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Key Issues Nuclear Weapons History Presidential Policies Nixon Nuclear Events

President Richard M. Nixon - Nuclear Events


Nixon changes Johnsonís Sentinel ABM plan to the Safeguard plan, calling for 12 ABM sites. These plans are eventually abandoned, as key aids voice technical concerns and the SALT agreements unfold.

Kissinger Memo: Issues Concerning ABM Deployment - (The Case for ABM)
Kissinger Memo: Contractor Doubts about Safeguard - (The Case Against ABM)

Nixon and Brezhnev (USSR) begin SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) talks in Helsinki, with negotiations lasting until May 1972. Both parties strive to freeze arsenals and prevent an AMB race.

Cable from Soviet delegate Vladimir Semenov in Helsinki to US Department of State

The NPT enters into force.

US deploys the first MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle), allowing multiple nuclear weapons to be carried on a single missile.

Engine from the first MIRV, the “Minuteman III”

Nixon and signs the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof (Sea Bed Treaty) with the Chinese, Russian, French, English, and Spanish governments.

Nixon and Brezhnev (USSR) sign the Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War in Washington. The two parties also update their Hot Line.

February 1972
The Pentagon tries one last time to defend Safeguard, suggesting that it be augmented with the Hardsite Defense program. Congress denies this funding in 1973. Secretary of Defense: Rationale for Safeguard

May 1972
Nixon signs the Sea Bed Treaty.

Nixon and Brezhnev (USSR) sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (entering force on October 3rd) and the SALT Accord Interim Agreement on Strategic Offensive Arms, officially ending SALT I.

November 1972
SALT II talks begin, aiming to replace the Interim Agreement with a long-term agreement on strategic offensive weapons systems.

In the Yom Kippur War, Israel goes on nuclear alert for the first time, but succeeds using only conventional forces. Nixon and Brezhnev (USSR) are both in nuclear alert, but a cease-fire ends the crisis.

Nixon and Brezhnev (USSR) sign the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapons Tests (Threshold Test Ban Treaty), but it does not enter into force until 1990.

Nuclear Stockpiles