Was There a German Nuclear Question? A Critical Reappraisal



Andreas Lutsch, CISAC

Date and Time

October 22, 2015 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: Many scholars contend that there was a specific German nuclear question. To them, asking the question “Was there a German nuclear question?” may be surprising and odd. In their view, there is no question that Bonn actively sought to transform non-nuclear West Germany into an atomic power and that Bonn had the capability to do it. This view is related to the late 1950s and early 1960s in particular. Most accounts do not address the question whether the postulated objective of Bonn’s nuclear policy remained the same throughout the 1960s. Furthermore, this narrative has led many scholars to believe that the German nuclear question came to an end when West Germany acceded to the NPT by signing the treaty in late 1969 after a change of government which heralded the beginning of Bonn’s ‘New Ostpolitik’. I will present a different narrative. Based on an historical approach and on new archival material, I will reappraise this complicated topic by introducing the analytical concept of West Germany’s limited nuclear revisionism. Thereby, I will postulate that the NPT had no nonproliferation effect regarding West Germany. And I will propose another understanding of the question whether there was a German nuclear question.

About the Speaker: Andreas Lutsch is a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at CISAC. In August 2015 he received his Doctor of Philosophy in history at the University of Mainz, Germany. His dissertation offers a new interpretation of West Germany’s nuclear policy during the 1960s and 1970s - from the controversy about the Non-Proliferation Treaty since the early 1960s until the agreement on NATO’s dual track decision in 1979. The dissertation is based on printed and edited sources and on multi-archival research in Germany, the U.S., the UK and Belgium, thus making use of recently declassified files. Besides completing the book manuscript, Andreas is engaged in a research project on the historical management of U.S. extended nuclear deterrence regarding NATO Europe. Andreas analyzes whether, why and to what extent mechanisms of nuclear consultation were important as tools of extended deterrence management. A previous research fellow at the University of Mainz, Germany, Andreas is an Assistant Professor (on leave in the academic year 2015-16) at the University of Würzburg, Germany. He organized three workshops for PhD students and postdocs and is affiliated with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP).


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