History Timeline 1960's

Photo above: Astronaut John Glenn pictured above with President John F. Kennedy looking inside the Mercury Space Capsule in 1962. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Soyuz TMA-7 Spacecraft. Courtesy NASA.

Outer Space Treaty

U.S. Timeline - The 1960s

Civil Rights and Turmoil

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  • Timeline

  • 1963 - Detail

    July 25, 1963 - The United States, Soviet Union, and Great Britain agree to a limited nuclear test-ban treaty, barring all nuclear testing above ground.

    Test Ban Treaty 1963

    It would be a small start, but an important one at that. The United States, Great Britain, and Soviet Union were nuclear powers when the discussing on test bans began. France and China would muddy those waters as negotiations continued and their pursuit of joining those three as nuclear nations proceeded. The United Nations had been discussing a way to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, as well as their tests, since the May 1955 Subcommittee of Five meeting, consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and the Soviet Union, of the United Nations Disarmament Commission. There had been, and were continuing to be, an increasing amount of testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs in the period of 1951 to 1958. During those years, the United States tested one hundred and sixty-six bombs, the Soviet Union sixty-two, and Great Britain twenty-one. All but twenty-two had been conducted in the atmosphere. Nuclear stockpiles were increasing.

    On May 10, 1955, the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev proposed a ban during the Subcomittee of Five meeting, seeking to mend relations with the west. The United States rejected the initial proposal, wanting additional controls. France was also skeptical; it was still pursuing its nuclear program, which it would achieve in 1960. It would be a difficult and long process to come to an agreement. Cold War tensions flared from time to time. Verification and approach were debated. Between 1955 and 1963, twelve resolutions about the need for an agreement flexed around the tables of the United Nations.

    President Eisenhower called for a conference to study how to detect nuclear tests; it occurred on July 1, 1958 in Geneva, Switzerland with scientists from eight nations; the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, and Romania. The conference determined the method and possibility and was considered a success. On August 30, 1958, the Soviet Union, United States, and Great Britain endorsed the technical specifications of the Geneva System.

    Over the next three years, the primary nations of the United States, Soviet Union, and Great Britain agreed to a moratorium on testing. On February 11, 1960, the United States proposed that tests above ground that could be verified by the Geneva System should be banned, as well as large underground tests, and that the nations would be subject to twenty verification inspections per year. With modifications made throughout the year, progress toward a test ban treaty seemed possible by the end of 1960, but cold war relations grew colder with world crises such as the Congo in July, halting the progress.

    Test ban negotiations resumed on March 21, 1961 after the inauguration of President Kennedy. Cold War problems intruded again with the Berlin crises and a lifting of the moratorium with renewed Soviet Union and American nuclear test. Now France was a nuclear power, too, as of 1960, complicating the situation. Trilateral talks in Geneva now shifted to eighteen party talks at the United Nations in early 1962. By August 27, 1962, the United States and Great Britain offered two treaty drafts to the Soviet Union. By October 1962, the Soviet Union and United States were engaged in the Cuban Missile Crises, halting test ban progress again.

    At the end of the Cuban Missile Crises, negotiations restarted, this time focusing on a partial test ban treaty. Khrushchev was more amenable, attempting to repair relationships after the Cuban confrontation with proposals on a variety of ideas that might limit tensions which might lead to nuclear war.

    On June 10, 1963, Kennedy proposed that negotiations on a test ban treaty begin again. Negotiations resumed in Moscow on July 15, 1963. Ten days later, the original text was agreed to and initialed. Attempts to get China and France to join with the three original nations on the test ban were not fruitful, however. They refused by the end of July, continuing to develop their programs, with China becoming the fifth nation with nuclear capability in 1964.

    The agreement would become known as the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water or the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It was signed by the three original parties in Moscow on August 5, with ratification in the Senate of the United States on September 24, 1963. Its effective date would be October 10, 1963. The treaty would ban nuclear testing above ground, in space, and under water. Testing would be allowed to continue below ground.

    Did other nations join? Yes. By the date of October 10, 1963, the nations of Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Cyrus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, Gabon, East Germany, West Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela had joined. Ten nations above signed, but did not ratify; Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Hait, Mali, Paraguay, Portugal, and Somalia. Note: The above list has been culled from several sources. Take it as a guide, not gospel.

