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Keywords

Arms race; Cold War; Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969; International relations; Nuclear weapons; Soviet Union; United States

Abstract

Of the discussions that took place at the highest policy levels during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, those concerning the possibility of a diplomatic solution to the arms race with the Soviet Union were among the most urgent and, perhaps, the most consequential in their failure. In the United States, members of the Eisenhower cabinet and other agencies and departments analyzed and addressed the consequences of various diplomatic proposals. Throughout that assessment phase, the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Atomic Energy Commission joined in steadfast opposition to arms limitations. On the international plane, the United Nations and allies of each country, fearing the worst, urged compromise. Nevertheless, the United States and the Soviet Union ultimately rejected every possible diplomatic solution over the issue of verifiability, arguing that any procedure to monitor compliance would violate their respective national security. Rhetorical sparring and enmity grew as the international community brought ever more pressure to bear upon the two superpowers and confrontation seemed ever more likely. As a result, efforts to limit the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union actually led to an escalation of weapons development and experimentation. The costs of that escalation were enormous—in terms of budgets and lives: the development and display of atomic and particularly hydrogen weapons by both nations resulted in radioactive material contaminating, in the form of fallout, every region of the globe.