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This Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP) research update presents new source materials from the Dutch government, specifically the Council of Ministers, detailing the Dutch role in the negotiations from 1962 to 1965 surrounding the establishment of a Multilateral Force (MLF). Though ultimately unsuccessful, the effort to establish a European-American multilateral nuclear force is an important episode in Cold War history, nuclear history, and the ongoing story of European integration.

From the late 1950s on, the United States made an effort to assure its European partners of the credibility of its security guarantee, which had been damaged by the U.S. mainland’s increasing vulnerability to Soviet nuclear attack after the 1957 launch of Sputnik and the Soviets’ development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Eisenhower administration offered to deploy medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) in Europe, and NATO plan MC-70 entailed a greater build-up of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, albeit with American control over their use. By reaffirming its security guarantee, the American government hoped to prevent its European allies from pursuing independent nuclear capabilities. However, the United Kingdom had already tested a nuclear weapon, French President de Gaulle’s pursuit of an independent nuclear capability (force de frappe) led to France’s first successful nuclear test in 1960, and it was feared that the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) would pursue nuclear armament despite its 1954 renunciation of the production of nuclear weapons, possibly through cooperation with France. Thus, the United States hoped to use the MLF to meet its allies’ desires to play a role in nuclear affairs and to reaffirm the credibility of its nuclear deterrent, while bringing all Western nuclear arsenals under the umbrella of NATO and increasing the cohesion of the alliance.[2] Instead, the project only exacerbated transatlantic and intra-European tensions, to which it would ultimately fall victim.

The Story Thus Far

The current historiography on the MLF has mainly examined the American and British perspectives, due to the idea’s American origin and the “special relationship” between the two countries on security issues and nuclear weapons specifically. Existing analyses tend to focus on explaining the rise and demise of the initiative as well as its significance for Anglo-American relations and the politics of NATO.[3] The actions and reactions of important continental actors such as France, the FRG, Italy and the Netherlands have mostly been viewed from the perspective of American and British decision-makers and diplomats.[4]

One aspect of the MLF negotiations that this perspective has tended to neglect is the politics of European integration, which have been largely viewed as background and have come to the fore only when directly intersecting with the MLF negotiations. Yet it becomes more difficult to ascertain the reasons for which support for the MLF waxed and waned without insight into the intricacies of Western European diplomacy, for which the Dutch vantage point is well suited. The documents presented here provide tentative evidence of the intertwining of the MLF and actors’ efforts at achieving (or undermining) European political cooperation. For instance, in 1964, Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-Henri Spaak and German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard considered turning the MLF and broader European political cooperation into a package deal. Negotiations over the adoption of a common grain price, which pitted the French squarely against the Germans, made Dutch Prime Minister Victor Marijnen wary of further upsetting relations by pushing for an MLF. Around this time, the Dutch Council of Ministers discussed European integration and the MLF as interdependent issues, placing them on its agenda under a single heading. The Dutch foreign minister sorely wanted to keep the MLF separated from the politics of European integration—the issue was complex enough by itself—but the mid-1960s European Economic Community (EEC) crisis made this increasingly difficult, principally due to French obduracy. Thus, by studying newly released archival evidence from the Netherlands we can more accurately piece together how the MLF, initially seen as inevitable, came to an inglorious end.

The Netherlands was an important second-tier player in both the MLF and European integration discussions. Throughout the documents, tendencies that will be familiar to analysts of Dutch foreign policy are borne out, as the Netherlands strived to promote multilateralism, cohesion within NATO and European integration. As a middle power in European terms, the Dutch held limited negotiating power. Nevertheless, they could exert significant influence and at times acted as an important broker, for example, in promoting British involvement with and accession to the EEC. On the other hand, uncertainty, equivocation, domestic pressures, and internal divisions often forced the government to pursue a reactive policy in which it did not take a strong position but awaited leadership from other states. While constantly remaining aware and involved, the Dutch government never formulated a definitive standpoint on whether it would participate in the MLF. Since the project never came to fruition, it was never forced to.[5]

The materials presented here are drawn from an examination of all Council of Ministers minutes from 17 August 1962 to 28 June 1966. All relevant sections were available from the Dutch National Archives in The Hague in unredacted form; some of the attachments to the minutes, however, have gone missing from the archives. While this corpus of documents does not constitute a comprehensive overview of the Dutch perspective of the MLF negotiations, it does provide several new leads for researchers.

