weapons stored on their territories. In short, according to the Americans, the concessions did not come from only one side and the USSR accepted, implicitly at least, a state of matters which it had seemed to want to liquidate in 1965.

The American interpretations corresponded only very partially to the concerns of Bonn. The Germans feared that once the treaty was signed, the Eastern countries would use it to reactivate the denuclearization plans of Central Europe. Above all, they noted with regret the freezing of a situation which they had hoped to see evolve in the direction of an increasingly close participation of Bonn in the nuclear defense of Europe.



They conceded defeat, however, obtaining that the “Western” interpretations of Articles 1 and 2 were notified to the Soviets. No reaction was recorded from Moscow. It cannot be claimed that this silence is tantamount to acquiescence.

IV - The problem of peaceful nuclear activities. The issue of control (art III).

While the fears expressed by the Germans of seeing the non-proliferation enterprise harm Europe’s security had virtually no effect on the course of negotiations, it was different when it came to their reaction, shared this time by several of their partners, especially the Italians, in the face of the consequences of the treaty for the field of peaceful activities.

The preliminary draft treaty, presented to NATO, not only forbade States which renounced atomic weapons from using nuclear explosives for peaceful purposes, it also submitted the entirety of their nuclear activities to the control of the International Agency of Vienna [the IAEA]. These measures were denounced as likely to cause considerable harm to nations likely to promote in the field of nuclear energy activities comparable to those of the nuclear powers, who, for their part, would escape controls. At the same time, it was to be feared that, through the agency in Vienna, the latter would engage in economic espionage.

The Germans and Italians, followed in this field by the Dutch and the Belgians, argued above all that they were already subject, within the framework of Euratom, to a system of guarantees deemed satisfactory by the Americans and which had the merit of avoiding the intervention of Eastern [Bloc] countries. If the control measures were to be approved within the framework of non-proliferation, the


best thing for the countries members of the European Community was to recognize the validity of the Euratom safeguards.

All the same, any other solution would do considerable harm to this organization, whose “withering away” it would bring about, by introducing within it a lack of equality of treatment between non-nuclear members and France who up until the present was subject to the same controls. Besides, belonging to the organization in Brussels and being attached to a different system seemed incompatible.

For many months the conflict seemed unsolvable. The Americans and the Soviets, weary of the war, presented in Geneva on August 24, 1967, on the eve of the XXII session of the General Assembly, the first draft treaty which the eighteen [ENDC] had encountered, leaving blank the Article III which was to be devoted to controls. It was only at the beginning of 1968 that an agreement on the matter was reached.

Without recounting the very complex debate, in which our Euratom partners tried in vain to get us involved, we must remember that at the beginning of the negotiation the Soviets had not foreseen any control measure. The Americans, by contrast, always being supporters of international control of nuclear energy, had mentioned it in their August 1965 draft. The terms they had used were not, however, restrictive and, anticipating the involvement of the [International Atomic Energy] Agency in Vienna, also included “equivalent organizations”, that is in fact to say Euratom.

While acknowledging that the new provisions created a problem for the members of the European Community, they invoked in their favor the fact that they were the only ones likely to be endorsed by Moscow. The U.S.S.R. would never allow the non-nuclear states of Western Europe to escape the controls of Vienna. However, a non-proliferation treaty


without controls, the Americans asserted, would be a worthless tool.

The day after the filing of the incomplete draft treaty of August 24, the matter seemed hopeless. The Americans and the British had in vain made it known that they were ready to open up to the inspectors of the IAEA the doors of their nuclear installations which were not of interest to the national defense, in spite of all that they had not managed to convince the Germans and the Italians.[9]

Sweden having filed a draft Article III on August 30 providing for a system of safeguards applicable to all States, nuclear or not, the Americans and the Soviets feared that the question of controls would be dealt with in Geneva and asked the eighteen countries to refrain from discussing it.

In the meantime, the non-nuclear members of Euratom, who did not all share to the same degree the German objections laid down in Luxembourg on October 27 the principles with which, according to them, an Article III should comply[10].

