Britain and the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy, 1964-1970

Britain and the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy, 1964-1970

Britain and the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy, 1964-1970

Britain and the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy, 1964-1970

Excerpt

Prime Minister Harold Wilson suffered many disappointments in his first two terms of office. The devaluation of the pound, the retreat from global defence commitments, and the failure to achieve membership of the European Economic Community overshadowed much of his premiership. Wilson’s occasionally disingenuous explanations of these misfortunes, coupled with a raft of unfulfilled domestic promises, encouraged little sympathy for the plight of his government. Perhaps most damning of all was the scepticism in British politics that his first two terms engendered. These ignominies, however, should not obscure a considerable record of achievement in international negotiations concerning nuclear weapons. Indeed, under Wilson, British nuclear diplomacy enjoyed much success.

Wilson’s first two governments, beginning in October 1964 and ending in June 1970, represent a critical period in international nuclear history. By the close of 1968, the Labour government had signed and ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. A little over a year later, the treaty came into force, marking an important step towards a world with fewer nuclear weapon states. More than four decades later, the treaty still frames British, European, and American non-proliferation efforts. Preceding this historic feat was another. In 1966, Britain became one of the founding members of the Nuclear Planning Group. The United States, Britain, West Germany, Italy, and three rotating members would share decision-making on nuclear policy in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Despite the end of the Cold War, the group . . .

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