Bargaining on Nuclear Tests: Washington and Its Cold War Deals by Or Rabinowitz

Dr S. Samuel C. Rajiv is Associate Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • March 2015
    Book Review

    In Bargaining on Nuclear Tests, Rabinowitz examines aspects relating to the US entering into informal deals with Israel, South Africa and Pakistan in order to prevent them from testing nuclear weapons. These informal understandings turned a ‘blind eye’ to these countries’ nuclear quests as long as they did not test. The testing of nuclear weapons was seen as overtly harming American non-proliferation goals and potentially embarrassing the US administrations, given that these were America’s Cold War allies. The author shows that the US privileged larger geo-strategic and commercial considerations while covertly entering into such deals with ‘friendly proliferators’.

    The first such deal that the US entered into was with Israel in September 1969, with President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger being the progenitor of the idea. This understanding followed American inability to stop advances in the Israeli nuclear quest, despite the strong stance taken by the preceding Kennedy administration. A convenient via media was therefore proposed: that Israel would not advertise its nuclear capabilities by overtly testing while the US would maintain a ‘hands-off’ approach towards the Israeli nuclear programme.