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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Multilateral Force (MLF)

American shipbuilders developed high-speed Mariner transports that could carry eight Polaris A-3 missiles with a range of up to 4600 km. Their main feature was similarity with the vessels of the commercial fleet. Every year for 20 years, the US leadership planned to launch one ship of the "Mariner" type, and in the beginning of 1963, experimental launches of missiles from the modernized Italian cruiser "Giuseppe Garibaldi" were already conducted. In case of war such missile carriers together with nuclear submarines could easily get lost in the ocean spaces and at any moment strike a sudden blow to the USSR.

During the Second World War, the United States, Britain, Germany and the U.S.S.R. were all engaged in scientific research to develop the atomic bomb. By mid-1945, however, only the United States had succeeded, and it used two atomic weapons on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The atomic bomb had been developed almost entirely in the beginning by British scientists. The British Isles had been found too small to carry out tests. Churchill and Roosevelt had agreed that the development of the bomb should be carried out in the United States. The whole world knew about the partnership in this matter which was governed by agreement.

The fact of the bomb was useful in ensuring that Western Europe would rely on the United States to guarantee its security rather than seeking an outside accommodation with the Soviet Union, because even if the United States did not station large numbers of troops on the continent, it could protect the region by placing it under the American “nuclear umbrella” of areas that the United States professed to be willing to use the bomb to defend. Though it inspired greater confidence in the immediate postwar years, the U.S. nuclear monopoly was not of long duration.

By April 1960, State Department officials had developed an apparently workable outline providing for a seagoing fleet comprised of US Navy submarines armed with the new Polaris medium range ballistic missiles and owned by all the NATO powers. On 02 August 1960, Air Force General Nathan Twining, Chairman ofthe Joint Chiefs of Staff gave the force greater identity by proposing that the initial force be composed of five submarines. The 21 August 1960 report by Harvard professor Robert Bowie entitled "The North Atlantic Nations: Tasks for the 1960s" was credited with the plan because it was the first to receive high-level attention.

The submarine MLF evoked fierce opposition from some members of Congress and Vice-Admiral Hyman Rickover, head of the US Navy's nuclear propulsion program. Both the Congressmen and Rickover feared that top secret nuclear propulsion technology would be compromised if foreign crews were allowed onto American submarines. By 1963 it was decided that surface ships were easier to operate than submarines and when implementing the complex program of mixed manning, it seemed logical to chose the least complicated configuration. Surface ships were also simpler to build which meant that much of the shipyard construction could take place in Europe, giving them a greater feel of ownership.

French President Charles de Gaulle, already skeptical of American domination of NATO, saw this missile fleet as an American attempt to abort the French nuclear program. But from his perspective in both World Wars, American military support had arrived altogether too late. The French President sought French power and prestige worldwide and viewed nuclear weapons as an absolute prerequisite to this end. Without French participation, the military utility of the MLF was suspect. The United States allowed France to oppose the force and persuade other members of NATO to do the same.

By the 1960s, nuclear weapons technology had the potential to become widespread. The science of exploding and fusing atoms had entered into public literature via academic journals, and nuclear technology was no longer pursued only by governments, but by private companies as well. Plutonium, the core of nuclear weapons, was becoming easier to obtain and cheaper to process.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was an agreement signed in 1968 by several of the major nuclear and non-nuclear powers that pledged their cooperation in stemming the spread of nuclear technology. Although the NPT did not ultimately prevent nuclear proliferation, in the context of the Cold War arms race and mounting international concern about the consequences of nuclear war, the treaty was a major success for advocates of arms control because it set a precedent for international cooperation between nuclear and non-nuclear states to prevent proliferation.

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Page last modified: 20-01-2018 18:13:52 ZULU