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-------------- H-Diplo FRUS Reviews www.h-net.org/~diplo/FRUS/ No. 22 Published on 12 July 2013 -------------- H-Diplo FRUS Review Editors: Thomas Maddux and Diane Labrosse Web and Production Editor: George Fujii Commissioned for H-Diplo by Thomas Maddux -------------- David I. Goldman and David C. Humphrey, eds. Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume E-2, Documents on Arms Control and Nonproliferation, 1969-1972. Washington, DC: United States Government Publication Office, 2007. http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve02 Stable URL: http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/FRUS/PDF/FRUS22.pdf -------------- Review by Laura Lisbeth Iandola, Northern Illinois University Thanks to the Nixon Tapes, readers of this FRUS volume can eavesdrop on Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger vilifying the arms control achievements that are the focus of these documents. Furious at arms control negotiator Gerard Smith for his letter transmitting the SALT I agreement to Congress-where Smith claimed the treaty "culminates twenty-five years of consistent American policy to bring nuclear weapons under control"-Nixon blasted "the son-of-a-bitch" for giving credit to the Democrats and linking SALT to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. "It has not a goddamn thing to do with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Test Ban, and all the rest," fumed the President. "I wasn't for those things, not really. I supported non-proliferation because we had to" (doc. 58). The 358 documents in FRUS Volume E-2 give us what Nixon dismissed as "all the rest." They remind us that despite his scorn for the wide range of arms control efforts outside the SALT process, Nixon's arms control record is one of significant achievement. On Nixon's watch, the United States ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Seabed Arms Control Treaty, negotiated with the Senate on ratifying the Geneva Protocol of 1925 banning the use of chemical and biological weapons in war, signed the Biological Weapons Convention (expanding the Geneva Protocol), and ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco creating a nuclear-free zone in Latin America. Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), pledging the parties to negotiate an end to the nuclear arms race and to move toward total disarmament, served as a critical prod to induce non-nuclear powers to relinquish their nuclear capacity in the face of the superpowers' bloated arsenals. Article VI significantly motivated much of the Nixon administration's arms control efforts outlined in this volume. The appearance of arms control momentum was crucial, both internationally to potential yet balky NPT signatories, as well as domestically in order to counter the burgeoning antiwar movement. Holding the superpowers' feet to the fire was the United Nations' Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC). A Central Intelligence Agency Report of 18 August 1969 makes plain the U.S. perspective on the ENDC, the United Nations, and Article VI. Largely placated or ignored by the United States and the Soviet Union, the ENDC's intensified ardor for real progress on arms control, the CIA noted, "could well result in extended shrill debates that the superpowers will be able to guide only with difficulty" (doc. 144). Perhaps even less flattering was the President's request during a 15 March 1969 National Security Council meeting for someone to explain to him the nature of the ENDC, an organization that had clearly never been on his political radar (doc. 74). The documents in Volume E-2 show that from its earliest days in office, the new administration was forced to confront an array of arms control issues in which it often possessed neither interest nor expertise. Henry Kissinger's 5 February 1969 memorandum to the President, "U.S. Position for ENDC," pointed out that the ENDC's agenda contained "complex arms control issues on which the Administration does not now have a position;"he cited chemical and biological weapons, as well as a seabed treaty-that were "complicated" and for which "there appear to be major differences on all of these issues within the U.S. government" (doc. 63). The Nixon administration's first message to the Soviets was that it anticipated "an era of negotiations" (doc. 10), but with respect to arms control these documents expose the dynamics of an era of contentious negotiations between the National Security Council, Department of State, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Capitol Hill. The Non-Proliferation Treaty, a legacy of the Johnson administration, fell to the Nixon administration to ratify. Documents on the NPT are revealing both in terms of the President's tepid support for the treaty and the process of arms control in general. In the 29 January 1969 minutes of a National Security Council meeting, Nixon "pointed out that treaties don't necessarily get us very much, but that people tend to