Two months later, to everyone’s surprise, Americans and Soviets agreed on a text that was inspired, at least in part, by these principles; they confronted their partners with a fait accompli by filing in Geneva on January 18 a complete draft treaty, including an article on controls which has not been modified since.

By this article, the non-nuclear States undertake to apply a control system which will have to be defined in agreements to be concluded with the Vienna Agency [IAEA] “in accordance with the Statute of this agency [the IAEA] and its [the Agency’s] safeguards system”. Only nuclear materials


and not the facilities will be really subject to controls, which must not impede technological development and whose sole purpose will be to prevent the diversion of nuclear materials to the manufacture of explosives[11].

For their part, all the parties to the treaty, nuclear or not, undertake not to supply nuclear materials or equipment to any non-nuclear state, signatory or not to the treaty, unless these supplies are subject to the controls provided for.

In addition, the concerns of the non-nuclear States members of Euratom would thus be taken into consideration: paragraph I of Article III opens up the possibility of seeing the approval, within the framework of the agreements made with the Vienna Agency, a system of safeguards, other than that of the I.A.E.A., which would be limited to verifying its application thereof. Paragraph 4 admits that the negotiation of control agreements with the I.A.E.A. may be carried out by the States “either individually or together [with other States]”. Euratom should therefore be able to negotiate on behalf of its members. Finally, although it is specified that the negotiations must be completed no later than two years after the entry into force of the treaty, no sanction is foreseen in the event of their failure.

The Germans have, however, asked their NATO partners to vouch for this optimistic presentation to which the Americans have become attached. They are concerned, in fact, about recent statements made in Geneva by representatives of the powers of the East about the need to accord the control system a truly universal nature.

They are also concerned, along with the other non-nuclear members of Euratom, with the continuation of American deliveries of nuclear materials


in the event that the negotiation of agreements with the Vienna Agency does not succeed within the deadlines set by the treaty.

V - The debate before the Committee of Eighteen on the provisions of Articles IV to XI.

Apart from the opportunity that the Committee of Eighteen [Nations] offered its two co-chairmen to maintain the American-Soviet dialogue, the Geneva organization played a modest role in the development of the draft treaty. Its work, suspended on several occasions in the first months of 1967, did not actually begin until after the submission of the draft on 24 August. If we except the question of peaceful explosions, the readiness of some of its members to discuss the first three articles came up against the objections of the Americans and the Soviets.

On the other hand, as important as the problem of sharing of nuclear responsibilities within alliances or that of Euratom’s role in terms of the negotiations, they did not concern the non-aligned States, who played in Geneva the leading role with Italy and Romania, who stood apart from their respective groups. As they had previously done in 1965 by having the General Assembly of the United Nations approve Resolution nº 2028 / XX, they insisted above all on the need to establish between nuclear and non-nuclear an “acceptable balance of mutual responsibilities and obligations.” It was in this spirit that they raised the problem of genuine disarmament, that of peaceful nuclear activities, and that they endeavored to give more flexibility to the treaty, agreeing, moreover, on all these points, with the concerns already expressed within NATO, and which were to lead Romania to break away, in Sofia on May 27, from the consensus of among Warsaw Pact members on the question of non-proliferation.


On the need to establish a link between non-proliferation and the achievement of genuine disarmament, the Americans and the Soviets, despite the insistence of the non-nuclear states, argued that confusing the two issues would lead to the failure of the negotiation and simply agreed to include in the treaty a commitment by the parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament” (article VI). The authors of the draft treaty especially rejected more binding proposals put forward by the Indians and the Swedes to make the keeping of the treaty dependent on the accomplishment of this program.

The non-nuclear states also obtained basic satisfaction with regard to the respect of their right to scientific research and to nuclear technology from now on confirmed not only in the preamble of the treaty, as the draft of August 24 had, but also in Articles III (§ 3) and IV, which further enshrine the principle of international cooperation in this area.

