Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


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Looking Back: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Then and Now

Journal Article

George Bunn
John B. Rhinelander

Published by
Arms Control Today, Vol. 38 no. 6, page(s) 56-60
July/August 2008

Less than a year after dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the United States adopted a statute prohibiting the transfer of its nuclear weapons to any other country. It was not until 23 years later, however, that countries began signing an international treaty that prohibited the transfer of nuclear weapons by a country that had them to any other country, indeed “to any recipient whatsoever.”[1] On July 1, 1968, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and many other countries signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at ceremonies in Washington, Moscow, and London. Subsequently, nearly 190 countries have signed and ratified the treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons from the few countries that then had them to the many that did not and at reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons from the world.

The 40th anniversary of the NPT provides an opportunity to re-examine the history of the treaty’s negotiation and ask what lessons it offers for today.