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Nuclear Arms Control in U.S. Foreign Policy

Summary and Keywords

The development of military arms harnessing nuclear energy for mass destruction has inspired continual efforts to control them. Since 1945, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and South Africa acquired control over these powerful weapons, though Pretoria dismantled its small cache in 1989 and Russia inherited the Soviet arsenal in 1996. Throughout this period, Washington sought to limit its nuclear forces in tandem with those of Moscow, prevent new states from fielding them, discourage their military use, and even permit their eventual abolition.

Scholars disagree about what explains the United States’ distinct approach to nuclear arms control. The history of U.S. nuclear policy treats intellectual theories and cultural attitudes alongside technical advances and strategic implications. The central debate is one of structure versus agency: whether the weapons’ sheer power, or historical actors’ attitudes toward that power, drove nuclear arms control. Among those who emphasize political responsibility, there are two further disagreements: (1) the relative influence of domestic protest, culture, and politics; and (2) whether U.S. nuclear arms control aimed first at securing the peace by regulating global nuclear forces or at bolstering American influence in the world.

The intensity of nuclear arms control efforts tended to rise or fall with the likelihood of nuclear war. Harry Truman’s faith in the country’s monopoly on nuclear weapons caused him to sabotage early initiatives, while Dwight Eisenhower’s belief in nuclear deterrence led in a similar direction. Fears of a U.S.-Soviet thermonuclear exchange mounted in the late 1950s, stoked by atmospheric nuclear testing and widespread radioactive fallout, which stirred protest movements and diplomatic initiatives. The spread of nuclear weapons to new states motivated U.S. presidents (John Kennedy in the vanguard) to mount a concerted campaign against “proliferation,” climaxing with the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Richard Nixon was exceptional. His reasons for signing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) and Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) with Moscow in 1972 were strategic: to buttress the country’s geopolitical position as U.S. armed forces withdrew from Southeast Asia. The rise of protest movements and Soviet economic difficulties after Ronald Reagan entered the Oval Office brought about two more landmark U.S.-Soviet accords—the 1987 Intermediate Ballistic Missile Treaty (INF) and the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)—the first occasions on which the superpowers eliminated nuclear weapons through treaty. The country’s attention swung to proliferation after the Soviet collapse in December 1991, as failed states, regional disputes, and non-state actors grew more prominent. Although controversies over Iraq, North Korea, and Iran’s nuclear programs have since erupted, Washington and Moscow continued to reduce their arsenals and refine their nuclear doctrines even as President Barack Obama proclaimed his support for a nuclear-free world.

Keywords: nuclear arms control, non-proliferation, deterrence, disarmament, mutual assured destruction, strategic stability, preventive war, anti-ballistic missile systems, balance of terror, brinksmanship

The Nuclear Monopoly: Franklin Roosevelt to Harry Truman

Nuclear arms control involved the management and lessening of risks that nuclear weapons posed. Before Hiroshima, intellectuals distinguished between acts that would safeguard one nation and those that would lessen the risks to humanity overall. Contemporaneous debates about humanitarian law, disarmament, and world government informed premonitions of a nuclear breakthrough. In The World Set Free (1914), H. G. Wells foretold that an atomic war would bring about a “World Republic” and war’s abolition. Such utopian ambitions seemed attainable after World War I, when Woodrow Wilson inaugurated the League of Nations, and diplomatic conferences limited battleship numbers, forbade chemical warfare, and even outlawed war. World War II interrupted these efforts (though not the chemical-weapons ban) as the belligerents undertook research into nuclear fission. The bombs posed various dilemmas. Should national governments hope these weapons made war unthinkable or reduce the risk that atomic warfare would break out? Was it better to rely on superior nuclear forces or to seek common limits? Should efforts at arms control manage the weapons or abolish them altogether?

Three countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union—launched major wartime efforts to build the Bomb. The Germans and Japanese failed to make much headway because of scientific misapprehensions and lackluster investment; fears of a Nazi breakthrough loomed throughout the war nonetheless. Washington enjoyed unrivaled natural resources, geographical security, and scientific talent—notably Jewish scientists who had fled Nazi persecution in Europe. The Americans could afford to keep their allies at arm’s length, apart from the British Commonwealth, with whose members they allowed limited collaboration in light of Britain’s initial contributions and Canada’s uranium mines. Scientists from Britain, Canada, France, Eastern Europe, and Australia accordingly joined the multibillion-dollar program known as the Manhattan Project after 1943, when British prime minister Winston Churchill and U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt signed the Quebec Agreement. Wartime collaboration excluded command over the so-called “gadget” and ceased shortly after the war. The secrecy surrounding the continental undertaking was so total that, when Roosevelt was re-elected to a fourth term, his new vice president, Harry S. Truman, was not notified of it. The U.S. Department of War and Brigadier General Leslie Groves further limited Allied involvement by restricting access to nuclear intelligence, most critically methods for producing fissile materials such as enriched uranium and plutonium. Soviet leaders were left completely in the dark. On July 16, the Manhattan Project’s weapons laboratory at Los Alamos detonated the world’s first nuclear explosive, “Trinity,” near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Now in command, Truman waited a week before finally telling Soviet general secretary Joseph Stalin that the United States possessed “a new weapon of unusual destructive force” at the final Allied summit in Potsdam, Germany.1 Unbeknown to Truman, Stalin already knew.

There were debates about the military necessity and ethical justification of the new weapon within the Manhattan Project and Truman’s inner circle. There was nonetheless a tacit understanding that the Bomb was destined for use. Many were troubled by the ramifications for the postwar world. Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist who with Albert Einstein had first warned the Roosevelt administration of Germany’s nuclear capabilities, circulated a petition in Chicago that called for a demonstration to precede any military strike; he signed another that James Franck and Eugene Rabinowitch drafted to warn of a postwar arms race. U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrestled with the act’s morality as well, striking Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, from target lists, for example. But he kept his misgivings quiet when he chaired the Interim Committee that advised Truman, which a second committee led by Los Alamos director J. Robert Oppenheimer advised in turn. Minorities on both backed a demonstration and a ban, but majorities thought it more important to win the war at minimal cost to American lives and interests. Incoming secretary of state James Byrnes counseled Truman to unleash the weapon “against Japan at the earliest opportunity, . . . without warning, . . . on a dual target, namely, a military installation or war plants surrounded by or adjacent to homes or other buildings most susceptible to damage.”2 On August 6, the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress, dropped Little Boy, the first bomb, on Hiroshima, leveling the central city, killing an estimated sixty-six thousand people and injuring another sixty-nine thousand. Three days later, the second bomb, Fat Man, killed around thirty-nine thousand and injured twenty-five thousand in Nagasaki prefecture. Survivors, including first responders, thereafter known as hibakusha, would suffer from third-degree burns, radiation sickness, recurrent tumors, social ostracism, and psychological trauma for the rest of their abbreviated lives.3

Historians continue to debate the bombings’ necessity, morality, and causes. Scholars at first accepted at face value Truman and Stimson’s claims that they had believed the nuclear strikes would save hundreds of thousands of American lives.4 Revisionist scholars later disputed these figures and motives, alleging that Washington had used “atomic diplomacy” to intimidate Moscow.5 A consensus eventually formed that Roosevelt’s earlier decisions, domestic constraints, total war’s grotesqueries, and Truman’s wish to save American lives at any cost overrode what moral qualms there were.6 That combat in the Pacific theater had descended into a race war further sealed Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s fate.7

Schemes to place atomic energy under international control survived the war but not the peace. Washington’s failure to include wartime allies had had unintended consequences; Stalin and British prime minister Clement Atlee fast-tracked weapons programs shortly after Trinity. Nor had the Manhattan Project’s secrets ever been safe. U.S. officials discovered that a communist sympathizer named Klaus Fuchs had passed secrets to the Soviets during the war, and that Soviet agents had infiltrated secret facilities in Canada. The espionage embittered Washington regarding cooperation with London (Klaus Fuchs had arrived with the British at Los Alamos). It also hastened the Soviet nuclear-weapons program by one or two years and contributed to the breakdown in U.S.-Soviet relations.8 As the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom continued to gain ground, the U.S. government moved to place the Manhattan Project in civilian hands. Atomic energy’s reputation as the next revolutionary technology drove interest in a civilian agency; the U.S. Congress also worried about ceding total control over the Bomb to military leaders. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 accordingly banned transmission of nuclear information to foreign parties, transferred the country’s nuclear empire to a new U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and assigned the president sole authority over the weapons.

