Nearly all of the world’s nations come together to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The deal is simple: States with nuclear weapons vow to help the treaty’s other signatories develop nuclear power if they promise not to produce weapons. The nuclear weapon states also pledge to abolish their own arsenals when political conditions allow for it. Israel, India, and Pakistan refuse to sign, but the Bulletin remains cautiously optimistic: “The great powers have made the first step. They must proceed without delay to the next one—the dismantling, gradually, of their own oversized military establishments.”
After more than 20 years vying for arms, the United States and Soviet Union sign two treaties that attempt to curb the race for nuclear superiority in favor of rough parity between the superpowers. The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) limits the number of ballistic missile launchers either country can possess. The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty seeks to stop a race for weapons designed to shoot down an adversary’s incoming nuclear missiles. SALT leaves the two countries with thousands of warheads pointed at each other, and the United States eventually withdraws from the ABM Treaty.
Eugene Rabinowitch dies and the Bulletin’s board of directors assumes the responsibility for setting the Doomsday Clock. Before making decisions, the directors consult scientific and other expert colleagues, especially the distinguished members of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors.
South Asia gets the bomb, as India tests its first nuclear device. Any gains in previous arms control agreements seem like a mirage. The United States and Soviet Union appear to be modernizing their nuclear forces, not reducing them. Thanks to the deployment of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV), both countries can now load their intercontinental ballistic missiles with more nuclear warheads than before.
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