For example, an examination of the documents of the Dutch Foreign and Defense ministries, particularly memoranda of conversations of meetings that the ministers conducted with their foreign counterparts, would cast more light on the background of the disagreements between those two ministries as well as the way in which other governments’ positions evolved. Of interest to diplomatic historians are several Dutch-American interactions, including American Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s suspicion of a secret nuclear clause in the Franco-German Treaty of Friendship of January 1963 in the face of Dutch incredulity, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Luns’ carrying a message from Rusk to Khrushchev in Moscow explaining the Americans’ intentions with the MLF, and the United States and the FRG requesting the Netherlands to hold a prominent conference on the MLF in The Hague in 1965.

The Dutch and the MLF, 1962-1965

While President Kennedy first publicly endorsed the idea of a multilateral nuclear force in an address before the Canadian Parliament on 17 May 1961, the Nassau Treaty signed between Kennedy and British Prime Minister Macmillan in December of 1962 provided the most important impetus in setting the MLF initiative in motion. The treaty contained two crucial articles: Article 6 dealt with bringing existing nuclear assets under the umbrella of NATO, while Article 8 called for the establishment of a multilateral nuclear force as part of NATO (a “NATO Nuclear Force” or NNF).

This arrangement was seen by the French as posing a threat to Western European cohesion, and it was one important reason that French leader Charles de Gaulle shortly after opposed British accession to the EEC. Mutual suspicions within NATO were exacerbated in January of 1963 when the French and the Germans signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, leading to fears overseas as well as on the continent of an emerging Franco-German axis that would further undermine Atlantic unity and possibly lead to the Germans acquiring nuclear weapons independently.[6]

As the minutes of the Dutch Council of Ministers from February 1963 show, NATO Secretary General Stikker went on a diplomatic offensive to ease these tensions within NATO, meeting with German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to put him at ease and to enlist German support for the NNF. During Stikker’s subsequent visit to the Netherlands, he told the Dutch prime minister and others that the Germans had come around, and that both Italy and Belgium had expressed support for the proposal, although the former seemed reluctant to make Polaris submarine bases available and the latter saw no way of offering a financial contribution. The NNF proposal suggested implementing articles 6 and 8 of the Nassau agreement sequentially:

“The intention is to have the United States render to NATO what had been marked for NATO use already and to have Great Britain offer all of its bomber planes. In the second phase Polaris missiles will become available, which can be fired both from below and above water.” [Document 1]

Dutch Prime Minister De Quay informed Stikker that the Netherlands would gladly support a NATO nuclear force, even at the price of isolating France, although De Quay believed the NNF might help rein in de Gaulle.

It was unclear at this early stage whether the NNF would involve genuine devolution of control over the use of nuclear weapons, but De Quay expected the Americans not to relinquish control. Yet the importance of furthering NATO integration was such that the Dutch were nevertheless supportive of the initiative. Interestingly, given the later interdependence of the two issues, Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns opposed the prime minister’s linkage between NATO and the EEC, pointing out that these were two different matters. This first extended discussion of nuclear sharing in the Council also brought up financial concerns that were to resurface many times: should new funds be allocated to defense for the purpose of the NNF, or should funds be reallocated from elsewhere within the defense budget?

