The first atomic bombs were detonated in 1945. The Baruch Plan of 1946 served as the first proposal to control the spread and use of this awesome new power. President Harry Truman's original announcement about the bomb included a promise that it would not be used only for destructive purposes. In the words of the Baruch Plan, "Science, which gave us this dread power, shows that it can be made a giant help to humanity, but science does not show us how to prevent its baleful use. So we have been appointed to obviate that peril by finding a meeting of the minds and the hearts of our peoples. Only in the will of mankind lies the answer" (Baruch Plan, presented to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission on June 14, 1946).
At the end of World War II the United Nations passed a resolution to create a commission that would examine the use of nuclear energy and determine what institutional frameworks were needed to steer the technology toward peaceful uses. The creation of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) in January 1946 prompted the then U.S. secretary of state, James F. Byrnes, to convene a committee that would direct American policy on this issue. The committee was headed by Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, who, in concert with a board of consultants that included leaders in business and science as well as members of the Manhattan Project, published the Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy (more commonly referred to as the Acheson-Lilienthal Report) on March 16, 1946.
The Acheson-Lilienthal Report proposed an American policy to create international frameworks to manage the use and dissemination of nuclear energy and technology. The main premise of the report was the creation of an international Atomic Development Authority that would control and monitor the use of atomic energy and its dangerous elements. The Acheson-Lilienthal Report did not propose to outlaw nuclear weapons but instead to globalize cooperation among states to encourage the use of the technology for productive and peaceful ends. This international body would promote research on and development of atomic energy innovation and be the sole owner of that technology. The Baruch Plan, the first proposal of the United States to the UNAEC, was drawn largely from the text of this report.
Bernard M. Baruch, the U.S. representative to the UNAEC, submitted the report to the commission on June 14, 1946. The Baruch Plan, like the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, proposed the establishment of an Atomic Energy Development Authority that would control the development and use of atomic energy, beginning from the mining stage and including the development and implementation of atomic energy and its uses. The plan also demanded the termination of the development of the atomic bomb for use as weaponry and mandated an inspections team to investigate violations of that framework. The United States, at that time, was the sole possessor of nuclear weapons, although the Soviet Union was far along in the development process. The Baruch plan called for the immediate cessation of weapons development programs from all countries, and the close monitoring of peaceful nuclear programs in exchange for the United States giving the AEDA its nuclear devices. The purpose of the Baruch Plan was not to eradicate the use of nuclear energy from the world but to manage, monitor, and internationalize its peaceful benefits.
Immediately after the United States submitted its proposal to the UNAEC, the United States and the Soviet Union began deliberations on ways to implement the plan. The Soviet Union offered a counter-proposal that differed from the U.S. version on several key points. The United States insisted on retaining control of its nuclear weapons while all fissile material was put under international control, while the Soviet Union demanded that the United States cede its weapons to international control before other countries gave up their fissile material. In addition, not only did the Soviet proposal mandate the cessation of the development, storage, and deployment of atomic bombs, it also directed that all preexisting weaponry be destroyed within six months of entrance into the convention.
The Soviet Union objected to several other points in the Baruch Plan. Another critical difference was the Soviet disagreement with the proposal that called for automatic sanctions for noncompliance with the proposed regulations. Discussions between the two countries lasted for several years, but it was evident early on that because of irreconcilable differences the Baruch Plan would never be implemented.
While there is still debate on whether or not the United States ever seriously expected the Baruch plan to pass, it did leave the United States with a better understanding of its own moral responsibility in the cold war arms race. From 1946 on, Americans believed they had proven to the world their willingness and desire to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether, and blamed the Soviet Union for standing in the way of that goal. As long as there was a Soviet threat, the United States could feel that it was reluctantly but obligingly taking on the role of protector of the world.
Failure and Achievement
Although the Baruch Plan was never codified formally into international law, it put in place the basic tenets of the modern nonproliferation regime. The Acheson-Lilienthal Report that formed the contextual basis for the Baruch Plan never proposed a ban-the-bomb approach but instead was intended to create an international organization that would control every stage of nuclear energy development. Because the international agency would be the reigning authority and would have the authority to distribute the sites of nuclear energy processing around the world, it would create a global strategic balance. Many countries could profit from the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy. However, if one country tried to use its materials for malevolent purposes, other countries would be similarly equipped to defend themselves. These ideas led to many of the Cold War disarmament programs and treaties such as Atoms for Peace, the IAEA, and ultimately the nonproliferation treaty.
Bailey, Emily; Richard Guthrie; Daryl Howlett; and John Simpson. (2000). Programme for Promoting Nuclear Non-Proliferation Briefing Book. Volume I: The Evolution of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime, 6th ed. Southampton, UK: Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.
Sokolski, Henry. (2001). Best of Intentions: America's Campaign against Weapons Proliferation. Westport, CT: Praeger.
"The Acheson-Lilienthal Report." Available from http://www.atomicmuseum.com/tour/acheson.cfm.
"Early U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Initiatives." Available from http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/armsctrl/pt3.htm
"Glossary of Nonproliferation Terms." Available from http://www.cnsdl.miis.edu/npt/gloss/glossary.htm.
Schell, Jonathan. "The Unfinished Twentieth Century—Attempt to Find a Designation for the 20th Century." Harper's Magazine, January 2000. Available from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1111/is_1796_300/ai_58509210.