Secretary of State James F. Byrnes thought those weapons would provide a “master card” in dealings with Moscow, which cast a pall over postwar cooperation and eventually doomed international control. Dean Acheson and David Lilienthal chaired a committee to weigh the merits of an international agency that would oversee atomic energy under the newly formed United Nations (UN). Oppenheimer drafted most of the resulting Acheson-Lilienthal Plan, which called for an International Atomic Development Authority to own uranium supplies and nuclear facilities worldwide while supervising nuclear disarmament. When negotiations began in June 1946, Bernard Baruch, Truman’s chief negotiator, toughened the American position considerably. The Baruch Plan would preserve the U.S. nuclear monopoly and strip UN Security Council members of veto rights in the inspection stage, which would expose the Soviet Union to collective sanction or military action. When Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov called on Washington to eliminate its nuclear arsenal first, the window for international control shut with the United States in possession of a small arsenal.9

The U.S. nuclear monopoly on which Truman had counted proved short-lived. The Soviet Union shattered Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) forecasts when it tested a fission device in 1949. Those atomic scientists who championed international control were less surprised. After Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party emerged victorious in that country’s civil war, Republicans branded the Truman administration “soft on communism,” which further reduced the government’s room to maneuver. When the president ordered Oppenheimer’s General Advisory Committee to report to the AEC about whether the United States should develop thermonuclear devices that might fuse heavy hydrogen isotopes to unleash thousands of times more energy than the atom bomb, the majority, which included the former Los Alamos director, rejected the “Super” on technical, ethical, and tactical grounds. A minority report drafted by two members was more categorical; they called the hydrogen bomb a “weapon . . . of genocide” and “an evil thing considered in any light.”10 For all Oppenheimer’s greater moderation, these opinions fell on deaf ears, with dire consequences for his career and reputation. In 1954, AEC commissioner Lewis Strauss choreographed a loyalty hearing at which the U.S. government revoked his security clearance, citing previously known youthful associations with communists and critical testimony from Edward Teller, the “Super’s” fiercest champion.11

The conclusion of the hydrogen-bomb controversy poured gasoline on the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race. In 1952, the AEC exploded a thermonuclear device with a yield equivalent to ten million tons (megatons) of TNT; by comparison, the blast that leveled Hiroshima released fourteen thousand tons (kilotons) of explosive power. Nine months later, the Soviet Union tested a type of hydrogen bomb that used a fusion element to boost a fission device’s output. The arms race thus assumed cataclysmic proportions as both superpowers moved to stock their arsenals with weapons of mass destruction.

From Massive Retaliation to the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Dwight Eisenhower to Lyndon Johnson

Eisenhower turned to nuclear forces to contain both communist expansion and the mushrooming U.S. military budget. As he grew the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the Soviet Union followed suit. Under Truman, the number of nuclear warheads had reached almost a thousand; there were more than twenty-four thousand when Eisenhower left office.12 Their means of delivery also multiplied. Both superpowers acquired ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) whose payloads traversed space to hold targets in Soviet territory at risk from the continental United States, and vice versa. When fitted with miniaturized thermonuclear warheads, these weapons could destroy great cities, contaminate whole regions, and kill millions thirty minutes after launch. Some believe the resulting “balance of terror” kept the “long peace” in the Cold War as the prospective costs of a third world war grew intolerable; in any event, massive nuclear arsenals on active alert became a persistent (and persisting) threat to humanity.13

The U.S. military developed a triad of strategic nuclear systems in the 1950s: sub-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), long-range bombers, and ground-launched ballistic missiles. Each branch of the military was involved. The U.S. Army obtained “tactical” nuclear warheads for battlefield use via short-range missiles, artillery, and fighter-bombers. The U.S. Navy built nuclear-powered submarines that could evade detection at sea to unleash surprise or retaliatory nuclear strikes; the full introduction of Polaris ballistic missile submarines under Kennedy made the triad more “survivable,” which strategists hoped would reduce incentives for either country to strike first. The U.S. Air Force was the main beneficiary, however, first as its Strategic Air Command mounted in size and then as it fielded long-range ballistic missiles.

The triad reflected Eisenhower’s reliance on nuclear weapons in the “New Look” strategic doctrine that his administration outlined in National Security Council (NSC) 162/2. The national security document drew on two insights. First, nuclear weapons were cheaper than conventional forces. Eisenhower feared that sustained peacetime mobilization would distort the nation’s finances and civil liberties, giving rise to a garrison state that circumscribed democratic traditions and free-market capitalism in the name of national security. The New Look sought to “meet the Soviet threat to U.S. national security” without “seriously weakening the U.S. economy or undermining our fundamental values and institutions.”14 His second insight was that as atomic arms became more abundant they also became less exceptional. As the U.S. nuclear arsenal grew in quantity and quality, he told a reporter he saw “no reason why they shouldn’t be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else.”15 He also contemplated their battlefield use in Europe and Asia.16 He reasoned that a commander who faced defeat would unleash the weapons rather than capitulate; as such, it was better to threaten a massive, preemptive strike from the very beginning.17 An avid poker player, Eisenhower wagered that no adversary would call his bluff. This judgment built on Bernard Brodie’s insight from 1946 that the nuclear revolution had transformed the central purpose of military power from winning to averting conflict.18 Atomic forces accordingly became the linchpins of Eisenhower’s Cold War strategy of containing communism through a combination of nuclear deterrence and covert operations.19

The New Look’s defects stemmed from its inflexibility. It also accelerated the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race after Stalin’s death in 1953 afforded a window for better relations, as Eisenhower was half-hearted about nuclear arms control; in his first term, U.S. and Soviet negotiators traded disarmament proposals they were confident the other side would refuse. The New Look also justified nuclear war plans of genocidal scope; in 1960, Eisenhower’s science advisor protested that they called for enough “megatons to kill 4 and 5 times over somebody who is already dead.”20 Critics warned that massive retaliation was ill-suited to “limited” conflicts because its excess undercut its credibility. John Foster Dulles held that international crises would henceforth resemble competitions in walking to the brink of all-out war. Yet nuclear “brinksmanship” failed to deter the PRC from twice shelling the islands of Quemoy and Matsu in the Taiwan Straits that both it and the PRC claimed in the 1950s.21 Nor could nuclear threats roll back communism in Eastern Europe. When Warsaw Pact tanks crushed a revolt against the Stalinist regime in Hungary, Eisenhower and Dulles stood aside. Budapest was not important enough to incinerate Moscow or St. Petersburg and risk losing Paris or New York in return.

Efforts at bringing a measure of order to international nuclear affairs also unfolded against the backdrop of decolonization. Locked in a competition with the Soviets for the good opinion of nations then emerging from colonialism in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, Eisenhower sought to highlight atomic energy’s peaceful uses. His “Atoms for Peace” address at the UN on December 8, 1953, promised “the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.” He called for the creation of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and pledged to donate fissile materials and research reactors with an eye toward promoting nuclear science and technology, in particular the generation of “abundant electrical energy[,] in the power-starved areas of the world.”22 The Soviets ultimately endorsed the IAEA, though not before Molotov warned Dulles that the enterprise would abet other states’ military nuclear ambitions.23 Since no clear distinction existed between peaceful and military uses, the global spread of nuclear science and technology raised the odds of new states acquiring the weapons. The United Kingdom and France had leveraged their scientists’ participation in the Manhattan Project to test fission explosives in 1952 and 1960, respectively. Britain then detonated a boosted hydrogen bomb in 1957, and France followed suit in 1968. Eisenhower’s mixed response to the nuclear activities of key U.S. allies was a testament to Washington’s gradual realization that nuclear proliferation threatened its global interests regardless of the beneficiary. He cut off assistance to France even as the U.S. Congress revised the McMahon Act in 1958 to unlock nuclear aid to Britain. The international community was less ambivalent. Irish foreign minister Frank Aiken proposed a ban on distributing or acquiring the weapons at the UN General Assembly in August 1958, in the wake of the Second Taiwan Straits Crisis.

Concerns that the victims of nuclear weapons were mostly Asian lessened Eisenhower’s willingness to flex U.S. nuclear muscle and helped touch off a global campaign against nuclear testing. That the Japanese remained the sole casualties of nuclear attacks struck non-white audiences as typical of the discount at which Americans valued their lives. Eisenhower and Dulles acknowledged this grievance publicly. They brushed off pleas from Paris to use U.S. atom bombs in Indochina to relieve a besieged French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in 1954; Eisenhower claimed his country could not “use those awful things against Asians for the second time in less than ten years.”24 U.S. nuclear testing in the South Pacific had drawn widespread condemnation that March, when a fifteen-megaton thermonuclear blast incinerated Bikini Atoll and spewed nuclear fallout on native Marshall islanders and a Japanese fishing ship, the Lucky Dragon. The fiasco sparked antinuclear unrest in Japan, where thirty-two million citizens signed an appeal against nuclear testing, and worldwide, as scientists, religious leaders, and citizens protested fallout that ignored national borders to enter human bodies (especially those of children) via such dietary staples as milk and rice. The antinuclear movement advocated for a ban on nuclear testing that Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru proposed at the UN, where he raised the disproportionate harms that non-white populations had incurred from fallout.25

As progress on nuclear disarmament or a test-ban treaty remained elusive, Eisenhower turned to overhead surveillance to manage the country’s newfound vulnerability to surprise attack—the so-called bolt from the blue. The Soviet Union’s closed society limited reliable intelligence about its military forces, so Eisenhower proposed in 1955 that each side allow high-altitude reconnaissance flights over their territories. When new Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev declined, Eisenhower ordered the CIA to send their new U-2 spy plane into Warsaw Pact airspace anyway. These overflights coincided with the advent of space travel and the parallel development of ICBMs and reconnaissance satellites that would render the Soviet Union and the United States both more vulnerable and more observable. The Soviet Union shocked the world in 1957 when it launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, into orbit. Then Senator John Kennedy (D-MA) accused Eisenhower of allowing a “missile gap” to open. In truth, American photographic surveillance had revealed that the Kremlin had only about two hundred medium- (MRBM) and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) that could hit Europe, one hundred bombers that could reach the continental United States on one-way trips, and a handful of ICBMS. The hundreds of missiles, thousands of bombers, and tens of thousands of warheads that the White House commanded thus dwarfed the Soviet arsenal.26 It would take another two decades for the Soviet Union to fully redress the imbalance.

