When the Federation of German Scientists (VDW) was founded as the West German section of Pugwash in the late 1950s, several high-profile scientists from the Max Planck Society (MPS), especially nuclear physicists, were involved. Well into the 1980s, institutional links existed between the MPS, the Federal Republic's most distinguished scientific research institution, and Pugwash, the transnational peace activist network that was set up in 1957 in the eponymous Nova Scotia village following the publication of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. At the beginning, the two organizations’ relationship was maintained primarily by the physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. However, the relationship was difficult from the start, and the distance between them grew during the rise of détente in the 1970s, when the scientific flagship MPS was deployed more and more frequently in matters of foreign cultural policy on behalf of West Germany and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a whole. This article explores the resources and risks of transnational political engagement during the Cold War, focusing on the individual strategies of top-ranking researchers as well as the policy deliberations within a leading scientific organization along the chief East-West divide: the front line between the two German states.

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