25 July 2019 Blogs, acadêmico

The History of Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons Policy, 1954-1968

The latest collection DNSA collection from ProQuest details one of the most critical international issues of the 20th century.

The latest collection DNSA collection from ProQuest details one of the most critical international issues of the 20th century

Reposted from the Digital National Security Unredacted blog

ProQuest and the National Security Archive have recently published a rich new compilation of documents on nuclear nonproliferation policy during the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The 2,301-document collection, Nuclear Nonproliferation 2, Part I: From Atoms for Peace to the NPT, 1954-1968, covers an age of growing concern that the spread of nuclear power could lead to a proliferation of weapons capabilities with potentially negative implications for international stability and the U.S. position in world affairs. During this time the U.S. government supported a variety of nonproliferation initiatives, including export controls and international actions ranging from the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency, test ban treaties, and an international nonproliferation agreement. 

The expertly curated document collection covers the creation of the major institutions and agreements that make up the international nonproliferation system, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the first iteration of the IAEA safeguards system, and the negotiation of the Nonproliferation Treaty. 

It also details the U.S. government’s concern about emerging nuclear weapons states — the “Nth Country Problem”— and its efforts to monitor nuclear activities in China, France, India, Israel, and elsewhere. Another important topic covered is the diplomatic effort to find a nuclear role within NATO for West Germany to deter possible German interest in an independent weapons capability. Solving that problem was essential for the breakthrough in the NPT negotiations during 1966-1967.

Among the many interest areas covered in this set are:

The creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the development of Agency safeguards to deter the diversion of nuclear resources into weapons programs
India’s acquisition of a Canadian nuclear reactor whose weak safeguards facilitated the production of plutonium, a development that U.S. government officials closely watched
The U.S. and British discovery of the secret Israeli nuclear reactor project in late 1960, internal U.S. discussions of policy options, continuing debates with the Israeli government over U.S. requests for inspections of the reactor site, and the results of the inspections
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s proposal for a fissile material production cut-off, seen as a method to prevent nuclear proliferation, and supported by successive administrations, although less eagerly later in the 1960s
U.S. government checking of West German nuclear activity and U.S. initiatives to reduce any West German interest in nuclear options and to integrate Bonn more tightly into the NATO system
John F. Kennedy’s initial search for a nuclear nonproliferation agreement, beginning during the 1961 Berlin Crisis, and continuing into 1963

Efforts to control the dissemination of sensitive nuclear technology, including the gas centrifuge, beginning with State Department and other U.S. government attempts to prevent Brazil from purchasing a gas centrifuge from West Germany in 1954 and to establish secrecy for improved gas centrifuges during the 1960s.

Using U.S. government records declassified since the 1990s, this collection picks up from, and expands the coverage provided in, the Archive’s earlier, widely praised ProQuest publication, U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy, 1945-1991. This collection also complements the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States series. The editors of the FRUS have made an extraordinary contribution in producing several volumes on arms control policy, including nonproliferation, during the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations.

Yet, as valuable as those volumes are, because of the complexity of documenting arms control issues in general, involving not only nonproliferation but also test bans, outer space, and strategic missiles, the coverage of the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) sometimes skims the surface and important nuances are overlooked. 

Of the 2,301 records in this collection, well over 700 documents cover the NPT negotiations, especially the crucial period from August 1966 through January 1968, when the substance of the treaty was settled. The documents on the NPT talks and others in the set were produced by a wide variety of government agencies and offices. Many of them are from the State Department or from the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), created by the Kennedy administration in 1961. The ACDA officials who played a prominent role in the NPT negotiations used State Department telegraphic communications to report on developments.

Fewer documents come directly from the White House, although major policy initiatives necessarily had the approval of the president and input from advisers on the National Security Council staff and Office of the Science Adviser. Nevertheless, some State Department documents indicate presidential inputs based on communications with Secretary of State Rusk.

The Central Intelligence Agency, including memoranda by the director of central intelligence and intelligence community products, was the source for a significant number of documents in this collection. That includes intelligence estimates, current intelligence reports, and memoranda on various proliferation issues and the NPT negotiations.

A relative handful of documents in this collection come from the Pentagon, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Learn more about ProQuest's Global Challenges initiative.