Eisenhower’s need to maintain plausible deniability about his clandestine surveillance program ultimately sabotaged test-ban negotiations. Teller and Strauss’s contention that unbroken testing was necessary to keep ahead in the nuclear arms race carried the day before the creation of the President’s Science Advisory Council brought into the White House more moderate scientists, namely, Han Bethe and I. I. Rabi, who convinced Eisenhower that a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty (CTBT) could enhance national security if properly verified.27 Two weeks before a U.S.-Soviet summit in Paris, when Eisenhower planned to gauge Khrushchev’s interest in a treaty with measured verification, Soviet interceptors shot down a U-2 that was trespassing in their airspace. When the White House tried a cover-up, Khrushchev trotted out the pilot, Francis Gary Powers. Eisenhower opted to acknowledge that he had authorized the overflights personally, which in turn prompted Khrushchev to leave the Paris summit after one day, killing prospects for nuclear test ban while Eisenhower remained in office.28

After he became president in 1961, John F. Kennedy hoped arms control could mend fences with Moscow, stabilize the U.S.-Soviet balance of terror, and halt nuclear proliferation. In office, he presided over both the worst nuclear crisis in history and the first major arms control treaty.29 Although a skeptic of massive retaliation, Kennedy still leaned on nuclear weapons to deter aggression and contain communist powers, modernizing the triad by further investing in Polaris ballistic missile submarines, Skybolt air-to-ground missiles, and Minutemen ICBMs. He also worked with his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, to rein in U.S. nuclear strategy’s worst humanitarian excesses, for instance, by outlining a no-cities doctrine in which strategic nuclear targeting would start with military targets in the hopes of avoiding large-scale attacks on urban centers.

Kennedy’s arms control efforts built on Eisenhower’s foundations. Although his sole concrete achievement was Antarctica’s demilitarization in 1959, Eisenhower had institutionalized the pursuit of arms control late in his second term by creating a new federal office that Kennedy then transformed into the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), which was made semi-autonomous from the Department of State and accorded direct access to the White House. The impasse on nuclear testing had also masked progress in U.S.-Soviet disarmament talks. Eisenhower’s disarmament tsar, Harold Stassen, replaced the all-or-nothing Baruch Plan with an incremental approach, empowering negotiators to extract promising issues from the overall package. Eisenhower also launched talks between U.S. and Soviet experts on surprise attacks and test-ban monitoring and in late 1958 agreed with Khrushchev to observe a moratorium on nuclear testing, which Kennedy and Khrushchev would at first maintain.

New concepts in arms control also had vital implications for nuclear strategy and statecraft. Thomas Schelling, Albert Wohlstetter, and others built on a 1958 conference addressing the problem of surprise attack. Their resulting Science Advisory Council report, “Deterrence and Survival in the Nuclear Age,” more commonly known as the Gaither Report after the chairman, called for survivable nuclear forces and national civil defense.30 These “wizards of Armageddon” devised new conceptual frameworks for the management of nuclear weapons.31 Based on the insight that military offense had outpaced defense after the nuclear revolution, they reasoned that resilient forces that could survive a “disabling first strike” would confront an assailant with a high probability of “assured retaliation.” If each side had such a “second-strike capability,” a state of common deterrence through assured destruction (later dubbed “mutual assured destruction” or MAD) would lower the odds of nuclear war. Experts were not of one mind: some saw deterrence as paramount, while others favored the reduction or elimination of nuclear arms. Such theorizing nonetheless offered useful justifications for U.S.-Soviet negotiations and greater restraint in U.S. nuclear planning by explaining the ways in which fewer weapons could result in more security.32

Kennedy’s rejection of massive retaliation and promotion of conventional forces led to a more adventurist U.S. foreign policy that coincided with three major international crises. Although the United States retained nuclear superiority throughout the 1960s, Kennedy wanted to bolster non-nuclear forces to make the United States’ deterrent posture more credible and foreign policy more supple. At the behest of General Maxwell Taylor, a vocal critic of Eisenhower’s whom Kennedy appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he scrapped massive retaliation in favor of “flexible response,” under whose rubric military planners mapped out stages of escalation as hostilities mounted, from Green Berets trained in counterinsurgency and other conventional forces all the way up to tailored nuclear strikes or all-out thermonuclear war. Flexible response was often more rhetorical than real—its logic helped Kennedy officials navigate the crosscurrents within NATO swirling around Germany’s politico-military status after the country’s division into the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1949 (the FRG had forsworn atomic, biological, and chemical arms in the 1954 Brussels Treaty).33 The doctrine also lowered barriers to enter “limited conflicts” below the nuclear threshold, most notably in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

Crises in Laos, Berlin, and Cuba set the superpowers on a collision course in the early 1960s.34 Early in his presidency, Kennedy authorized a CIA operation to send Cuban counterrevolutionaries to overthrow the island’s new communist regime. The ensuing Bay of Pigs landing was a fiasco that pushed Fidel Castro further into the Soviet orbit. Then, at a U.S.-Soviet summit in Vienna that June, Khrushchev issued an ultimatum that the Soviet Union would sign a separate peace treaty with the GDR, which would jeopardize Western access to Berlin. A nuclear-tipped standoff ensued after Kennedy pledged that the United States and NATO allies would remain. Test-ban negotiations collapsed amid the Berlin crisis with Khrushchev ending the moratorium on nuclear testing in September; one month later, Soviet scientists detonated the largest bomb in history, a fifty-seven-megaton thermonuclear device codenamed Tsar Bomba (the “King of Bombs”). In response, the Kennedy administration resumed testing, increased military preparedness, and divulged that the “missile gap” actually favored the United States. The start of construction work on the Berlin Wall in August 1961 helped defuse the crisis, but with Soviet nuclear inferiority now glaring, Khrushchev hatched a new plan to send IRBMs, MRBMs, tactical nuclear weapons, jet bombers, and forty-three thousand Soviet troops to Cuba, ninety miles off Florida’s coast and within striking distance of Washington, DC.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 brought the Northern hemisphere to the brink of thermonuclear war. It was resolved through a combination of firmness, guile, and luck.35 One week after a U-2 photographed Soviet missile emplacements in Cuba on October 15, Kennedy rejected the counsel of many members of the ad-hoc Executive Committee to conduct military strikes and ruling out quiet negotiations for fear of the political consequences, he declared a legally dubious “quarantine” of the revolutionary island with the sanction of the Organization of American States. He then worked through backchannels to strike a deal with Moscow instead as tensions and the number of mishaps and near misses mounted. The crisis ended when Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles in exchange for Kennedy’s public pledge to respect Cuban sovereignty and his confidential promise to remove U.S. Jupiter IRBMs from Turkey, whose deployment the previous April Kennedy and his advisers privately acknowledged had been as provocative as that of Soviet missiles to Cuba.

The crisis helped jumpstart U.S.-Soviet negotiations just as concerns about nuclear proliferation grew pressing. Kennedy had inherited a world with many countries on the nuclear club’s doorstep; the day before his inauguration, Eisenhower had briefed him on China’s and Israel’s nuclear-weapons programs.36 By 1963, Kennedy was forecasting that his successor in the 1970s would face “a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may [have] these weapons.”37 His concerns addressed allies as well as adversaries. He pushed Israel to let U.S. inspectors into a French-built research reactor at Dimona, looked askance at France’s desire for an independent arsenal, and warned the FRG that NATO would collapse if Bonn built its own nuclear weapons. He nudged London and Paris to relinquish their small arsenals or place them under NATO command. Britain was dependent on the United States for delivery vehicles, and when Secretary of Defense McNamara canceled the Skybolt program for budgetary reasons, UK prime minister Harold Macmillan begged Kennedy for Polaris submarines and missiles. The president agreed, but only if those weapon systems operated under NATO’s flag. He hoped to link the British and French deterrents to the Atlantic alliance and thus allay West Germany’s sense of nuclear insecurity and inferiority. Macmillan acquiesced if Britain could command its submarines when the “supreme national interest [was] at stake”; De Gaulle not only refused to sign on, but worked actively to kill the idea of a multilateral nuclear force (MLF) in NATO.38

Kennedy worried most about how the PRC’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would affect the balance of power in Asia. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s campaign to unify the country had raised fears in Washington of a “domino effect” whereby regimes from Cambodia to India would succumb to communist influence. Kennedy accordingly viewed a Chinese test as “historically the most significant and worst event of the 1960s.” He ordered his chief lieutenants to sound out Soviet officials about whether they would turn a blind eye to U.S. military strikes on China’s nuclear facilities.39 When the Soviets declined, he turned to a nuclear test-ban treaty, which offered a peaceful means of curbing Beijing’s nuclear ambitions while relieving global anxiety about nuclear testing and the U.S.-Soviet arms race. Moscow had dismissed a test ban outside the framework of general and complete disarmament after the Vienna conference. Mindful of public and scientific concerns about nuclear fallout and London’s support for an agreement, the White House authorized the U.S. and British delegations to the new Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) to submit two drafts in 1962: a CTBT with twenty annual inspections for suspicious events or an uninspected “limited” test-ban treaty (LTBT) that would still permit subterranean explosions. The Soviets rejected the former and demanded that a five-year moratorium of underground tests accompany the latter. The gap on inspections narrowed after Cuba—Khrushchev advanced two or three inspections to Kennedy’s seven or eight—but agreement remained elusive. The next summer, Kennedy’s ambassador-at-large, W. Averell Harriman, flew to Moscow, where he finalized a LTBT with Khrushchev. The “first major agreement affecting nuclear arms,” the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Underwater opened for signature on August 5, 1963.40 Though U.S. and Soviet nuclear testing proceeded underground, the LTBT attested that the superpowers could find common ground on limited measures to control nuclear armaments when their interests overlapped.

