Efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons have been in the news lately, given the U.S. negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons facilities and missile sites and with Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement that President Barack Obama and the leaders of other nations had finalized with Iran to halt its nuclear program. Recent studies on nuclear weapons with respect to nonproliferation policies as well as efforts to control the nuclear weapons arms illustrate the challenges in attempts to halt the spread of nuclear capabilities as well as in containing the development of new missiles by the major powers.[1] This special issue of The International History Review, which focuses on the 1970s, includes with twelve articles, as well as an introduction by editors Leopoldo Nuti and David Holloway, a penetrating historiographical article by Nuti, and a succinct conclusion by Holloway.[2]

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Nuclear strategy can be a difficult subject to study. In the end, our main preoccupation is understanding why there has not been a thermonuclear war, and what we can do to continue this streak. It is close to impossible to craft definite statements about an event that never happened. We have a strong hunch that nuclear deterrence prevents other states from using their weapons. Deterrence, however, is based on characteristics—fear, resolve, assurance—that are psychological in nature, and hard to observe or measure except after deterrence has failed. Nuclear proliferation and nonproliferation can be equally confounding. Given the benefits that nuclear possession supposedly conveys upon states—more or less securing their independence and protecting them from invasion—the fact that the number of states possessing the bomb is in the single digits, far fewer than anyone would have predicted a half century ago, is surprising.

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