Article Review 53 on “Accepting Regional Zero: Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, U.S. Nonproliferation Policy and Global Security, 1957-1968.” Journal of Cold War Studies 17:2

JCWS coverJames Stocker offers a deep historical analysis of U.S. foreign policy towards regional nuclear weapons free zones (NWFZs) during the tenure of three American presidents — Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson— and maps its evolution over eleven years of pre-détente Cold War. He examines how the Eisenhower administration rejected the idea of NWFZs owing to its discomfort with a possible European zone but that a gradual shift occurred in favor of their limited acceptance during President Kennedy’s time in office, and final implementation of such acceptance during the Johnson administration. Not surprisingly, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1964 Chinese nuclear test made significant contributions to the altered U.S. policy position post-Eisenhower. According to Stocker, while the United States began to perceive NWFZs as nonproliferation tools through which it could tackle the spread of nuclear weapons in a very precarious world, such zones also precluded U.S. rights to station, deploy, and transport nuclear weapons in the regions, thus obstructing Washington’s security interests. Based on U.S. archival sources from Presidential libraries, the National Archives and Record Administration, and published documentation in Foreign Relations of the United States, the article is a systematic study of U.S. policy towards NWFZ under three different administrations.

H-Diplo | ISSF Article Review 53

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James Stocker. “Accepting Regional Zero: Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, U.S. Nonproliferation Policy and Global Security, 1957-1968.” Journal of Cold War Studies 17:2 (Spring 2015): 36-72. 
DOI: 10.1162/JCWS_a_00547. http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/JCWS_a_00547

Reviewed by Jayita Sarkar, Harvard University
Published by ISSF on 15 April 2016

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James Stocker offers a deep historical analysis of U.S. foreign policy towards regional nuclear weapons free zones (NWFZs) during the tenure of three American presidents — Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson— and maps its evolution over eleven years of pre-détente Cold War. He examines how the Eisenhower administration rejected the idea of NWFZs owing to its discomfort with a possible European zone but that a gradual shift occurred in favor of their limited acceptance during President Kennedy’s time in office, and final implementation of such acceptance during the Johnson administration. Not surprisingly, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1964 Chinese nuclear test made significant contributions to the altered U.S. policy position post-Eisenhower. According to Stocker, while the United States began to perceive NWFZs as nonproliferation tools through which it could tackle the spread of nuclear weapons in a very precarious world, such zones also precluded U.S. rights to station, deploy, and transport nuclear weapons in the regions, thus obstructing Washington’s security interests. Based on U.S. archival sources from Presidential libraries, the National Archives and Record Administration, and published documentation in Foreign Relations of the United States, the article is a systematic study of U.S. policy towards NWFZ under three different administrations.

Autumn 1961, when the Irish resolution was unanimously adopted and the Undén Plan was approved with several abstentions, including that of the United States, foretold an era in which the ‘international approach’ of nonproliferation— the one that involved universal regimes— would be continuously prioritized over the ‘regional approach’ of NWFZs.[1] By exploring the period since the 1957 Rapacki Plan proposed by the Polish government until 1968 when the Treaty of Tlateloco — the first NWFZ agreement in an inhabited area — was finalized, Stocker demonstrates how the United States remained relatively less enthusiastic about the regional approach. Washington invested more diplomatic resources in the international approach of crafting, along with the Soviet Union, universal regimes to control the spread of nuclear weapons, like the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). For U.S. strategic calculus, the creation of a NWFZ in one area had implications on another. As a result, each NWFZ proposal, despite having its own unique characteristics, was not treated in isolation but as an interconnected phenomenon that could have significant consequences for U.S. global security interests.

Stocker rightly points out that the international approach has been the dominant one over the regional approach in both U.S. foreign policy as well as scholarly studies of U.S. nonproliferation policy, where emphasis tends to be more on universal regimes like the NPT (or countries’ nuclear weapons ambitions contravening the spirit of the NPT) than regional ones like the treaties of Tlateloco and Pelindaba.[2] However, in recent years, historians have demonstrated increasing interest in NWFZs, and have brought greater insight into the creation for such proposals.[3] Stocker’s article is therefore a timely addition to the literature that is in its nascent stages.