Following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, President Lyndon Johnson would build on Kennedy’s arms control record to portray himself as a peacemaker as the Vietnam War escalated. In the 1964 presidential election, Republican candidate Barry Goldwater suggested that the U.S. military contemplate the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Johnson’s campaign capitalized on Goldwater’s breach of an unspoken taboo against atomic violence by airing a television spot of a young girl picking daisies in a field as an ominous voice counted down to a nuclear Armageddon.41 Electoral politics also played a part in the negotiation of a NPT that would bar states without nuclear weapons from acquiring them. When antiwar sentiment threatened the Democratic majority in Congress in the 1966 midterm elections, Johnson reneged on NATO’s MLF rather than lose a signature peace initiative. That October, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed in principle that a treaty would permit nuclear sharing while prohibiting a collective nuclear force in which the Germans would have a hand. The superpowers finalized the first and second articles at the UN in December. Such tactics were less effective in 1968, when domestic strife and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia sunk Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s hopes of riding his arms control record into the Oval Office.

In addition to the electoral benefits, Johnson and his team reckoned that the management of nuclear weapons through bilateral and alliance arrangements as overseen by international institutions would redound to America’s strategic advantage. The president sent a raft of proposals to the ENDC in 1964: a fissile-material cutoff treaty (FMCT), a new CTBT, a “bonfire” of old bombers, a freeze on strategic nuclear systems, and an NPT.42 However, technological change and the Soviet missile buildup hampered progress. Both sides were poised to fit ICBMs with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) that would enable one missile to deliver numerous warheads to various targets. Both sides were also developing ABM capabilities. When McNamara and Johnson met Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin in Glassboro, New Jersey, after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict known as the Six Day War, they suggested limits on ABM systems in conjunction with strategic arms talks. The completion of a treaty demilitarizing space that January afforded grounds for optimism; for all McNamara’s protestations to the contrary, Kosygin and his generals were adamant that ABM technology was a defensive measure rather than a gateway to a new arms race.

While U.S.-Soviet strategic arms talks remained exploratory, ACDA director William Foster led efforts to broker an NPT with the Soviets and sell the international community on the result. Harriman had drafted an initial version on his visit to Moscow in 1963 only to have Warsaw Pact states object that Khrushchev’s acquiescence to the MLF would accord West Germany too much control over NATO nuclear policy. Worries about proliferation spiked after the Chinese nuclear test in October 1964 and again when the PRC detonated a thermonuclear device three years later. The Six Day War and Indian nuclear activities pushed the superpowers to finalize a settlement that could win general support. Non-nuclear-weapon states would forgo nuclear weapons in exchange for expedited access to peaceful nuclear technology, “good faith” negotiations for nuclear arms control as well as general and complete disarmament by the five authorized nuclear-weapon states (the United States, the USSR, the United Kingdom, France, and the PRC) and respect for nuclear-weapon-free zones such as that established in Latin America the previous year.43 U.S. security and nuclear guarantees to its allies and, to a lesser extent, collective security arrangements under the UN were crucial.44 Although the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 delayed the U.S. Senate’s ratification, the NPT entered into force in 1970, when it inaugurated a globe-spanning regime of safeguards administered by the IAEA and overseen by the UN Security Council. To show they intended to keep up their end of the bargain, Washington and Moscow launched negotiations for a SALT treaty.

Arms Control as Grand Strategy: Richard Nixon to Jimmy Carter

Nixon saw nuclear arms control as the handmaiden of U.S.-Soviet détente. Like Johnson, he used arms talks to counter domestic criticism of his unsentimental foreign policy while his focus on U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Chinese relations dampened his ardor for nonproliferation efforts on the Cold War’s periphery.45 With Henry Kissinger, his national security adviser and then secretary of state, Nixon hoped arms control negotiations would formalize better relations with the Soviet Union and help manage nuclear parity as the Soviet arsenal grew as large and sophisticated as the United States’. Nixon and Kissinger adopted “linkage” among issues, which transformed atomic forces into bargaining chips for such unrelated concessions as Soviet help in ending the Vietnam War or a long-stalled European peace settlement. To appease hawks, Nixon promoted sufficiency rather than superiority in nuclear forces before re-launching SALT talks in November 1969. The two sides would resolve differences over Soviet bombers and U.S. cruise missiles, verification, and whether to use absolute numbers or “throw-weight” when equating arsenals on account of Soviet advantages in heavy ICBMs. Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev crowned détente with two major arms treaties in May 1972. SALT I was a five-year interim agreement that set ceilings on strategic ballistic missile numbers without eliminating any weapons. It was nonetheless a milestone in nuclear arms control. The ABM Treaty limited each country to antimissile batteries near Moscow and Washington, DC, plus a second battery elsewhere; two years later, an additional protocol forced a choice between the two—the Soviets opted for Moscow and the United States for an ICBM field in North Dakota. The two accords averted a costly competition in strategic defenses that might have undermined the strategic stability that assured retaliation afforded. Their significance was nevertheless mainly political; the nuclear arms race slowed but did not stop.46

While Nixon’s accomplishments went beyond SALT and the ABM Treaty, they were either incremental in scope or unverified in nature. He created a nuclear-weapon-free zone on the international ocean floor with the 1971 Seabed Arms Control Treaty, while the 1974 Threshold Nuclear Test Ban Treaty barred underground tests above 150 kilotons. The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention was more categorical, banning military uses of bacteria or viruses; however, the treaty lacked enforcement mechanisms and the Soviet Union proceeded to amass huge quantities of biological agents, including anthrax and smallpox.47 Nixon’s record on nuclear non-proliferation was mixed. He relaxed pressure on members of the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) to sign the NPT; the FRG, Italy, and Japan duly delayed their ratification until 1975. And he acquiesced when Israel began to stockpile atom bombs on the bet that enjoining Tel Aviv not to test would stave off further proliferation. Under his leadership, the U.S. intelligence community failed to gather and act on intelligence that India would conduct a “peaceful” nuclear test, codenamed Smiling Buddha, in May 1974. Kissinger once more asked a foreign power not to flaunt their nuclear capability.48 After Nixon resigned in the face of congressional impeachment over the Watergate break-in and cover-up during the 1972 presidential campaign, Kissinger began to once more accord nuclear non-proliferation high priority in U.S. foreign policy.

Gerald Ford’s support for defense spending and Kissinger’s stake in U.S.-Soviet détente yielded an ambivalent approach to nuclear arms control after Nixon’s departure. A second round of strategic arms talks commenced straightaway because of SALT I’s short duration, with the focus now on capping strategic weapons overall and MIRVs particularly. At Vladivostok in 1974, Ford and Brezhnev settled on 2,400 strategic delivery vehicles (ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers) in total with a subset of 1,320 MIRVed weapons. The superpowers would also freeze accompanying research and development. SALT and U.S.-Soviet détente were inextricably linked, with defense hawks railing against the former and neoconservatives the latter. After a CIA Team B exercise led by Cold War hawk Paul Nitze warned that a “window of vulnerability” loomed in the U.S.-Soviet strategic balance, Ford moved to abandon both.49 As disagreements between the delegations festered over Soviet bombers and U.S. sea-launched cruise missiles, Ford requested budget increases from a likeminded U.S. Congress for a new round of strategic modernization that would add B-1 strategic bombers, MX ICBMs, and Trident ballistic missile submarines to the U.S. nuclear triad.50

The 1974 Indian nuclear test drove Ford and Kissinger to stave off the further spread of nuclear weapons through unilateral and multilateral means. Kissinger blocked several nuclear deals between U.S. allies that would have resulted in plutonium-reprocessing plants in new countries. He also worked with European officials to form new international organizations that would control dual-use nuclear technology: the Zangger Committee to enforce IAEA safeguards on “trigger items” and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to impose “special restraints” on plutonium-reprocessing and uranium-enrichment equipment such as high-speed centrifuges.51 Last, he pressed U.S. allies in Taiwan, South Korea, and Pakistan to terminate embryonic nuclear-weapons programs. Kissinger’s crackdown was uneven. North American and European nuclear exporters vied for lucrative contracts with oil-producing states, most notably Shah Reza Pahlavi’s Iran, whose treasuries were flush with dollars as oil prices skyrocketed in the 1970s.52 Even as American and European officials added new layers of exports control atop the global nuclear regime, and Washington recommitted to non-proliferation in Asia and Latin America, major corporate and state-owned interests installed vital nuclear infrastructure in the Middle East.53

Jimmy Carter, the former U.S. Navy nuclear engineer, peanut farmer, and evangelical Christian elected president in 1977, viewed nuclear arms control and non-proliferation from the standpoint of a moral crusader. He made strides in both domains before détente’s collapse led the White House to adopt a more combative line toward the Soviet Union. Carter wanted to curtail weapons that he considered unnecessary or inhumane in harmony with his administration’s avowed support for human rights. He scrapped the B-1 bomber on fiscal grounds and halted research and development of enhanced radiation weapons designed to kill people without damaging property, citing his own moral qualms and public protests in West Germany, where the “neutron bomb” was scheduled for deployment. His brusque handling of the matter raised hackles in Washington and Bonn—West German chancellor Helmut Kohl was particularly irate. Powerful voices in the United States and Europe urged a more coordinated, assertive response when the Soviets stationed fleet SS-20 MRBMs in their western provinces, creating an imbalance of intermediate-range nuclear (INF) forces in the European theater.