During its subsequent discussion of the MLF, the Council displayed a more concerned attitude. The problem of Germany’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons, whether independently or through a scheme such as the MLF, appears to have been foremost in the ministers’ minds. Defense Minister Simon Hendrik Visser stated that Germany should be co-opted to prevent it from following the French example and taking unilateral steps to further its own defense, while Minister of Social Affairs Marga Klompé objected that the NNF initiative would mean simply providing the Germans with access to nuclear weapons. Luns criticized the American government for its strong focus on the FRG, as in doing so it virtually bypassed the UK (after increasing controversy over the Nassau agreement) and created the impression to the Soviet Union that the whole undertaking was merely a guise for providing Germany with nuclear arms. The Netherlands, for its part, would obstruct all efforts at creating a continental nuclear force, with Luns stating that the plan must be handled within NATO, not beside it. The consensus of the Council appears to have been that some form of nuclear sharing was inevitable, and that France would not significantly oppose such plans—the prime minister even went so far as to suggest that an American-French-German consortium might be in the works and reasoned that the Dutch should join in to avoid being left on the sidelines. [Document 2]

In June 1963, a meeting of NATO’s Council provided an opportunity for a flurry of diplomatic interactions, although British pressure kept nuclear sharing off the official agenda. By now the initiative had become known as the MLF, with no apparent change to its substance. In a meeting with Kennedy, Luns informed him that no Dutch standpoint on the MLF was to be expected until December, since the new Marijnen government was to take office in July. Luns also attempted to allay the president’s fear of the FRG coming to possess an independent nuclear force through French assistance by pointing out the FRG’s loyalty to America. Secretary of State Dean Rusk expressed his belief that the French-German agreement included a secret clause regarding nuclear weapons, a belief which Luns told Rusk that he did not share whatsoever. Rusk requested that Luns tell FRG Foreign Minister Gerhard Schröder that German nuclear armament would lead to major difficulties. Luns’ report of these meetings also suggests that Rusk made it clear that, under the MLF, the power to use the weapons would remain with the American president. [Document 3]

Domestic opposition to the MLF seems to have significantly increased the Dutch government’s reticence. During an August 1963 meeting, Luns seems to have felt that domestic pressure compelled the government not to partake in the MLF at the present time, indicating that Dutch enthusiasm, which had initially been relatively high, had reached its nadir in the summer of 1963. As a veteran in the new cabinet, his opinion carried great weight. [Document 4] At about the same time the Council decided to decline Washington’s invitation to participate in an MLF working group, joining in abstention with Belgium and Britain, although all three would stay informed (the FRG, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, on the other hand, did join). [Document 5]

As the issue evolved, however, the foreign minister tended to favor participation in the talks leading up to the MLF’s creation, while the defense minister, sometimes along with the finance minister, would oppose this course of action. This dynamic stemmed from a fundamental tension in the MLF proposal: its primarily political, rather than military, nature. Perhaps the most important document presented in this research update, a discussion paper from the ministry of foreign affairs, acknowledged this frankly. All six advantages of the MLF listed were political in nature, such as tying the U.S. to Europe more closely, strengthening ties between Britain and the continent, and isolating France in its policy of nuclear independence. Although the possibility of Germany unilaterally pursuing nuclear weapons was mentioned, this seems not to have preoccupied the ministry. Rather than focus on the hypothetical threat of a nuclear-armed Germany, it emphasized the MLF’s importance in easing German sensitivities with regard to the country’s political, military and geographical position.[7] [Document 5]

The military counterargument from Defense Minister De Jong was that the MLF was “inefficient, superfluous, and therefore undesirable, “especially given a shortage of financial means for conventional weaponry. A ministry of defense discussion paper from the same meeting indicated his objections: the Western allies already possessed “overkill” nuclear capacity, there existed serious military and technical objections to the proposed internationally-operated nuclear-armed surface ships, military experts had not been properly consulted, and the financial resources available for conventional weapons should not be diminished. The paper advised that even if the MLF were to come about for other than military reasons, the Netherlands should refrain from participating because the associated costs would hurt the effort to bring its conventional forces up to NATO standards. [Document 6]

