The nth country conundrum: The American and Soviet quest for nuclear nonproliferation, 1945--1970

Date of Completion

January 1997


History, European|History, United States|Political Science, International Law and Relations




In 1963, Secretary of State Dean Rusk told a Soviet diplomat "that it was almost axiomatic that no nuclear power has any interest in seeing others become nuclear powers." This study probes the motivations behind U.S. and Soviet nuclear nonproliferation policy. American policy reflected the bureaucratic struggle between three groups of actors: disarmament advocates, nuclear nationalists, and arms control advocates. Although both powers strongly endorsed strict nuclear proliferation from 1945 to 1960, they actually pursued selective policies which sought to inhibit nuclear proliferation by their enemies while encouraging it by their allies. From 1961 to 1968, however, both countries shifted their priorities and pursued a strict nonproliferation policy in the wake of the French nuclear test and the increasing threat of further spread. Advocates of selective proliferation in the U.S. government nonetheless frustrated efforts to conclude an effective nonproliferation agreement. Only in 1968 did the Johnson administration succeed in signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which subsequently had a mixed history of enforcement. This issue continues to resonate with importance in the late 1990s, when both American and Russian presidents identify nuclear proliferation as one of the greatest risks to world peace.^ The first chapter explores the main themes and questions of this dissertation. Chapter II examines the Roosevelt administration's conception of the role that nuclear weapons should play in the postwar world. The third and fourth chapters discuss the Baruch Plan for international control of atomic energy and the reasons for its failure. Chapter V details the Truman administration's abandonment of nonproliferation from 1949 to 1953. The sixth and seventh chapters trace Dwight D. Eisenhower's convoluted thinking regarding nonproliferation, which led him to pursue policies that sought to inhibit proliferation yet accelerated the threat. Chapters VIII and IX explain John F. Kennedy's increased emphasis on controlling proliferation. The tenth and eleventh chapters probe Lyndon Johnson's nonproliferation policies to determine why he eventually succeeded in concluding an NPT in 1968. Chapter XII tracks the development of U.S. nonproliferation policy from 1970 to the present and demonstrates that U.S. treaty to its treaty commitments continued to deviate from its public pronouncements. ^