chapter  6
20 Pages

Nonproliferation under pressure: the nuclear debate within the Warsaw Pact, 1965–1968


During the second half of the 1960s, the nuclear question caused acrimonious debates within the Warsaw Pact (WP). Conventional wisdom has it that the Eastern European alliance was just an “empty shell” or a “Soviet transmission belt,” and can hardly explain such intra-alliance dissent.1 In contrast, this chapter argues that the members of the Warsaw Pact used their alliance as a platform to further their own interests. Similar to the developments within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the WP debate on what would ultimately become the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) exposed the divergent interests of the Eastern alliance’s members and their attempts to alter the course of history towards their own ends. This chapter’s main focus is on the nuclear debate within the Warsaw Pact, from the Political Consultative Committee (PCC) meeting in January 1965 up to the conclusion of the NPT in July 1968.2 The chapter traces the negotiations and discussions during this period by examining the available evidence from various WP meetings, as well as analyzing the relevant bilateral negotiations. Since the end of the Cold War, political documents from Eastern European archives have become widely accessible. Soviet documents are, however, not so easily available, and the same applies to various military sources. Therefore, the diplomatic bargaining process rather than the military implications of the NPT take center-stage here. The emphasis is placed on the views and efforts of the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact (NSWP) members, an input that has generally been considered virtually non-existent. New evidence from archives in Eastern Europe nevertheless shows that the Warsaw Pact gradually turned into an instrument for the NSWP members of the Eastern alliance to assert their own national interests.3 Within WP discussions on the merits of a nonproliferation treaty, most allies regarded the NPT as a satisfactory solution to counter the Multilateral Force (MLF ) project within NATO and to preclude a nuclear option for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). East German and Polish leaders were particularly determined to curb the FRG’s potential nuclear ambitions. Conversely, the Romanian leadership was not so easily persuaded. Striving to expand its own scope for maneuver – both within and outside the alliance – Bucharest constantly demanded involvement in the superpowers’ negotiations.