While he would eventually moderate his moralistic approach to nuclear policy, Carter placed nuclear non-proliferation on firmer legal footing and drafted and signed the SALT II treaty. He abandoned domestic reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel because of the dangerous precedent it would set for other countries, who might assign the resulting plutonium to military ends. He worked with the U.S. Congress to pass the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act (NNPA) in 1978, which mandated sanctions against proliferators and required NPT membership (including full-scope IAEA safeguards) for recipients of U.S. nuclear exports. Meanwhile, U.S. and Soviet negotiators wrapped up arms limitation talks in 1979 after Carter’s failed bid to renegotiate the Vladivostok understanding. Under SALT II, the two sides could field equally high numbers of strategic delivery systems: 2,400 ballistic missiles and bombers, with 6.25 percent reductions set for 1981. Since MIRVed ballistic missiles could carry as many as fourteen warheads, however, a U.S.-Soviet nuclear war still spelled global disaster.

Carter concluded SALT II only to watch the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 foil Senate ratification and drive the final nail in détente’s coffin. He soon withdrew the treaty from consideration; in the end, neither superpower ratified it. The Soviet-Afghan war also derailed his non-proliferation agenda. Pakistan’s pursuit of uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing technology had triggered the NNPA and compelled Carter to level sanctions. Now locked in a proxy war in Southwest Asia, he began to weaken them in exchange for Islamabad’s support. As the Cold War resumed its combative character, the United States and its NATO allies endorsed a “dual-track” policy in response to the SS-20s: the Atlantic alliance would move to deploy Pershing IIs and nuclear-tipped cruise missiles as counterweights even as it sought negotiations for mutual limitations on INF forces in Europe. The “Euromissile crisis” heightened the sense of nuclear danger, galvanizing resurgent antinuclear movements across the European continent and the Atlantic.54

The End of the Nuclear Arms Race: Ronald Reagan to George H. W. Bush

At first glance, Ronald Reagan’s nuclear-weapons policies were contradictory. He invested heavily in costly new offensive and defensive systems only later to reduce or even eliminate them. During his presidential campaign, Reagan courted the neoconservative Committee on the Present Danger, which rejected détente and the SALT II treaty in the belief that the Soviets wanted to fight and win a nuclear war. True to form, he added $55 billion to the annual military budget as president and revived the B-1 bomber while vowing that a resumed arms race would reveal the structural weaknesses of the Soviet’s planned economy.55 His flair for polemics—for instance, his declaration that Marxist-Leninism would wind up “on the ash heap of history”—set off alarm bells inside the Kremlin. The “second Cold War” reached a fever pitch in 1983, when a Soviet Su-15 interceptor shot down a Korean Airlines passenger jet and the KGB concluded that a NATO nuclear exercise codenamed “Able Archer” could herald a surprise nuclear fusillade. CIA Director Robert Gates later admitted the United States had “failed to grasp the true extent of their anxiety,” and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev noted that “never, perhaps, in the postwar decade was the situation in the world as explosive . . . as in the first half of the 1980s.”56

Reagan’s distrust of the USSR signaled regression in arms control; CTBT talks halted after his election. Yet his lifelong aversion to nuclear weapons ultimatley proved decisive.57 He distrusted the orthodox approach to nuclear arms control that valued strategic stability, choosing instead to take measured yet sizable steps toward reducing or even eliminating atomic weaponry through diplomatic or technological breakthroughs. He announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in 1983, a big-ticket research push to devise an impenetrable shield against ballistic missiles. Most technical experts deemed the scheme unworkable and critics lampooned it as “Star Wars,” but Reagan’s position was less strategic than heartfelt. He wanted to render nuclear weapons obsolete and later flummoxed advisers by promising to share the technology with the Soviets, who attacked the venture as defying the spirit (if not the letter) of the 1972 ABM Treaty. He also rejected arms ceilings in favor of real reductions, opting for a zero-zero formula in INF talks that would have the Soviet Union withdraw SS-20s and the United States shelve the Pershing IIs. While his military advisers had assumed zero-zero was unworkable, Reagan liked its clarity. He tended, by contrast, to subordinate nuclear non-proliferation to other priorities. He looked the other way when Israeli jets carried out a preventive strike against Iraq’s Osirak reactor to mixed effect; the bombs damaged Saddam Hussein’s secret nuclear-weapons program, which induced him to fortify and conceal his nuclear installations.58 Reagan also sustained Carter’s policy of limiting sanctions against Pakistan’s nuclear program in return for the country’s help relaying money and weapons from the CIA to mujahedeen fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan.59

Reagan’s second term was a watershed for nuclear arms control. Beginning in late 1983, he reached out to Moscow to resume negotiations on INF and START in addition to matters relating to space and defense. His overtures went out in an international climate of acute fear in which activists in Western Europe and the United States protested the Euromissiles and SDI, and scientists such as astronomer Carl Sagan warned that a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange would induce an irremediable climatic disaster they called “nuclear winter.”60 American clergy joined the chorus, which found a receptive ear in the Oval Office. Reagan was lucky to gain a likeminded counterpart in the Kremlin when Gorbachev became general secretary in March 1985. Gorbachev inherited massive deficits from his predecessors’ reckless military spending (with strategic nuclear forces a major beneficiary) and he was desperate to staunch the bleeding. The two leaders met in Geneva that November, where they agreed that a “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Two months later, Gorbachev publicized a three-stage plan for nuclear disarmament; that spring, a nuclear-reactor meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine, confirmed the risks that inevitably accompanied nuclear power.

Reagan and Gorbachev’s meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986 was deemed a failure at first before its reputation was rehabilitated by the end of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race five years later. Reagan officials later maintained that Reykjavik led to “a steady stream of unprecedented arms control agreements” and “the end of the Cold War.”61 The truth was more complicated. The two sides made real headway on INF and START at Reykjavik, and discussed nuclear abolition, but Gorbachev insisted that SDI research remain in the “laboratory,” a condition which Reagan refused. Even more fatally, the Soviet and American proposals differed on a key matter—whether to eliminate offensive ballistic missiles or all strategic nuclear forces in the second five-year stage.62 While Reykjavik’s fruits were mostly “psychological,” one concrete achievement did fellow; the next year in Washington, DC, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty, eliminating a class of quick-strike weapons.63 As Gorbachev strove to rejuvenate the Soviet economy, the two sides bore down on a START Treaty that would halve their strategic arsenals; however, foot-dragging by the members of the NSC staff and the U.S. Navy prevented its finalization when Reagan visited Moscow in May 1988.64

It was thus George H. W. Bush—Reagan’s vice president and successor—who presided over the Soviet Union’s terminal decline and the most momentous nuclear arms deal in history. START talks had stalled even as Gorbachev withdrew Soviet troops from Eastern Europe and accelerated the political and economic reforms in his country known as glasnost and perestroika. Gradually, however, improvements in U.S.-Soviet relations drove the White House to finalize the accord, which permitted 1,600 delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads on each side. Bush and Gorbachev signed the START Treaty on July 31, 1991. When the treaty expired in 2009, the United States and Russia were to have cut their strategic forces by 47 and 68 percent, respectively.65

The end of the Cold War would complicate START’s implementation, as the Soviet Union’s breakup on Christmas Day 1991 threatened to leave its nuclear arsenal strewn across numerous successor states in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. A failed coup against Gorbachev in August 1991 gave advanced warning of his loss of control. After Russian president Boris Yeltsin withdrew his country from the USSR in December, the superpower collapsed. Fifteen successor states arose from the rubble, four of which—Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine—had nuclear weapons on their territories. After the coup, Bush ordered the return of all but one thousand U.S. tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Europe, which afforded Gorbachev grounds to do the same lest Moscow lose track of those stationed beyond Russia’s borders.66 After the USSR collapsed, Bush insisted that Russia inherit the full Soviet arsenal: rocket forces elsewhere would remain under Moscow’s command while the new states undertook negotiations to adhere to START and the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states. The United States and the four successor states signed the Lisbon Protocol to this effect in May 1992. The U.S. Congress also got into the act, with Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) legislating a program to assist post-Soviet republics with START implementation and fissile-material security, including the purchase of five hundred tons of enriched uranium from decommissioned Soviet warheads. Ukraine would hold out for a better deal, but Bush nonetheless managed to start consolidating the Soviet arsenal in Russia, which helped to avert the rise of three new de facto states with nuclear weapons.67 In addition, Bush and Yeltsin affixed their signatures on a second round of strategic reductions in early 1993; START II aimed to eliminate U.S. and Russian land-based ballistic missiles fitted with MIRVs.