overestimate what such a treaty means" (doc. 5). The many documents that debate the ceremonial arrangements for every Nixon era arms control achievement show how keen Nixon was to shape the public's perception of arms control, all with an eye to his own self-aggrandizement as a global leader. A 19 November 1969 telcon between Nixon and Kissinger on the signing ceremony for the NPT (doc. 41) has Nixon suggesting, "just have a small one, not bother with Johnson . . . We would get the credit for it anyway." Clearly Nixon did not regard the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a national achievement; as with so much of his politics, it was intensely personal. The documents on the Non-Proliferation Treaty also offer an intriguing and in-depth look at U.S. relations and intensive negotiations with the Federal Republic of Germany, which was leery of giving up a future nuclear option as long as the Soviet Union continued to claim, in the absence of a German peace treaty, a right to intervention under the Potsdam Agreement and the UN Charter's "enemy states" Articles. Five intensive negotiating sessions, exhaustively documented here, led on the German side by then-Foreign Minister Willy Brandt, surmounted the obstacles, which included the integration of prevailing EURATOM safeguards with those of the new International Atomic Energy Agency. As the Nixon administration sought to mollify the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee and its push for a range of arms control measures, Arms Control and Disarmament Director Gerard Smith confessed to Kissinger that a treaty banning weapons on the seabed "may be the only significant area in which we can take a new initiative to demonstrate our desire to halt the nuclear arms race" (doc. 65). President Nixon ordered studies on how such a treaty would affect American security, and he listened carefully to the strong dissent from the American military, which wanted to keep mobile nuclear weapons as an option and to ban only fixed-site weapons. Yet despite the dissension, the Seabed Arms Control Treaty moved rapidly through the bureaucratic process. Ratified on 26 April 1972, it outlawed nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction on the ocean floor past the twelve-mile coastal zone parameter. The Seabed Treaty met the goals of the Nixon administration: it responded strongly to the imperative of the NPT's Article VI, and it presented the President as a world leader bent on peace. In a 15 March 1969 letter from Nixon to Gerard Smith, who represented the United States at the ENDC meetings, a letter that was subsequently released to the public, Nixon reiterated his desire "to leave behind the period of confrontation and to enter an era of negotiations." The Seabed Treaty, would "like the Antarctic Treaty and the Treaty on Outer Space . . . prevent an arms race before it had a chance to start" (doc. 75). This achievement of sealing off the ocean floor from nuclear weapons shows Nixon at his wisest and most prescient. The Nixon administration also ratified the Tlatelolco Treaty, or the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America. The FRUS volume contains a mere four documents on this topic, the most interesting being a lengthy analysis by Elliot Richardson (doc. 355). The first nuclear weapons free zone for a populated region, Tlatelolco was a clear demonstration of Latin American initiative and independence. Richardson's emphasis, however, was on its usefulness to American interests, in particular its potential to "reinforce our position on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons" and to encourage states to ratify the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Like many others, Gerard Smith feared that chemical and biological weapons (CBW) "may soon offer 'a poor man's alternative' to nuclear weapons" (doc. 65). The United States also feared that the ENDC, supported by the Soviet Union, stood poised to take up the issue of chemical and biological weapons at the UN. The United States sought to distinguish the two categories of invariably linked weapons and deal with them separately. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird was the catalyst for a major review of U.S. policies on chemical and biological weapons, issues that had engaged him while serving in Congress on the House Armed Services Committee. The United States was also under increasing pressure to ratify the Geneva Protocol of 1925 banning the use in warfare of chemical or biological weapons. While policymakers agreed that the military utility of biological weapons was doubtful, they held strong beliefs about the usefulness of tear gas and herbicides, the latter being a routine part of American warfare in Vietnam. The verbatim minutes of a 18 November 1969 National Security Council meeting (doc. 161) show agreement with Laird's plan to decouple chemical and biological weapons, abandon biological weapons, and construct a protocol on chemical weapons that would protect the use of herbicides and riot control agents (RCAs) like tear gas. Nixon immediately grasped that "the public relations aspect is very important." Recommending that the United States ratify the Geneva Protocol with a separate statement of understanding on herbicides and RCAs, Nixon again looked to highlight his role in the process: "I want a positive public statement. It should emphasize that this is an example of the right leadership but which has the national security in mind." Chemical weapons should be considered deterrents, and the United States would commit to a no-first-use pledge. Kissinger's cavalier attitude toward such a pledge was made clear in an earlier National Security Council meeting: "Mr. Kissinger assumed we would not be bothered by declaring a no first use pledge since we could always change our mind . . . he asked if we would let Europe be overrun rather than use CW first" (doc. 155). For both the United States and the Soviet Union, however, it was clear that the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) were the primary focus. The E-2 documents show how seriously Nixon's insistence on linkage between progress on SALT and progress on other U.S.-Soviet issues was taken. A Department of State telegram to the U.S. embassy in Moscow on 11 August 1970 reported that the Soviets were now prepared to abandon their coupling of biological and chemical weapons and sign a treaty on biological weapons alone that would augment the Geneva Protocol, banning the development and possession of such weapons as well as their use in war. The shift in position is explicitly attributed to the Soviet leaders' desire to make rapid progress on SALT (doc. 204). The documents are especially interesting in their depiction of the onset of the debate on herbicides in the Vietnam War. When the Geneva Protocol was sent to the Senate for ratification, Senator William Fulbright's Foreign Relations Committee refused to approve it if it was accompanied by the understanding that herbicides and RCAs would continue to be tolerated. A 28 June 1971 memorandum from Kissinger to Laird and William Rogers pronounced the Geneva Protocol "deadlocked" in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (doc. 232). It also attached a letter from Senator Fulbright that warned "The more we learn about the impact of the herbicide warfare on the ecology of Vietnam, the more disturbing are its implications for the future." There is as yet, however, no discussion of the health risks for American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians, although the National Academy of Sciences had just begun a long-term study on "the ecological and physiological aspects of herbicide use" (doc. 236). The Geneva Protocol was finally ratified during the Ford administration. On April 10, 1972, the President gave a speech at the State Department ceremony for the signing of what Nixon would call "that jackass treaty on biological warfare." Venting the following day to Treasury Secretary John Connally on the ignominy of signing an arms control agreement with the Soviets at the very moment that a Soviet-equipped North Vietnamese offensive was unfolding, Nixon summed up his contempt for what he perceived as his smaller arms control efforts and affirmed the importance of SALT to world peace. "We've had the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Warfare, that Seabeds, but with all the arms limitation in the world there's still enough arms left to blow up the world many times over. What we need is restraint on the part of the great powers" (doc. 256). In Nixon's world, the nuclear arsenals of the superpowers loomed as the greatest threat to global peace and security. The documents in this FRUS volume, however, illuminate a future that was then but dimly imagined or understood. Whether from indifference, political calculation, or inadvertence-whatever the motivation-the Nixon administration's legacy on arms control outside of the SALT process is profound. Issues that seemed peripheral at the time have become central: chemical weapons are perceived as increasingly menacing weapons of mass destruction, as evidenced in their contentious role in the Syrian civil war. In contrast, the superpowers' nuclear arsenals have shrunk, while concerns over the proliferation of nuclear weapons continue to rise. The literature on the history of arms control remains sparse and its issues continue to be relatively understudied by scholars. This FRUS volume is an excellent place to begin the process of changing this situation. Laura Lisbeth Iandola is a Doctoral Candidate in history at Northern Illinois University. She is completing her dissertation, "Nuclear Fueled: Regime Change in Sukarno's Indonesia and the Global Politics of Nuclear Nationalism," under the supervision of Kenton Clymer. She recently participated in the SHAFR Summer Institute on the International History of Nuclear Weapons. Copyright (c) 2013 H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, H-Diplo, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the H-Diplo Editors at firstname.lastname@example.org. --