The ban on non-nuclear states carrying out peaceful nuclear explosions, however, was kept despite strong protests from the Brazilians and the Indians. The draft treaty provides only in its Article V the obligation for nuclear States to carry out within the framework of “appropriate international procedures” and at the lowest cost, explosions of a peaceful nature which would be useful to the non-nuclear states. This solution, which the Americans had outlined from the start, does not take into account a Swedish suggestion to entrust directly to an international organization the task of carrying out these explosions.

Faced with the inadequacy of the results obtained and in order not to jeopardize the future indefinitely, the non-nuclear members


of the committee, in particular the Italians and the Indians and, outside of the Geneva body, the Japanese, asked that the revision of the treaty would be made easier and that its duration would be limited. They only succeeded in having it be fixed at 25 years, the procedures for review and amendment remaining very strict (art. VIII).

We note, however, that paragraph 3 of Article VIII provides for the meeting of its signatories, five years after the entry into force of the treaty, to “assuring that the purposes of the Preamble and the provisions of the Treaty are being realised”. Thereafter, a majority of signatories could decide on new meetings every five years. This provision could possibly allow non-nuclear groups to claim negligence of the nuclear powers, in matters of disarmament for example, in order to possibly take advantage of the termination clauses contained in article X.

Lastly, some States, in particular Italy, would have wished that the number of votes necessary for the entry into force of the treaty, set at forty, to be higher and to include the States most likely to achieve atomic armament. These suggestions were not accepted.

VI - The problem of the security of non-nuclear States and the draft resolution of

the Security Council.

One of the major preoccupations of the non-nuclear would be to obtain, in return for their renunciation of atomic weapons, a guarantee against nuclear attacks or threats of nuclear attacks of which they could be victims.

The treaty does not contain any provision on this matter which mainly concerns the non-aligned and, in particular, India, who moreover considers that the problem should be dealt independently of the treaty.

Mr. Kosygin had suggested at the beginning of 1966 the text of


an article by which the nuclear powers would forbid “the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, parties to the treaty, which do not have nuclear weapons on their territory”. The non-aligned had expressed their interest in this proposal by referring to it in a draft resolution approved on their initiative by the General Assembly of the United Nations[12]. However, the Americans, who are not against the idea of ​​renouncing, under certain conditions, the use of nuclear weapons against [non-]nuclear states[13], could not agree on this point with the Soviets, because, in particular, of the existing nuclear weapons stockpiles in [West] Germany.

On the other hand, the U.S.S.R. and the United States have always thought that any form of general commitment should be avoided which, apart from the agreements they have already concluded, would a priori implicate the use of their means of deterrence. That is why Moscow rallied to the solution proposed by Washington to respond to the concerns of non-nuclear through a draft Security Council resolution whose scope does not in fact exceed that of the obligations contracted under the Charter of the United Nations.

The fact remains that the draft treaty refers to criteria which are not contained in the Charter, the application of which could give rise to abuse. This is also the case with the “threat of nuclear aggression”. Moreover, China’s absence from the Security Council makes the resolution appear to be above all directed against this country, which Beijing did not fail to point out.

The project received a mixed reception, but, with the exception of India, the main interested party, who did not hide its disappointment, the


non-nuclears refrained from commenting on it. No doubt the problem of their security will be one of those on which they will lobby before the General Assembly. It should be noted that, for its part, Germany expressed unease to Washington about the guarantees that could be granted to it within the framework of the non-proliferation treaty if NATO were to disappear or find itself profoundly modified.

Perspectives and conclusions - Attitude of France.

If, at the end of this review, we try to identify the negotiation’s main features negotiation, three observations stand out:

The first is the exceptional place occupied by the German question. The Soviets, whatever interest they have, like the Americans, in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, have never concealed that their main objective was to obtain through the treaty Germany’s definitive and total renunciation of the nuclear option in the military field.