However, the article suffers from a few limitations. First, the author does not adequately explore the regional politics behind NWFZ proposals. States in rivalry with a proliferator often propose the creation of NWFZ to obstruct the latter’s nuclear weapons program. For instance, Pakistan proposed a South Asian NWFZ in the mid-1960s because of its anxiety towards Indian nuclear ambitions. The Egyptian and Turkish enthusiasm for a NWFZ in the Middle East is directed more toward counterbalancing Iranian nuclear ambitions and the Israeli arsenal. The article treats the interests and strategies pursued by the regional actors rather peripherally. Moreover, since the primary sources used in this article are solely American, we never completely learn the debates and strategies pursued on the other side.

Second, when Stocker states that U.S. policy was such that there was precedence of “security policy over nonproliferation interests” (72), it is not clear how he defines the two terms. Is U.S. nonproliferation policy expected to be free of U.S. national security interests? It is perhaps true that there were times during the Cold War when U.S. nonproliferation goals were not attained owing to competing foreign policy goals that succeeded more in securing executive attention and action. Yet, it is important to recognize that U.S. nonproliferation strategy is not supposed to be free of national security interests since it is an intrinsic part of it. What Stocker instead could have emphasized is the restraining influence of intra-alliance bargaining on U.S. nonproliferation policy success, as in the cases of nuclear weapons programs of Pakistan, South Africa or Israel.

Third, while the author briefly alludes to the relevance of his arguments in present times, especially with respect to the Middle-Eastern NWFZ (38), he does not sufficiently substantiate it. Finally, Stocker examines in one article a time period that spans over a decade and three different U.S. administrations, which leaves much to be desired. Its development and expansion as a monograph may mend this. Despite shortcomings, the article accomplishes the task of convincing us of America’s limited enthusiasm for NWFZ in its nonproliferation strategy since the Cold War.

 

Jayita Sarkar is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the International Security Program and the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where she was formerly a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow.

Copyright ©2016 The Authors.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License

 

Notes

[1] The 1961 Irish resolution led by the Minister of External Affairs of Ireland, Frank Aiken, called for an international treaty that would prevent the countries that possessed nuclear weapons from transferring such weapons as well as the technology to produce them to countries that do not possess nuclear weapons. This resolution, in many ways, is considered to be one of the antecedents of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Swedish proposal that surfaces around the same time and was led by the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Östen Undén, put forward the idea that states that did not possess nuclear weapons must pledge not to produce, acquire or host them on their territory. In other words, the Undén Plan was one of the precursors to the NWFZs proposals.

[2] See for instance Francis J. Gavin, Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012). Shane J. Maddock, Nuclear Apartheid : The Quest for American Atomic Supremacy from World War Ii to the Present (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); Grégoire Mallard, Fallout : Nuclear Diplomacy in an Age of Global Fracture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014); Matthew Kroenig, Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 2010); Matthew Fuhrmann, Atomic Assistance : How “Atoms for Peace” Programs Cause Nuclear Insecurity, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012); Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era : Regional Powers and International Conflict, Princeton Studies in International History and Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014); Jacques E. C. Hymans, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions : Scientists, Politicians and Proliferation (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

[3] See for instance Jonathan Hunt, “Mexican Nuclear Diplomacy and the NPT Bargain, 1962-1968” in Andreas Wenger, Roland Popp, & Liviu Horovitz, eds., The Making of a Nuclear Order: Negotiating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, (Routledge, 2016); Ryan Alexander Musto, “Tlateloco Tested: The Falklands Malvinas War and Latin America’s Nuclear Weapon Free Zone,” Nuclear Proliferation International History Project Working Paper Series 7 (2015); Alin Andronache, “The Balkan Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone: Predictable Failure or a Viable Alternative to the Cold-War Security System?” (paper presented at the Streseman Workshop: Illusionary Visions or Policy Options?, Mainz, Germany, July 5-8, 2015).