The Age of Proliferation: Bill Clinton to Barack Obama

The discovery of Iraq’s secret nuclear-weapons program after the 1991 Gulf War vaulted nuclear non-proliferation back atop the U.S. arms control agenda, and Bush looked to the UN Security Council to address the problem. William Jefferson Clinton inherited these challenge when he became president in 1993. The remaining arsenal in the former Soviet Union and proliferation in Asia and the Middle East absorbed his government’s attention, while Republican skepticism toward arms limitations curbed progress in that arena. The Nunn-Lugar program assured American support for a rudderless post-Soviet nuclear-weapons complex; in 1994, Moscow and Washington prevailed upon Ukraine and Kazakhstan to return or decommission inherited nuclear forces in return for closer ties with the United States, technical assistance, material compensation, and security assurances. Secret nuclear-weapon programs created problems elsewhere. Clinton hammered out an Agreed Framework with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1994 that paused plutonium reprocessing from the light-water reactor at Yongbyon. He also shepherded a series of resolutions through the UN Security Council that required Iraq to disclose its nuclear activities and facilitate inspections. After Hussein ejected IAEA inspectors in 1998, the UN Security Council assembled a sanctions package that cut Iraq’s economy off from international markets with unintended humanitarian consequences.68

The Clinton administration pursued cooperative nuclear arms control arrangements only to find Republicans increasingly unsympathetic to multilateral measures. The NPT was set to expire in 1995 and non-nuclear-weapon states succeeded in extracting promises from the five authorized nuclear-weapons states to finalize a total ban on nuclear testing. The CTBT would open for signature one year later, but Senate Republicans refused to ratify it on the grounds that the U.S. nuclear stockpile would still need periodic testing and that international law was unreliable at best. The United States has nonetheless observed a moratorium on nuclear testing since 1992. India and Pakistan rejected the treaty in more spectacular fashion in 1998, when both exploded nuclear weapons, becoming the seventh and eighth nuclear powers in the process. Republican displeasure with international restraints held up U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control as well, with START II failing to win the necessary two-thirds support in the U.S. Senate after the Russian Duma requested limits on ABM research and development.

The Republican revolt against multilateral arms control came into its ascendancy when George W. Bush became president in 2001. He and his advisers believed the United States should embrace its dominance to promote democracy and depose unfriendly dictators, unilaterally if necessary. Even before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Bush administration favored active “counterproliferation” efforts, namely intelligence gathering, law enforcement and interdiction, sabotage, and even military action.69 The new administration was also enamored of ballistic missile defenses to the detriment of bilateral arms control. Bush abrogated the ABM Treaty in 2002 in the face of Russian protest and replaced the defunct START II Treaty with the high-handed Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which formalized the U.S. ceiling on deployed strategic warheads at around two thousand.

The Bush administration’s efforts to counter the spread of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles grew more audacious after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The White House championed the necessity of preempting rogue states that might pass weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) along to terrorist groups. The 2002 National Security Strategy upheld preventive action against members of an “Axis of Evil”—Iran, North Korea, and Iraq—all of which were suspected of clandestine nuclear-weapon programs. Despite weak evidence and strong international opposition, the United States invaded Iraq and unseated Saddam Hussein in 2003. The subsequent failure to find evidence of WMDs followed by the outbreak of a sectarian civil war there served to tarnish the “Bush doctrine.”70 And although Libya surrendered its meager WMD programs after the invasion, North Korea and Iran accelerated theirs. North Korea tested its first nuclear weapons in 2006, while Iran flouted a series of UN Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend an advanced centrifuge program whose suspected purpose was to enrich enough uranium-235 to equip a small arsenal.71

The pendulum swung back toward restraint and multilateralism under President Barack Hussein Obama in 2009. In Prague that April, the new president channeled Reagan when he declared “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” though he cautioned the goal would “not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime.” The next year Moscow and Washington signed the New START Treaty, which reduced deployed warheads to 1,550; however, the domestic reaction exemplified the challenges that Obama would encounter in his efforts to “reduce the role that nuclear weapons played in national security strategy.”72 For Senate ratification, he had to accede to a costly new round of strategic modernization and investment in the U.S. nuclear-weapons complex.73 His non-proliferation record was also mixed, though not for lack of trying. To avert or reverse the spread of nuclear weapons, U.S. officials turned to targeted sanctions; cyberattacks, notably Operation Olympic Games against Iran’s uranium-enrichment centrifuges; alterations to U.S. nuclear posture and doctrine; public speeches; and multilateral diplomacy. Washington’s commitment to the P5+1 framework through which the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany negotiated together to bring Iran’s nuclear program back under international supervision paid dividends in 2015. In exchange for relief from a decade of crippling economic sanctions, Iran agreed to a battery of limitations and safeguards on its nuclear program without renouncing its avowed rights to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium under the NPT.74 Efforts to tame the DPRK’s nuclear-weapons program were less successful, with Pyongyang conducting four more nuclear tests while Obama was president. While historical perspective on Obama’s nuclear policies will await time’s passage, his failures and successes attested to the limits of presidential power over international and even American nuclear affairs.

Discussion of the Literature

The history of U.S. nuclear arms control policy has gone through four waves. Participants wrote early accounts that tended to justify policy decisions. Henry Stimson and his amanuensis, McGeorge Bundy (later Kennedy and Johnson’s national security adviser), composed the first report on the decision to use two atom bombs against Japan in Harper’s Magazine.75 This nationalist school accommodated a breadth of views to the extent that different bureaucrats from various agencies had differing agendas. Bundy’s Danger and Survival became the pièce de résistance when it came out in 1988; it exhibited many of the school’s dominant themes: implacable international threats, ambivalence toward the weapons themselves, the downplaying of questions of morality or legality, and support for a two-pronged strategy of nuclear deterrence plus arms control.76 Political expediency often justified omitting sensitive data, such as Kennedy’s inclusion of the Jupiter missiles in his deal with Khrushchev ending the Cuban Missile Crisis. Due to the classified nature of most documents bearing on nuclear matters scholars initially had to rely on official pronouncements, conference proceedings, and memoirs. The nationalist school agreed on the universal character of the nuclear threat but disagreed on whether arms control should stabilize or disarm. Most praised the administrations that undertook negotiations earnestly, and criticized those—namely, Eisenhower’s—that did not.

Hindsight, declassification, and skepticism toward the U.S. government (accelerated by the Vietnam War) led to a revisionist phase of historical writing about U.S. nuclear policy. The first targets were the atomic bombings. In Atomic Diplomacy, Gar Alperovitz contended that Truman and Byrnes used the bombs to intimidate the Soviet Union to gain leverage in the postwar division of Europe and Asia.77 Other revisionists moderated such claims. Martin Sherwin in A World Destroyed maintained that the Truman administration ignored opportunities to negotiate Japan’s surrender, fatally harming prospects for international control as a result, while Barton Bernstein concluded that the Soviet factor was an important, albeit secondary, consideration.78 Sean L. Malloy has built on these arguments by showing how senior members of the Truman administration hoped that international measures might solve the moral dilemmas that the Bomb posed.79 The collective works of revisionism questioned the sincerity of U.S. nuclear arms control initiatives: that Baruch added Security Council veto restrictions to the Acheson-Lilienthal plan as a poison pill, that Eisenhower meant Atoms for Peace to legitimate the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and that non-proliferation was simply a manifestation of a deep-seated need to retain a nuclear monopoly.80

Though revisionists were often critical where nationalists were deferential, both sets trained their sights on the U.S. government. Two subsequent waves of scholarship sought new insights into U.S. nuclear policy through theoretical frameworks or new sources. Post-revisionists accepted revisionists’ central point that Washington almost always had ulterior motives, but they also acknowledged that strategic and political cunning had been necessary to counter the Soviet Union, which in turn drove the nuclear arms race. John Lewis Gaddis went further in The Long Peace, making the case that the combination of nuclear weapons, surveillance satellites, and wise statecraft, among other factors, had averted a third world war.81 Marc Trachtenberg maintained that in the case of the German question (how to manage or formalize that country’s postwar division) nuclear arms control was an accessory of U.S.-Soviet détente, as the Soviet Union demanded that West German access to atomic forces remain limited in exchange for a modus vivendi in central Europe.82 Former policymakers steeped in the arcane science of nuclear strategy also contributed. Raymond Garthoff applied concepts of strategic stability to his explanation for why and how successive administrations negotiated a string of strategic arms pacts with the Soviets.83

Internationalist scholars have supplemented post-revisionist writings by trawling through foreign archives, especially those of the former Soviet Union. David Holloway’s chronicle of the Soviet nuclear-weapons program’s early history revealed that the Soviet leader was dubious of international control of atomic energy and resolute in his pursuit of nuclear weapons, which called into doubt the revisionist emphasis on American ambivalence.84 Histories of the other states’ nuclear-weapons programs have clarified the limits of U.S. power as much as its impact.85 The turn to non-U.S. sources and subjects corresponded with increasing attention to nuclear proliferation after India and Pakistan went nuclear in 1998 and George H. W. Bush initiated the Second Iraq War based on allegations of WMDs in that country.86

