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Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY

NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY. This international agreement reflected diplomatic attempts to stabilize international relations in the early 1960s as well as public fears of radioactive fallout. Pressures to limit the radioactive fallout from open-air testing of nuclear weapons dated back to 1954. Scientists, journalists, and intellectuals throughout Western Europe and the United States raised awareness about the harmful effects of nuclear radiation. Government leaders, including American president Dwight Eisenhower, recognized a need to respond to growing public fears.

On 10 May 1955, the Soviet Union seized the initiative. Moscow included a ban on nuclear tests as part of a general disarmament proposal. Over time, the Soviet leadership backed away from many elements of this offer. The United States rejected the proposal because it lacked a system of inspections for verifying adherence to the test ban. Eisenhower feared that the Soviet government would take advantage of its closed society to test nuclear weapons in secrecy. The United States suffered from an asymmetry of secrecy—because of America's democratic culture, its leaders could not act with the same secrecy employed by Soviet policy makers.

In 1958, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union—the three existing nuclear powers—announced unilateral bans on nuclear testing in response to public pressure. Each government sought to show that it was more enlightened than its counterparts. Each government also resumed tests by the end of the decade, fearful that its Cold War adversaries would gain a technical lead in the arms race through additional experiments with nuclear warheads.

In the early 1960s, negotiations for a nuclear test ban gained momentum for reasons beyond the public's fears of radioactive fallout. After years of recurring crises surrounding the status of American-dominated West Berlin—located deep within the territory of communist East Germany—Washington and Moscow sought new mechanisms for stabilizing their relationship. Military rivalry between the superpowers had become too dangerous in a world with huge nuclear arsenals capable of destroying life on the entire planet many times over. The dangers of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 pushed both American president John F. Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev to pursue new mechanisms for accommodation.

A nuclear test ban treaty served this purpose. It became an important symbol of amicable relations between Cold War adversaries. The agreement—negotiated during the summer of 1963 in Moscow by President Kennedy's ambassador at large, William Averell Harriman, and the Soviet leadership—recognized the Cold War status quo in Europe. It emphasized the need for restraint instead of continued crisis on this divided continent.

Officially signed by the leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain on 5 August 1963, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty prohibited future nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in space, and under water. Due to continued difficulties with verification, the treaty allowed for underground tests. While the signatories continued to explode ever larger warheads beneath the ground, they never again exploded a nuclear weapon in the open air. This greatly reduced radioactive fallout across the globe, and it also helped to lessen the tensions that grew with competing exhibits of nuclear prowess during a prior period of above ground tests.

The initial signatories attempted to convince the leaders of France and China to sign the treaty. The former had recently tested its first nuclear device (on 13 February 1960), and the latter prepared for its first nuclear explosion (on 16 October 1964). Leaders in Washington, London, and Moscow hoped that a global ban on aboveground nuclear tests would prevent France, China, and other states from developing nuclear arsenals of their own. By refusing to sign the treaty, Paris and Beijing indicated that they would not accept continued nuclear domination by the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. In the subsequent decades other states have followed France and China's lead—including Israel, India, and Pakistan. There have been very few occasions, however, when these states tested nuclear warheads above ground. The nuclear test ban treaty did not prevent further nuclear proliferation, but it slowed this process, stabilized Cold War tensions, and created an international norm against nuclear tests in the open air.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Beschloss, Michael R. The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960–1963. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

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

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

Trachtenberg, Marc. A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945–1963. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Wenger, Andreas. Living With Peril: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nuclear Weapons. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.

WernerLevi

JeremiSuri

See alsoArms Race and Disarmament ; Treaties with Foreign Nations .

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Limited Test Ban Treaty

LIMITED TEST BAN TREATY

The Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), sometimes called the Partial Test Ban Treaty, was first signed in 1963 by the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), and the United Kingdom. It prohibits the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in space. As the first significant arms control agreement of the cold war, the LTBT set an important precedent for future arms negotiations.

The LTBT followed quickly on the heels of the 1962 cuban missile crisis, in which the United States and the U.S.S.R. came to the brink of war over the Soviet Union's placement of missiles in Cuba. Alarmed at the prospect of nuclear war, President john f. kennedy, of the United States, and Premier Nikita Khrushchev, of the Soviet Union, agreed to begin serious arms control negotiations. The LTBT was one of the first fruits of these negotiations. Proponents of the treaty claimed that it would prevent contamination of the environment by radioactive fallout from nuclear testing, slow down the arms race, and inhibit the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries.

Although Kennedy hailed the LTBT as a significant achievement of his presidency, he was disappointed that he could not secure a comprehensive test ban treaty, which would have banned all forms of nuclear testing. Lacking such a ban, the superpowers and other countries with nuclear capability continued to test nuclear weapons underground. However, article 1, section b, of the LTBT pledges that each of its signatory countries will seek "a treaty resulting in the permanent banning of all nuclear test explosions, including all such explosions underground." By 1973, a total of 106 countries had signed the LTBT, and by 1992, that number had grown to 119.

Later test ban treaties have included the Threshold Test Ban Treaty of 1974, which prohibited nuclear tests of more than 150 kilotons (the explosive force of 150,000 tons of TNT), and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty of 1976. Although a comprehensive test ban agreement has not yet been reached, the nuclear powers and many nations without nuclear capabilities continue to negotiate the provisions of such a treaty.

further readings

Kegley, Charles W., Jr., and Eugene R. Wittkopf. 1993. World Politics. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Palmer, R.R. 1984. A History of the Modern World. New York: Knopf.

Sheehan, Michael. 1988. Arms Control: Theory and Practice. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.

United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. 1982. Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

cross-references

Arms Control and Disarmament.

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nuclear test-ban treaty

nuclear test-ban treaty: see disarmament, nuclear.

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test-ban treaty, nuclear

nuclear test-ban treaty: see disarmament, nuclear.

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