Hence the principal twists and turns of events in the negotiation, hence also the necessity of the adhesion of the government of Bonn, of which Mr. Kosygin said one day that it would sign the treaty “whether it liked it or not”. The Federal Republic, which the affair deeply divides, will not be present at the debates in New York. Whatever initiatives it can still launch outside of the United Nations, the moment is coming where it will make its cohice. It will be crucial for the fate of the whole enterprise and for Germany itself. The U.S.S.R., who never stopped criticizing this behavior over the entire course the negotiations, has implied that a better attitude from the


Federal Republic could open up important prospects.

The negotiations have also made it possible to observe a significant evolution among the non-nuclear and in particular among the non-aligned. On the whole, as they have proved on several occasions before the United Nations, they are in favor of the principle of non-proliferation. Moreover, most of them technically and economically unable to acquire nuclear weapons, have an advantage in seeing their neighbors make the commitment not to acquire them. Some hope that the treaty will make progress on the path to real disarmament. But the drafts which have been successively submitted to them and the reception given to their suggested amendments have given rise to a feeling of frustration in many of them and in some the desire to prolong negotiations which they have so far not really be included in.

In these circumstances, the project to convene a conference of non-nuclear States on the problem of non-proliferation, adopted in 1966 by the United Nations[14] at the suggestion of Pakistan, and which had then only achieved lackluster success, met with a much better one in 1967 when it came up again in New York[15]. Initially scheduled for March 1968, the conference will take place in September and this prospect may provide many non-nuclear states a pretext to postpone their decision and introduce an element of uncertainty into the debate in New York.

Nevertheless - and this is its most remarkable feature - the negotiation is part of the effort jointly made by the Americans and the Soviets, despite the international vicissitudes to consolidate the current world equilibrium under their dual control. Hence its essentially bilateral character. Undoubtedly,


unlike what happened with the Moscow Treaty, some attention had to be paid to the claims of the non-nuclear groups since these will be practically the only ones, this time, to undertake commitments, but the sacrifices made in no way undermine the structure of the treaty, as Washington and Moscow wanted it to be. We can be assured that the United States and the U.S.S.R. will endeavor in New York to maintain this result and to ensure that the project which they have agreed upon is purely and simply approved.

It is the aspect thus conferred on the whole matter by the two greatest nuclear powers which constitutes the main reason for French reservations. We refuse to take part in a series of action which, while not representing a real measure of disarmament, tends to establish for the benefit of the two greatest powers an arrangement which would consolidate nuclear monopolies and legalize discrimination between States.

Assuredly, we do not believe that the dissemination of atomic weapons is desirable, but we do not believe that the present balance, insofar as it exists, can guarantee world peace. This can only develop through nuclear disarmament, to which only the powers that possess atomic weapons can agree.

Having thus set its principles as far as it is concerned, the French government does not intend to intervene in the choice which will be made by other countries. This falls under their sovereignty since it is above all a question of their own defense. It is in this spirit that we have scrupulously abstained from taking part in the negotiations, regardless of the venue in which it took place, it being understood that the treaty shall have no implications for us.


[1] or non-dissemination, the two expressions being henceforth used interchangeably. This note does not deal with “vertical proliferation,” that is to say the increase of existing nuclear arsenals, this question not being covered by the treaty.

[2] McCloy-Zorin conversations during the spring of 1961.

[3] Resolution n. 1665 (XVI).

[4] Meaning “the capacity to fire such a weapon without the direct approval of nuclear power State” (Revised American project of March 21, 1966)

[5] Resolution 2028 (XX) approved by 93 votes to 0 along with 5 abstentions, one of them being France.

[6] Later called “non-nuclear”.

[7] The language in the final treaty was slightly different: “For the purposes of this Treaty, a nuclear-weapon State is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967.” Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Article IX, paragraph 3.

[8] Resolution 2149 of November 7, 1966.

[9] This proposition has been officially confirmed on December 3, 1968, by the president Johnson.

2 See the statement of these principles in the attached document.

[11] The preamble encourages, at the request of the Germans, the implementation of automatic means of control.

