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February 15, 1967

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

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.

October 21, 1978

Report from M.V. Yegorov, Minister of Shipbuilding Industry of Union of SSR, to the CPSU CC

M.V. Yegorov reports that a barge carrying radioactive waste sank.

November 18, 1967

Asian Affairs Bureau [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan], 'The Chinese Communist Problem'

Ahead of a visit by Chiang Ching-kuo to Japan, the Japanese Foreign Ministry reviews the political situation on Mainland China.

March 14, 1961

Memorandum to All Missions by the Department of External Affairs, ‘Arms Control’ (Confidential) (408/264B), Dublin

The arrival of the new U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, in office in 1961 encouraged Aiken to redouble his efforts. He searched for signs of change in the Kennedy administration. He was nevertheless guarded,  appreciating that the arms control ambitions of the United States did not necessarily or completely align with Ireland’s disarmament aspirations. He understood that progress required educating public opinion to recognize that general and complete disarmament could, given the vested interests, take generations. A step-by-step, gradualist approach therefore had to be adopted. He reiterated his philosophy of expanding areas of law, adopting a regionalist approach, and assuming a preventive orientation in a commentary on the Kennedy’s article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in November 1960, which was itself based on Kennedy's campaign speech earlier that year.

July 7, 1959

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday 7 July 1959, Committee on Finance - Vote 59--External Affairs [Excerpt]

New Taoiseach Seán Lemass took the unusual step of intervening in a Foreign Affairs debate in July 1959 to defend Frank Aiken’s conduct at the United Nations. Trenchant critics on the opposition benches in the Fine Gael party had berated Aiken repeatedly since 1957. Critics inside and outside of the lower house of parliament (Dáil Éireann) asserted that Ireland, “a tiny country” with limited interests, had no right to voice an opinion on global matters which was more appropriately dealt with by the “Great Powers.” Worse, Aiken’s interventions would create enemies among Irish friends worldwide, most notably in the United Sstates. The tenor of the arguments was that Ireland had no nuclear energy industry and no nuclear weapons aspirations, so such matters should be left to the nuclear powers. It is difficult to avoid the sense that elements in Irish political life appreciated that American and NATO nuclear forces informally protected the anti-communist Republic of Ireland. Lemass ended speculation that he was less of a supporter of Aiken than his predecessor, de Valera. He affirmed that Ireland had a significant contribution to make to the global commons in terms of reinforcing peace and order. Aiken was empowered to continue.

July 14, 1959

Notice from First Secretary Eoin MacWhite To All Irish Diplomatic Missions (Except Washington)

First Secretary Eoin MacWhite informed all missions of Aiken’s concerns that U.S. nuclear information agreements with selected NATO partners could impede efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. He was nonetheless reticent when it came to lodging a formal protest, having been advised by Eoin MacWhite’s that a strong denunciation would be counterproductive. From MacWhite’s reading no actual nuclear information would be transferred to Allied personnel after all. The agreements related specifically to information necessary for the training of Allied personnel in the employment of U.S. atomic weapons in their hosts’ territories, so Aiken recoiled from further diplomatic protests. He appreciated the need to maintain some nuance on nuclear sharing as he pursued an East-West consensus. 

The strength of NATO's feelings in favor of enhanced alliance nuclear defense and cooperation in the aftermath of the Sputnik shock was well known. The Irish were aware of the Eastern bloc’s objections to NATO nuclear sharing as a dangerous precedent that strengthened NATO’s political and security position. Moscow was especially exercised by any prospect of West German access to nuclear weapons as part of the normalization of German rearmament and progress toward reunification. Moscow opposed any semblance of Bonn’s finger on the nuclear trigger, or its troops gaining proficiency with nuclear weaponry. 

June 26, 1959

Letter from Frederick H. Boland to Con Cremin (Dublin)

Boland gauged opinion at the UN and assisted in preparing the ground for Aiken’s campaign in the XIVth Session in the fall of 1959. Ireland cultivated the UN Secretariat, notably Dr. Protitch, who evaluated the Irish proposal as helpful. Likewise, intimations from the Eastern bloc were positive. The Irish Permanent Representative consolidated links with the second-in-command of the U.S. mission to the UN, James W. Barco, to enable a constructive dialogue with the Americans to fashion a resolution they could tolerate

November 20, 1958

Letter from Frederick H. Boland to Con Cremin (Dublin) (Private and Confidential), New York

The report of Ireland’s permanent representative to the United Nations to his superior, the secretary of the Department of External Affairs, delivers his account of Aiken’s first (failed) attempt to generate support for a resolution in the Thirteenth UN Session. Recognizing the breadth and depth of opposition, he withdrew his draft resolution and instead requested a simple roll call vote in favor of the second paragraph on 31 October – a modest statement acknowledging that an expansion in the number of nuclear weapons states would be harmful to peace and increase obstacles to disarmament. The measure passed with 37 votes and no opposition, although 44 abstentions were recorded. The Soviet bloc supported the maneuver, while Western-aligned countries abstained.  

October 17, 1958

Press Release containing a Speech by Minister of External Affairs Frank Aiken and Draft Resolutions on Nuclear Disarmament

Aiken’s first step was a modest paragraph calling for the formation of a UN commission to recommend measures to the next session. However, global attentions were focused on nuclear tests and their health effects, so Aiken linked his initiative with the American-led seventeen-power resolution requesting all states to suspend testing voluntarily. Aiken proposed an amendment to that motion that included the notion of brokering an understanding between nuclear weapons powers and non-nuclear powers.  He submitted that the former voluntarily desist from supplying nuclear weapons to other countries, while non-nuclear powers reciprocated and volunteered not to develop such weapons during a test suspension. This proposed quid pro quo became a staple in the Irish resolutions subsequently and eventually be inscribed into the NPT.

Aiken’s speech invoked recognizable tropes such as a ‘geometric’ increase in nuclear powers, creating an urgent need to halt the spread. His speech was seminal in identifying themes he and international opinion would rehearse in future years. He conjured up fears about small states and revolutionary groups with a bomb acting as ‘the detonator for world-wide thermonuclear war’. Aiken was perceptive – he expected criticisms about institutionalized equality between states (nuclear “haves” and “have nots”), harms to alliances, the sufficiency of test bans, and the absence of monitoring. He sought to disprove the validity of such critiques, and these issues were worked through gradually, eventually leading to the finalization of the NPT ten years later.  

September 19, 1958

Address by Mr. Frank Aiken to the United Nations General Assembly Official, 23th Session, 751st Plenary Meeting

Aiken’s landmark address to the plenary of the UN General Assembly on 19 September 1958 launched his non-proliferation campaign. It is the first time he publicly identified stopping the spread of nuclear weapons as a concrete step in the collective interest to unblock the disarmament impasse, preventing as runaway arms race among the powers of the Earth. It was clearly framed as part of his wider campaign for global governance based on the rule of law rather than the threat of force. For Aiken, the challenge was stabilizing the arms race and generating trust to construct a world order based on justice and law – “to preserve a Pax Atomica while we build a Pax Mundi.” This speech was a critical departure. The widespread positive reception encouraged Aiken, persuading him to draft a formal resolution.

Pagination