Yet gradually, political concerns seem to have carried the day and would have likely led to Dutch participation in the MLF, had the plan not been abandoned for other reasons. Even in the same meeting in which his highly critical paper was discussed, De Jong admitted he was sensitive to political considerations, bracketing the paper as coming strictly from the point of view of the ministry of defense. Financial concerns seem to have been foremost in his mind. Therefore it was possible for State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Leo De Block, standing in for Luns, to propose telling the Americans that the Dutch were willing “to take part in the discussions on the clear understanding that it does not commit them to participate in such a force.” [Document 6] The decision to proceed along these lines took over two more months, due to concerns over domestic opposition and the possibility of a change in the British position after elections in the United Kingdom. But on 22 November 1963—just hours before President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas—the Council agreed that Luns would inform the involved governments of the Netherlands’ intent to participate in the MLF talks. [Document 7] Plans continued to develop under the Johnson administration and the idea of a mixed-crew test ship was put forward in the deliberations. The Dutch government agreed to participate in the experiment. On 14 February 1964 the Council decided to commit 20–25 Dutch troops to be stationed in the United States for two years—the apex of support for the MLF.[8] [Document 8]

As late as 30 October 1964 Defense Minister De Jong still appeared to believe that the MLF was inevitable, although the American resolve seemed to be flagging, as diplomats made it clear that they did not expect a decision until some point in 1965. De Jong thought that the French were resigned to the idea that the Americans would eventually force the project through. As in March 1963, this proved to be unjustified. The contours of the MLF’s failure became increasingly visible in this very same meeting. Tensions within the EEC were rising, creating new obstacles for the MLF: de Gaulle had issued an ultimatum in the European grain price negotiations, threatening to withdraw from EEC affairs and blow up the Kennedy Round trade negotiations while shifting the blame onto the Germans for failing to reach the prerequisite common European agricultural policy. This led the prime minister to note that the formation of the MLF would drive the French even further away, an argument to put it on the back burner at best. [Document 9]

In subsequent meetings, the MLF would begin to be discussed in relation to the crisis of European integration; a far cry from Luns’ initial insistence on keeping NATO and EEC matters separate. For instance, the Dutch Council of Ministers’ 13 November 1964 meeting featured the agenda point ”European integration; the MLF,“ during which Luns tried as best he could to explain the complexities of these issues to his somewhat bewildered colleagues, concluding plainly that European political cooperation was presently out of the question and no decisions on the MLF were required on the Dutch side, because the British would first need to negotiate with the Americans and then with the Germans. Especially troubling for all aspects of European diplomacy was how the intentions of de Gaulle remained mysterious, “the sphinx in the Elysée, who only says what he does not want,” as Luns put it. While German-American relations warmed, Franco-German relations deteriorated, precluding the intra-European unity necessary for a successful MLF, as continuing the project without French participation was unacceptable. [Document 10]

A few weeks later, Luns reported on a three-hour conversation with Jean Monnet, one of the EEC’s “founding fathers,” who had met with de Gaulle not long before. Unlike Luns, Monnet saw cooperation between Germany, France and the United Kingdom in the MLF or some such arrangement not only as a way of increasing transatlantic cohesion, but also as the only alternative to the creation of an independent German nuclear force. Among the issues the two statesmen discussed was the relation between the MLF and European integration. According to the minutes, Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-Henri Spaak and German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard intended to turn European political cooperation and the MLF into a “package deal.” Luns agreed with Monnet that this would merely present de Gaulle with an easy excuse for vetoing both, and so the two believed that the issues would have to be treated separately if they were to succeed. He nevertheless feared that the French would move to connect the two issues themselves, thereby still creating the opportunity to pronounce a veto. The EEC crisis thus contributed to the creation of a political minefield for the nuclear sharing project. [Document 11]

While these complexities encouraged a reactive policy on the Dutch side, the United Kingdom and the United States worked to promote more active Dutch involvement in the project, presumably both to gradually increase Dutch commitment to a point of no return and because the Netherlands could serve as a relatively impartial intermediary. During their meeting on June 19th, 1964, the Council of Ministers noted that American Secretary of State Dean Rusk had requested Foreign Minister Luns to explain to Khrushchev, on his upcoming visit to Russia, that the MLF was merely intended to prevent unilateral control over nuclear weapons, rather than to provide Germany with such control, a request to which Luns agreed. [Document 12] In a different episode during the abovementioned December 1964 meeting, Luns reported that Under Secretary of State George Ball had told him the U.S. was determined to press on with the MLF and now desired to hold a multilateral conference in The Hague in January; Luns declined, suggesting that New York City would be more appropriate. In mid-December, Luns was approached by the British Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Lord Hood with a similar request, who noted that the conference would be open to non-participating countries as well—thus implying that Dutch participation was counted upon. But Luns considered it impossible for the government to organize such a conference until it had adopted a position on the MLF.

