Nuclear Apartheid: The Quest for American Atomic Supremacy from World War II to the Present

By Shane J. Maddock | Go to book overview

8
Hunting for Easter Eggs
LBJ, NATO, & NONPROLIFERATION,
1963–1965

Lyndon B. Johnson told one Soviet official that when it came to arms control, Moscow and Washington “were like children hunting for Easter eggs.” But the president often forgot that other “children” also needed to join the hunt. By late 1963 when LBJ entered the Oval Office, the superpowers had lost leverage over their respective alliances and the UN General Assembly. Newly decolonized nations increasingly challenged northern dominance over them. In this changing world system, nuclear weapons remained an important symbol of international status. Washington feared the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons within NATO, even as French president Charles de Gaulle questioned the U.S. commitment to Europe and threatened to split the alliance. The MLF prospectively blunted both threats. But the U.S. proposal and the British variant, the Atlantic Nuclear Force (ANF), provoked Moscow’s vigorous opposition. As long as a NATO nuclear force remained a possibility, a U.S.-Soviet nonproliferation agreement proved impossible. Yet such a pact offered the best hope of containing the spread of nuclear weapons in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Unwilling to commit to a strategy, LBJ allowed U.S. nonproliferation efforts to languish during the first phase of his presidency. Neither Chinese acquisition of nuclear weapons in October 1964 nor the recommendations of a presidential task force on proliferation prompted

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