In addition to state-based studies, historians have turned to international and nongovernmental organizations, including corporate records where available, to augment their source base. These transnational inquiries build upon a tradition of socio-cultural studies of the Nuclear Age, including social and cultural histories of science and technology and antinuclear movement.87 Such insights into popular and expert sentiment and activism have illuminated moments when non-state actors have framed the agenda or induced change in the otherwise exclusive circles of nuclear policy and strategy.88 Historians have also interrogated how racial attitudes and techno-political frames have conditioned everything from elites’ attitudes toward nuclear weapon use to African uranium miners’ experiences on the margins of the global nuclear market.89

Primary Sources

Although official papers bearing on nuclear subjects are born classified, ample sources are nevertheless available. They break down into four categories: contemporaneous media, published records, memoirs, and declassified documents. Despite being limited to public-domain sources, daily and weekly newspapers such as the New York Times and Saturday Review of Literature, magazines such as Time and Newsweek, and specialist journals such as Foreign Affairs and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists followed and commented upon newsworthy items related to nuclear weapons. Periodicals served two functions: they provided access to open data and forums for reflections and debate. Thus, former Secretary of War Henry Stimson published the first quasi-official history of the atomic bombings on Japan in Harper’s Magazine in response to John Hersey’s chilling account in The New Yorker of individual survival in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Though officials did periodically leak classified information to the press, the media relied mainly upon published sources, including speeches, congressional debates, and government reports, which remain useful and informative. At times, the level of detail and disclosure in official reports surprised readers, such as when the Smyth Report divulged basic information about how the Manhattan Project designed and built two fission bombs.90 U.S. government agencies also made relevant documentation available. Until 1991, the U.S. ACDA published Documents on Disarmament, which assembled pertinent speeches, committee hearings, and international conference proceedings.

High officials often pen memoirs after they leave government with the aims of educating the public, settling scores, and telling their side of the story. They are inherently biased and sometimes unreliable, but nonetheless illuminating. Dean Acheson’s Present at the Creation revealed that Bernard Baruch had modified the plan to internationalize control of atomic energy that he, Lilienthal, and Oppenheimer had devised.91 In his three-volume set of memoirs, by contrast, Kissinger often worked to deliberately mislead future historians and the public.92 Foreign statesmen published enlightening memoirs as well, some of which were translated into English. The memoirs of longstanding Soviet ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, were revelatory, while those of former Soviet general secretaries, Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev (not to mention the latter’s lieutenants) provided singular insights into Soviet policymaking.93 The journals and diaries of former officials are also sometimes edited and made public. Glenn Seaborg, commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Agency for ten years, put out seventeen volumes with accompanying documentation, while Ronald Reagan’s presidential diary affords an intimate window into his thinking on nuclear issues, among other subjects.94

Under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), there is a standard procedure for restricted documents’ declassification. Afterward, memoranda, reports, cables, letters, dispatches, and directives, inter alia, containing information on nuclear subjects are made available in four ways. If they originated in the White House, they are placed in the appropriate presidential library, which are scattered across the country per the wishes of the ex-president or his family. If they originated in other parts of the executive branch, they are housed in a repository of the U.S. National Archives and Record Office, which for agencies engaged in national security and foreign policy is located in College Park, Maryland.

Many declassified documents can be found outside of government archives, in university and public libraries as well as online. The Office of the Historian in the U.S. Department of State researches, compiles, and publishes a multi-volume, subject-based compendium of diplomatic papers for each president as part of the indispensable Foreign Relations of the United States series. Presidents’ public papers are often likewise collected and printed in multi-volume sets; however, these collections rarely contain classified material and thus seldom delve deeply into nuclear policy. Universities can also offer access to the Declassified Document Reference Service, while the CIA discloses declassified documents via a digital reading room. As FOIA is a protracted, opaque process requiring citizens to petition, organizations such as the National Security Archives prosecute FOIA requests and make resulting disclosures available at a physical archive in Washington, DC, and also online. The Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars does likewise with primary sources from countries besides the United States.

Further Reading

Bird, Kai, and Martin J. Sherwin. American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. 1st ed. New York: A. A. Knopf, 2005.Find this resource:

    Bundy, McGeorge. Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1988.Find this resource:

      Burr, William, and David Alan Rosenberg, “Nuclear Competition in an Era of Stalemate, 1963–1975.” In The Cambridge History of the Cold War. Volume II, Crises and Détente. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

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            Gaddis, John Lewis. Cold War Statesmen Confront the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy since 1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

              Garthoff, Raymond L. Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan. Rev. ed. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1994.Find this resource:

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                                              Trachtenberg, Marc. A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945–1963. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

                                                Wilson, James Graham. The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev’s Adaptability, Reagan’s Engagement, and the End of the Cold War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

                                                  Wittner, Lawrence S. Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009.Find this resource:


                                                    (1.) Harry S. Truman, Memoirs: Year of Decisions (New York: Doubleday, 1955), 416.

                                                    (2.) “Notes of Meeting of the Interim Committee,” June 21, 1945, Miscellaneous Historical Documents Collection, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.

                                                    (3.) Hiroshima-shi Nagasaki-shi Genbaku Saigaishi Henshū Iinkai, ed., Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Physical, Medical, and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings (New York: Basic Books, 1981) is the most thorough inventory of the long-term consequences, although it has invited criticism on methodological grounds. For a sense of the political ends to which studies of post-attack medical studies of radiation effects in particular were put, read M. Susan Lindee, American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1994).

                                                    (4.) The account in Henry Stimson, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” February 1947, Harper’s Magazine, was taken at face value by early histories, notably Herbert Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966).

                                                    (5.) The first (and most categorical account) of the bombings as intended to strengthen Washington’s strategic position vis-à-vis Moscow in the ensuing postwar competition is Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam; the Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965). Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance (New York: Knopf, 1975) is less categorical, while Barton Bernstein maintains that strategic considerations were a “bonus” for Truman and his advisors in “The Atomic Bombings Reconsidered,” Foreign Affairs, January–February 1995, 135–152.

                                                    (6.) J. Samuel Walker, “Recent Literature on Truman’s Atomic Bomb Decision: The Triumph of the Middle Ground?,” in America in the World: The Historiography of American Foreign Relations since 1941, ed. Frank Costigliola and Michael J. Hogan, 2d ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), and Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2005) adduced Soviet and Japanese documents to establish that Japanese peace feelers to the Soviets were unlikely to have succeeded before the bombings and the ensuing Soviet declaration of war.

                                                    (7.) John W. Dower, War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986); and Ronald T. Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (Boston: Little, Brown, 1995).

                                                    (8.) David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), 222–224; and Campbell Craig, The Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008).

                                                    (9.) Campbell Craig, The Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008).

                                                    (11.) The best treatment is Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (New York: A. A. Knopf, 2005).

                                                    (12.) Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 1945–2010,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 66.4 (July 2010): 77–83.

                                                    (13.) John Lewis Gaddis, The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).

                                                    (14.) NSC 162/2, “Statement of Basic National Security Policy,” October 30, 1953, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, vol. II (part 1), 521–526. Hereinafter FRUS.

                                                    (15.) McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years, 1st ed. (New York: Random House, 1988), 278.

                                                    (16.) Editorial note, FRUS, 1955–1957, vol. XIX, 61.

                                                    (17.) Campbell Craig, Destroying the Village: Eisenhower and Thermonuclear War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

                                                    (18.) Evan Thomas, Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World (New York: Little, Brown, 2012).

                                                    (19.) John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy during the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), chapters 5 and 6.

                                                    (20.) David Alan Rosenberg, “The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy,” International Security 7.4 (April 1983): 3–71.

                                                    (21.) H. W. Brands, “Testing Massive Retaliation: Credibility and Crisis Management in the Taiwan Strait,” International Security 12.4 (1988): 124–151.

                                                    (22.) Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Address before the UN General Assembly,” December 8, 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

                                                    (23.) David Holloway, “The Soviet Union and the Creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Cold War History, January 6, 2016, 1–17.

                                                    (24.) Matthew Jones, After Hiroshima: The United States, Race, and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945–1965 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 215.

                                                    (25.) Robert A. Divine, Blowing on the Wind: The Nuclear Test Ban Debate, 1954–1960 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

                                                    (26.) The most thorough accounts of nuclear forces in the world remains Thomas B. Cochran et al., eds., Nuclear Weapons Databook (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1984).

                                                    (27.) Benjamin P. Greene, Eisenhower, Science Advice, and the Nuclear Test-Ban Debate, 1945–1963 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).

                                                    (28.) Michael R. Beschloss, MAYDAY: Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and the U-2 Affair, 1st ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1986).

                                                    (29.) Although dated and reliant on published sources, the most comprehensive treatment remains Michael R. Beschloss, The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960–1963, 1st ed. (New York: Edward Burlingame Books, 1991).

                                                    (30.) Security Resources Panel of the Science Advisory Committee, “Deterrence & Survival in the Nuclear Age,” November 7, 1957, National Security Archive, Electronic Briefing Book 139.

                                                    (31.) Fred M. Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983).

                                                    (32.) Benjamin Wilson, “Insiders and Outsiders: Nuclear Arms Control Experts in Cold War America” (PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014).

                                                    (33.) Francis J. Gavin, “The Myth of Flexible Response: United States Strategy in Europe during the 1960s,” The International History Review 23.4 (December 2001): 847–875.