This never became necessary. Tripartite nuclear cooperation between Germany, France and the United Kingdom was not in the offing, let alone European-American agreement. The British took center stage with a modified proposal called the “Atlantic Nuclear Force” (ANF) but with little effect—arguably it even served simply as a tool to “kill the MLF” before the ANF itself was allowed to suffer a similar fate in 1966.[9] Meanwhile the United States made a tactical retreat to the second row—if not an outright exit through the backdoor. President Johnson signed National Security Action Memorandum No. 322 on 17 December 1964, stipulating that the United States would not “press for a binding agreement,” and leaked the document to the New York Times to ensure compliance by those in his staff committed to the MLF project.[10] Thus, although it formally remained on the agenda into 1966, the project was left dead in the water. Given that the MLF had become more of a liability to cohesion within NATO and the EEC than an asset, the political considerations that had previously underlain the cautiously positive Dutch attitude lost their power, leaving the government with no incentive to rescue the initiative.

Meanwhile the Johnson administration moved toward a “software” based initiative: during the May 31 and 1 June 1965 meeting of NATO defense ministers in Paris, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara initiated a Select Committee of defense ministers, which led to the creation of an ad hoc Special Committee in November. This Special Committee would include the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), which met at the ministerial level, and in which the Dutch played an important role both procedurally (in increasing small power influence) and substantially (e.g. regarding the demonstrative use of nuclear weapons).[11] Judging by the comparative ease with which the NPG was able to develop and operate, there was a strong desire for nuclear cooperation within NATO, but the “hardware” approach of the MLF had simply been a bridge too far.

Bastiaan Bouwman is a graduate student enrolled in the research master in History at the University of Amsterdam. He was a junior scholar at the Wilson Center’s History & Public Policy Program from November 2012 through January 2013.

Document 1:  "NATO Defense Policy," Council of Ministers 8 February 1963

These Council of Ministers minutes report on the meeting between Prime Minister De Quay and several of his state secretaries with NATO Secretary-General Stikker, who gave an outline of what was still called a “NATO Nuclear Force.” The prime minister responded positively to the plan but indicated the incoming cabinet would have to take a final decision. In the discussion, Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns comments on the attitude of President de Gaulle and points out that NATO and EEC matters ought to be viewed separately.

Document 2:  "Atlantic Nuclear Weapons Plan", Council of Ministers 15 March 1963

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 3: "NATO Council in Ottawa and Visit to President Kennedy", Council of Ministers 7 March 1963

The NATO council meeting in Ottawa did not touch on the MLF, but Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns spoke privately with President Kennedy and Secretary of State Rusk about the attitude of President de Gaulle and the likelihood of an independent German nuclear force (Rusk stated his belief that a secret clause was added to the French-German Treaty of Friendship). Minister of Defense Visser and others also visited Kennedy and several weapon centers in the United States, leading Visser to emphasize the need to accept American leadership in the defense of Europe.

Document 4: "Position Regarding NATO Multilateral Nuclear Force", Council of Ministers, 2 August 1963

Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns gives the new Marijnen cabinet a sketch of the MLF situation so far. He is now of the opinion that the Netherlands should not join a multilateral NATO nuclear force. Minister of Defense De Jong says the Dutch government will need to take a position near the end of the year.

