Trump Wants to Leave a Nuclear-Weapons Treaty

tags: nuclear weapons, Trump, Nuclear Weapons Treaty

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

Twice in the 20th century, the great powers tried to create a peaceful world for the long run by limiting armaments. And, with recent developments, it appears as if those efforts have twice failed. The first failure led directly to the Second World War. We do not know where the second will lead.

The first attempt at disarmament followed the First World War, which shocked Europe and persuaded many that a second such war might mean the end of civilization. The process began with the Treaty of Versailles, which the British and French forced the new German government to sign. After blaming Germany and its allies for starting the war — a judgment that later generations of historians endorsed — they limited the Germans to a tiny army of 100,000 men and a small navy without battleships of the first rank, and forbade them from having any air force at all. But the treaty also characterized these restrictions as the first step towards general disarmament, committing the victorious nations to going down the same road. They did not take immediate steps to do so, but another disarmament effort began shortly thereafter.

In 1921, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes convened the Washington Conference to discuss, among other topics, naval disarmament among the leading maritime powers, Britain, the United States, Japan, France and Italy. The United States at that time had committed itself to a Navy second to none and had decided in principle to build 48 battleships, one for every state. Hughes stunned the conference by suggesting that all the major powers drastically cut back on their future building plans.

Eventually all agreed to much smaller navies, freezing the battleships of the U.S., Britain and Japan at a 5-5-3 ratio that would in theory make it impossible for them to risk a naval war against one another. In 1930, at a second conference, they also agreed on ratios for some smaller ships.

Meanwhile, in 1932, after years of wrangling, the European powers finally sat down in Geneva to discuss a general disarmament agreement. Both the British and French governments finally realized that they had to do some disarming of their own, and perhaps allow Germany some small increases in its forces and allow it to have some different types of weapons. ...

Read entire article at Time Magazine

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