                                                    (34.) Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

                                                    (35.) The literature on the Cuban Missile Crisis is voluminous. Graham Allison’s Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: HarperCollins, 1971) is notable more for its age and how it tests theories of international relations than its fidelity. Treatments based on new information from Moscow and Havana include Michael Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War, 1st ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008); A. A. Fursenko and Timothy J. Naftali, One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958–1964, 1st ed. (New York: Norton, 1997); S. A. Mikoyan and Svetlana Savranskaya, The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis: Castro, Mikoyan, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Missiles of November (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012); and L. V. Scott and R. Gerald Hughes, eds., The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Critical Reappraisal (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2015).

                                                    (36.) “The U.S. Discovery of Israel’s Secret Nuclear Project,” National Security Archive, Electronic Briefing Book 510.

                                                    (37.) John F. Kennedy, “News Conference 52,” March 21, 1963, State Department Auditorium, Washington, DC.

                                                    (38.) Ian Clark, Nuclear Diplomacy and the Special Relationship: Britain’s Deterrent and America, 1957–1962 (New York: Clarendon, 1994); and Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945–1963 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 392–394.

                                                    (39.) Quoted in “US Foreign Policy from Kennedy to Johnson,” in The Cambridge History of the Cold War. Volume II, Crises and Détente, eds. Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 133; William Burr and Jeff Richelson, “Whether to ‘Strangle the Baby in the Cradle’: The United States and the Chinese Nuclear Program, 1960–64,” International Security 25.3 (Winter 2000): 54–99.

                                                    (40.) James E. Goodby, At the Borderline of Armageddon: How American Presidents Managed the Atom Bomb (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006), 54.

                                                    (41.) Nina Tannenwald, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons since 1945 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007); and Robert Mann, Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2011).

                                                    (42.) Hal Brands, “Progress Unseen: U.S. Arms Control Policy and the Origins of Detente, 1963–1968,” Diplomatic History 30.2 (April 2006): 253–285.

                                                    (43.) United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”

                                                    (44.) Jonathan Hunt, “The Birth of an International Community: Negotiating the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” in Foreign Policy Breakthroughs: Cases in Successful Diplomacy, eds. Robert L. Hutchings and Jeremi Suri (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015); “Mexican Nuclear Diplomacy, the Latin American Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone and the NPT Bargain, 1962–1968” in Negotiating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: The Making of a Nuclear Order, eds. Andreas Wenger, Roland Popp, and Liviu Horovitz (New York: Routledge, 2017).

                                                    (45.) Francis J. Gavin, Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012), 116–118.

                                                    (46.) Raymond L. Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan, rev. ed. (Washington, DC Brookings Institution, 1994); and James Cameron, “Moscow, 1972,” in Transcending the Cold War: Summits, Statecraft, and the Dissolution of Bipolarity in Europe, 1970—1990, eds. Kristina Spohr and David Reynolds (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

                                                    (47.) David E. Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, 1st ed. (New York: Doubleday, 2009).

                                                    (48.) Or Rabinowitz, Bargaining on Nuclear Tests: Washington and Its Cold War Deals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

                                                    (50.) Goodby, At the Borderline of Armageddon, 101–112.

                                                    (51.) William Burr, “A Scheme of ‘Control’: The United States and the Origins of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, 1974–1976,” The International History Review 36.2 (March 15, 2014): 252–276.

                                                    (52.) J. D. Hamblin, “The Nuclearization of Iran in the Seventies,” Diplomatic History 38.5 (November 1, 2014): 1114–1135.

                                                    (53.) James Cameron and Or Rabinowitz, “Eight Lost Years? Nixon, Ford, Kissinger and the Non-Proliferation Regime, 1969–1977,” Journal of Strategic Studies, January 5, 2016, 1–28.

                                                    (54.) Leopoldo Nuti et al., eds., The Euromissile Crisis and the End of the Cold War (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2015).

                                                    (55.) Justin Vaïsse, Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2010).

                                                    (56.) Hoffman, The Dead Hand, 100; Quoted in Benjamin B. Fischer, A Cold War Conundrum: The 1983 Soviet War Scare (2007). Retrieved from

                                                    (57.) Paul Vorbeck Lettow, Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (New York: Random House, 2005); Jim Mann, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War (New York: Viking, 2009); and Hoffman, The Dead Hand.

                                                    (58.) Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer, “Revisiting Osirak: Preventive Attacks and Nuclear Proliferation Risks,” International Security 36.1 (Summer 2001): 101–132; and Hal Brands and David Palkki, “Saddam, Israel, and the Bomb: Nuclear Alarmism Justified?,” International Security 36.1 (Summer 2011): 133–166.

                                                    (59.) Feroz Hassan Khan, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 214.

                                                    (60.) Paul Rubinson, Redefining Science: Scientists, the National Security State, and Nuclear Weapons in Cold War America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016).

                                                    (61.) Kenneth L. Adelman, Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War (New York: HarperCollins, 2014).

                                                    (62.) Paul F. Walker and Jonathan R. Hunt, “The Legacy of Reykjavik and the Future of Nuclear Disarmament,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67.6 (November 1, 2011): 66.

                                                    (63.) Jack F. Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended, 1st ed. (New York: Random House, 2004).

                                                    (64.) Jonathan Hunt and David Reynolds, “From Geneva to Moscow, 1985–8: The Reagan-Gorbachev Summits,” in Cold War Summitry: Transcending the Division of Europe, 1970–1990, eds. David Reynolds and Aino Rosa Kristina Spohr (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

                                                    (65.) “START: Data Base,” August 1, 1991, and “Fact Sheet: Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms,” July 1, 2009.

                                                    (66.) Meenekshi Bose and Rosanna Perotti, eds., From Cold War to New World Order: The Foreign Policy of George Bush (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002), 362–363.

                                                    (67.) Graham T. Allison, ed., Avoiding Nuclear Anarchy: Containing the Threat of Loose Russian Nuclear Weapons and Fissile Material, CSIA Studies in International Security, no. 12 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996).

                                                    (68.) Mohamed El Baradei, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2011) is an invaluable overview of international nuclear non-proliferation politics from the IAEA’s director general from 1997 to 2009.

                                                    (69.) Christine Kucia, “Counterproliferation at Core of New Security Strategy,” Arms Control Today (2002); and Jason D. Ellis, “The Best Defense: Counterproliferation and U.S. National Security,” The Washington Quarterly 26.2 (2003): 115–133.

                                                    (70.) Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe (New York: Times Books, 2004), 123–139; and Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2003).

                                                    (71.) David Patrikarakos, Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2012).

                                                    (73.) James H. Lebovic, Flawed Logics: Strategic Nuclear Arms Control from Truman to Obama (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), chapter 5.

                                                    (74.) Brian R. Roberts, “The Long Road to Tehran: The Iran Nuclear Deal in Perspective,” LSE Ideas Strategic Update 15.6 (December 2015).

                                                    (75.) Henry L. Stimson, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” Harper’s Magazine, February 1947.

                                                    (76.) McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (New York: Random House, 1988).

                                                    (77.) Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam; the Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965).

                                                    (78.) Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance, 1st ed. (New York: Knopf, 1975); and Barton Bernstein, “The Atomic Bombings Reconsidered,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 1995, 135–152.

                                                    (79.) Sean L. Malloy, Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb against Japan (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008).

                                                    (80.) Gregg Herken, The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War, 1945–1950 (New York: Vintage Books, 1982), 171–191; Ira Chernus, Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002); and Shane J. Maddock, Nuclear Apartheid: The Quest for American Atomic Supremacy from World War II to the Present (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

                                                    (81.) Gaddis, The Long Peace.

                                                    (82.) Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace.

                                                    (83.) Raymond L. Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1985); and The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1994).

                                                    (84.) Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb.

                                                    (85.) John Wilson Lewis, China Builds the Bomb (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988); Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); and Feroz Hassan Khan, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012).

                                                    (86.) Francis J. Gavin, “Blasts from the Past: Proliferation Lessons from the 1960s,” International Security 29.3 (Winter 2004): 100–135; and Andrew Jon Rotter, Hiroshima: The World’s Bomb (Making of the Modern World) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

                                                    (87.) Spencer R. Weart, Nuclear Fear: A History of Images (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988); and Lawrence Wittner, The Struggle against the Bomb, 3 vols. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993).

                                                    (88.) Matthew Evangelista, Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999); and Paul Rubinson, “‘Crucified on a Cross of Atoms’: Scientists, Politics, and the Test Ban Treaty,” Diplomatic History 35.2 (April 2011): 283–319.

                                                    (89.) Jones, After Hiroshima; and Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012).

                                                    (90.) Henry De Wolf Smyth, Atomic Energy for Military Purposes: The Official Report on the Development of the Atomic Bomb under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940–1945 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1945).

                                                    (91.) Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation; My Years in the State Department, 1st ed. (New York: Norton, 1969).

                                                    (92.) Henry Kissinger, White House Years, 1st ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979), Years of Upheaval, 1st ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1982); and Years of Renewal (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999).

                                                    (93.) Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence: Moscow’s Ambassador to America’s Six Cold War Presidents (1962–1986), 1st ed. (New York: Random House, 1995); Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers, trans. Strobe Talbott, 2 vols. (New York: Bantam, 1971); Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev, Memoirs, 1st ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1996); and A. S. Cherniaev, My Six Years with Gorbachev (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).

                                                    (94.) Glenn T. Seaborg, Journal of Glenn T. Seaborg, 17 vols. (Berkeley: University of California, 1989); and Ronald Reagan and Douglas Brinkley, The Reagan Diaries, 1st ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).