1 Resolution No. 2153 (XXI).

2 As it is proven by their adherence to Protocol No. II of the Latin American Denuclearization Treaty.

1 Resolution 2153 B (XXI).

2 Resolution 2346 B (XXII).

This 18-page memorandum was circulated to French embassies on the eve of the special UNGA session. The report recaps the series of events leading up to the international meeting, including the early history of the treaty, through an article-by-article analysis of the treaty text’s negotiating history. After reviewing the contexts in which the treaty was negotiated, the report concluded by citing three major elements as informing the French attitude. The first was the German question and, specifically, how the NPT would internationalize West Germany’s non-nuclear status, deepening its dependence on France. The second was the positive attitude of most nations—the vast majority of which lacked the wherewithal to build nuclear deterrents—to institutionalize their neighbors’ non-nuclear-weapon status. The third and “most remarkable element” was the U.S.-Soviet joint effort, undeterred by the Vietnam War, “to consolidate the current world balance under their dual control.” French “reservations” therefore boiled down to two critiques of the emerging regime: that it would “consolidate nuclear monopolies,” namely the U.S. and Soviet power blocs, “and legalize discrimination between States.”

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March 18, 1968

Note for the Directorate of Political Affairs, Disarmament, 'Non-proliferation treaty: Draft resolution on non-nuclear countries guarantees'

The finalization of a completed draft nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which the ENDC transmitted to by the United Nations without endorsement on March 18, 1968, launched a French review of the NPT’s implications for international law. The draft NPT was accompanied by a proposed United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSC), whose soft guarantees against nuclear-weapon use or threats had been a compromise workd out between Washington and Moscow. An initial study by Foreign Ministry lawyers identified numerous “juridical reasons… to fight against a project that, in its letter if not its spirit, constitutes a revision of the [UN] Charter." The report elaborated on how the hierarchization of “forms of aggression” would “downgrade” non-nuclear (i.e. conventional) violence. Non-nuclear-weapon states treaty signatories would receive non-binding security guarantees. The “Anglo-Saxons and Soviets” would maintain “freedom of action as far as what measures they choose to adopt.” Although the French government’s foremost legal experts opted not to advise vetoing the UNSC resolution, they warned the NPT package could serve as a warrant for nuclear-armed permanent members of the UN Security Council to wage “preventive war” in the name of worldwide nonproliferation.

March 28, 1968

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of Political Affairs, Disarmament, 'Note: Guarantees for non-nuclear-weapon States, Draft resolution of the Security Council'

 This short research note briefly explores the case for and against vetoing the UNSC resolution. As the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union were serving as co-sponsors, and the Republic of China on Taiwan would welcome any international measure the People’s Republic of China opposed, France was the only state in a position to veto the UNSC resolution and perhaps torpedo the NPT when the UNGA special session met in late April. If France were to abstain, it would be henceforth bound by the resolution. Even so, the report cautioned whether “a negative attitude” should outweigh “the downside of defeating a project whose intention, if not whose content, fulfills the wishes of the vast majority of non-nuclear delegations.”

July 10, 1968

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of Political Affairs, Disarmament, 'Note: The treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons'

This report recounts developments at the UN First Committee from the beginning of the special session, April 24, to the plenary vote on June 12, 1968. Among the interesting observations was how the “most important resistance cell had … surprisingly developed among the Black African states,” who had sought concessions from the United States on apartheid South Africa’s mandate over South West Africa (modern-day Namibia). The report notes the various changes forced on the superpowers by Italy and Mexico on behalf of the non-nuclear-weapon delegations. The aide-memoire concluded that “[a]lthough these concessions [were] more apparent than real, they served as a pretext for a number of delegations, under intense Soviet and American pressure, to go along with the draft resolution thus revised.” The French delegate to the United Nations, Armand Berard, explained to the General Assembly on June 12 the reasons for France’s abstention. In accordance with Francis Perrin’s recommendations, Berard elaborated that although France would not sign the NPT when “the real issue was effective nuclear disarmament,” it would nonetheless pledged to behave “[e]xactly in such a way as those States which opt to adhere to it.”

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Cote 517INVA, Box 768, Centre d'archives diplomatiques de La Courneuve (CADLC). Contributed by Jonathan Hunt.


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Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) and University of Southampton