    However, notice the ones that did not. China, France, and North Korea. Those nations, as of 2020, have still not joined the treaty.

    It would not be until 1968 that a comprehensive Nuclear Non-proliferation Agreement would pass among a majority of nations at the United Nations, with a start date of 1970. Twenty-five years later, in 1995, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would be extended indefinitely.

    Full Text, Test Ban Treaty 1963

    banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water

    The Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, hereinafter referred to as the "Original Parties,"

    Proclaiming as their principal aim the speediest possible achievement of an agreement on general and complete disarmament under strict international control in accordance with the objectives of the United Nations which would put an end to the armaments race and eliminate the incentive to the production and testing of all kinds of weapons, including nuclear weapons,

    Seeking to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time, determined to continue negotiations to this end, and desiring to put an end to the contamination of mans environment by radioactive substances,

    Have agreed as follows:

    Article I - 1. Each of the Parties to this Treaty undertakes to prohibit, to prevent, and not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion, or any other nuclear explosion, at any place under its jurisdiction or control:

    (a) in the atmosphere; beyond its limits, including outer space; or under water, including territorial waters or high seas; or (b) in any other environment if such explosion causes radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control such explosion is conducted. It is understood in this connection that the provisions of this subparagraph are without prejudice to the conclusion of a Treaty resulting in the permanent banning of all nuclear test explosions, including all such explosions underground, the conclusion of which, as the Parties have stated in the Preamble to this Treaty, they seek to achieve.

    2. Each of the Parties to this Treaty undertakes furthermore to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in, the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion, or any other nuclear explosion, anywhere which would take place in any of the environments described, or have the effect referred to, in paragraph 1 of this Article.

    Article II - 1. Any Party may propose amendments to this Treaty. The text of any proposed amendment shall be submitted to the Depositary Governments which shall circulate it to all Parties to this Treaty. Thereafter, if requested to do so by one-third or more of the Parties, the Depositary Governments shall convene a conference, to which they shall invite all the Parties, to consider such amendment.

    2. Any amendment to this Treaty must be approved by a majority of the votes of all the Parties to this Treaty, including the votes of all of the Original Parties. The amendment shall enter into force for all Parties upon the deposit of instruments of ratification by a majority of all the Parties, including the instruments of ratification of all of the Original Parties.

    Article III - 1. This Treaty shall be open to all States for signature. Any State which does not sign this Treaty before its entry into force in accordance with paragraph 3 of this Article may accede to it at any time.

    2. This Treaty shall be subject to ratification by signatory States. Instruments of ratification and instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Governments of the Original Parties -- the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics -- which are hereby designated the Depositary Governments.

    3. This Treaty shall enter into force after its ratification by all the Original Parties and the deposit of their instruments of ratification.

    4. For States whose instruments of ratification or accession are deposited subsequent to the entry into force of this Treaty, it shall enter into force on the date of the deposit of their instruments of ratification or accession.

    5. The Depositary Governments shall promptly inform all signatory and acceding States of the date of each signature, the date of deposit of each instrument of ratification of and accession to this Treaty, the date of its entry into force, and the date of receipt of any requests for conferences or other notices.

    6. This Treaty shall be registered by the Depositary Governments pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.

    Article IV - This Treaty shall be of unlimited duration.

    Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty three months in advance.

    Article V - This Treaty, of which the English and Russian texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Depositary Governments. Duly certified copies of this Treaty shall be transmitted by the Depositary Governments to the Governments of the signatory and acceding States.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, duly authorized, have signed this Treaty.

    DONE in triplicate at the city of Moscow the fifth day of August, one thousand nine hundred and sixty-three.

    For the Government of the United States of America

    For the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    For the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

    Photo above: Letter of Treaty, 1963, U.S. State Department. Courtesy Ourdocuments.gov. Photo below: Montage of (left) a photo of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, 2017, Marc Barronet; and (right) a Nuclear Mushroom Cloud during a U.S. test under Operations Crossroads at the Bikini Atoll, 1946. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: Ourdocuments.gov; Treaties and Other International Agreements Series 5433; General Records of the U.S. Government, Record Group 11, National Archives United States State Department; Wikipedia Commons.

    Nuclear Testing and Non-Proliferation Agreement of 1968

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