Document 5: "Discussion of NATO Nuclear Force", Council of Ministers, 4 October 1963, with attachment from state secretary of foreign affairs

State Secretary of Foreign Affairs De Block, standing in for Minister Luns, presents his ministry’s paper on Dutch participation in talks regarding the MLF. The paper lays out the reasons for declining to participate so far, but argues that due to changes in the situation – principally a turn on the part of the British toward participation – the Netherlands now should move to participate in the talks. The paper lists the (political) advantages of such participation. Objections from the Ministers of Defense and Finance as well as concerns over resistance in parliament lead most of the discussion to be tabled until the following meeting.

Document 6: "Dutch Participation in Multilateral Nuclear Force Talks", Council of Ministers, 11 October 1963, with attachment from minister of defense

Minister of Defense De Jong presents a memorandum from his joint chiefs of staff, the tenor of which he supports, which serves as the basis for an extended discussion. The memorandum is highly critical of the (military) merits of the MLF, but De Jong takes care to bracket his critique as coming strictly from the point of view of the Ministry of Defense. De Jong stresses that neither troops nor financial means can be made available for participation in the MLF. State Secretary of Foreign Affairs De Block proposes the formula: “to take part in the discussions on the clear understanding that it does not commit them [the Dutch] to participate in such a force.” Prime Minister Marijnen brings up a number of counterarguments to both military arguments against and political arguments in favor of the MLF.

Document 7: "Talks Regarding a Multilateral Nuclear Force", Council of Ministers, 22 November 1963

The Council accepts the proposal of Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns to inform the involved governments that the Netherlands is making preparations for participation in the MLF talks. The Ministers of Defense and Finance object that the existing defense budget and conventional forces ought not to be slighted as a result.

Document 8: "Multilateral Nuclear Force", Council of Ministers, 14 February 1964

The Council decides to participate in the MLF test ship (the Mixed-Manning Demonstration, or MMD). Among the arguments that persuade the Minister of Defence is the danger of shifting the center of gravity to the German Federal Republic and the concomitant risk of giving Russia the impression that the whole project is a guise for providing the Germans with nuclear weapons.

Document 9: "Foreign Policy", Council of Ministers, 30 October 1964

The Council discusses the attitude of the French government regarding the negotiations about a common grain price and the Kennedy Round, which impact considerations regarding the desirability of the MLF. In the discussion of the MLF itself, it is increasingly clear that the position of the French and how the other states will deal with it are crucial for the project’s prospects. On the one hand it seems the Americans will push the MLF through regardless, but on the other hand the initiative seems to have lost some of its urgency. The Americans have signaled to the Dutch their irritation with the attitude of the French.

Document 10: "Foreign Policy", Council of Ministers, 13 November 1964

Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns has met with Secretary of State Rusk twice, who seemed prepared to go to significant lengths to get both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to participate, while showing concern for increasing French resistance. Meanwhile in France anti-German sentiment is increasing. The Dutch ministers in the council are bewildered by the complexity of the European problems and the MLF; Luns tries to explain the issues as best he can. He mentions his frustration about the ‘the sphinx in the Elysée, who only says what he does not want’.

Document 11: "European Political Cooperation", Council of Ministers, 4/7 December 1964

Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns reports on a discussion he had with Jean Monnet on the EEC and the MLF, including topics such as the interconnection between these issues, the risk of a German nuclear force, and transatlantic relations in general. Luns also met with Undersecretary of State Ball, who was keen on moving ahead with the MLF and proposed holding a conference about it in The Hague, which Luns had to decline. Luns furthermore met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Couve de Murville, who put the blame with the Americans for inciting thoughts about nuclear independence on the part of the Germans. Minister of Defence De Jong responds by giving a broad military-strategic analysis, concluding that unity within NATO is essential to prevent American attention from shifting increasingly to Asia.

Document 12: "Multilateral Nuclear Force", Council of Ministers, 19 June 1964

Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns reports that the Secretary of State Rusk has asked him to explain the American position regarding the MLF to Prime Minister Khrushchev on his impending visit to Russia. The main point is that the MLF is not intended to give Germany control over nuclear weapons.

[1] I am grateful to Timothy McDonnell, Ruud van Dijk and Evan Pikulski for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this text.

