Those of you who have listened to our podcast on Causes of the Cold War will remember that Harry Truman received news that the atomic bomb had obliterated Hiroshima (Japan) on this way home from Potsdam in August 1945. At the time, Truman thought that he could figure out how to use the bomb to gain concessions from the Soviet Union. But he was never able to do this. Instead, Stalin immediately pushed forward the Soviet effort to acquire atomic weaponry. THE ARMS RACE WAS ON.
Over the course of the Cold War there were many attempts to control nuclear weapons. Here are a few:
August 1963: Limited Test Ban Treaty || Prohibits nuclear testing or any other nuclear explosions in the atmosphere in outer space and under water.
January 1967: Outer Space Treaty || Prohibits sending nuclear weapons into earth’s orbit or stationing them in outer space.
July 1968: Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty || Prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapons to other countries and prohibits helping countries without nuclear weapons to make or obtain them.
May 1972: Antiballistic Missile Treaty || Bans space-based defensive missile systems and limits the United States and the Soviet Union to one ground-based defensive missile site in each.
June 1979: Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty || The first formal strategic arms treaty sets an initial overall limit of 2400 intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, submarine-launched missiles, heavy bombers, and air-to-surface missiles.
December 1987: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty || Provides for the dismantling of all Soviet medium- and shorter-range-land-based-missiles and establishes a system of weapons-inspection to guard against violations.
The Start Treaties, of course, came in the 1990s, after the Cold War had ended.
If you want a visual picture of the proliferation of nuclear weapons geographically and by nationality, you’ll have a lot of fun watching the multimedia piece by the artist Isao Hashimoto. It takes a while to really get going, so be patient.