[2] Andrew Priest, “The President, the ‘Theologians’ and the Europeans: The Johnson Administration and NATO Nuclear Sharing” The International History Review Vol. 33 No. 2 (2011) 260.

[3] See, inter alia, Michael Middeke, ”Anglo-American Nuclear Weapons Cooperation After the Nassau Conference: The British Policy of Interdependence” Journal of Cold War Studies Vol. 2 No. 2 (2000) 69-96; John W. Young, ”Killing the MLF? The Wilson Government and Nuclear Sharing in Europe, 1964-66” Diplomacy & Statecraft Vol. 14 No. 2 (2003) 295-324; John D. Steinbruner, The Cybernetic Theory of Decision: New Dimensions of Political Analysis (Princeton University Press: Princeton 1974); Jack Cunningham, Nuclear Sharing and Nuclear Crises: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1957-1963 (University of Toronto 2010).

[4] On the German and French perspectives, see Susanna Schrafstetter, “The Long Shadow of the Past: History, Memory and the Debate over West Germany’s Nuclear Status, 1954-69” History & Memory Vol. 16 No. 1 (2004) 118-145; Christoph Hoppe, Zwischen Teilhabe und Mitsprache: Die Nuklearfrage in der Allianzpolitik Deutschlands 1959-1966 [Between Participation and Power: The Nuclear Question in Germany’s Alliance Policy 1959-1966] (Nomos: Baden-Baden 1993); Colette Barbier, “La Force Multilatérale dans le Débat Atomique Français” [The Multilateral Force in the French Atomic Debate] Revue d’Histoire Diplomatique Vol. 107 No. 1 (1993) 55–89.

[5] For a general treatment of Dutch foreign policy as well as a section dealing with the MLF specifically, see Duco Hellema, Dutch Foreign Policy: The Role of the Netherlands in World Politics (Republic of Letters: Dordrecht 2009).

[6] J.J. Widén and Jonathan Colman, “Lyndon B. Johnson, Alec Douglas-Home, Europe and the NATO Multilateral Force, 1963-64” Journal of Transatlantic Studies Vol. 5 No. 2 (2007) 181.

[7] Luns’ biographer states, based on a separate diplomatic cable sent by Luns at the time, that he did not share the belief that Germany would acquire an independent nuclear force, since this required French support and he was certain de Gaulle would refuse to cooperate. Albert Kersten, Luns: Een Politieke Biografie [Luns: A Political Biography] (Boom: Amsterdam 2011, 1st edition 2010) 341.

[8] Although the minutes do not provide this information, it appears that after further communication eighteen crewmen were asked for; these were hand-picked to participate in the ”Mixed-Manning Demonstration” (MMD). In June 1964, the destroyer USS Claude V. Ricketts (formerly the Biddle) began an eighteen-month stint of patrols around North Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, with a crew composed of officers and ratings from seven NATO nations on board. The experiment was successful in that it proved that mixed-manning was possible, but it did not significantly influence the ultimate decline of the MLF proposal. For an in-depth study of the MMD, see Andrew Priest, “’In Common Cause:’ The NATO Multilateral Force and the Mixed-Manning Demonstration on the USS Claude V. Ricketts, 1964-1965” The Journal of Military History Vol. 69 No. 3 (2005) 759-788.

[9] Young, “Killing the MLF?,” 318-9.

[10] Andreas Wenger, “Crisis and Opportunity: NATO's Transformation and the Multilateralization of Detente, 1966-1968” Journal of Cold War Studies Vol. 6 No. 1 (2004) 29; Priest, “The President, the ‘Theologians’ and the Europeans,” 262-6.

[11] Guido Walraven, “Arrangements for nuclear sharing in NATO. The Multi-lateral Force and the Nuclear Planning Group,” in: Philip Everts and Guido Walraven, eds., The Politics of Persuasion: Implementation of Foreign Policy by the Netherlands (Avebury: Aldershot et al. 1989) 103-117.

About the Author

Bastiaan Bouwman

Bastiaan Bouwman

Former Junior Scholar;
History MA (research), University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities
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