Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
O'Driscoll, Mervyn;
Journal of Cold War Studies
Explosive Challenge: Diplomatic Triangles, the United Nations, and the Problem of French Nuclear Testing, 1959-1960
Optional Fields



Why did les Anglo-Saxons indulge de Gaulle's atomophilia? Had they not agreed a distinctly non-proliferationist line towards France in 1957? The answer to this is multifaceted and lies in an appreciation of the interdependence that had come to characterize the West. Relative British economic decline was self-evident by this juncture and Macmillan commenced the reorientation of Britain towards the EEC. De Gaulle was the key obstacle to British efforts to join the EEC and France was crucial player in Western security. On Cold War matters Macmillan desired de Gaulle's agreement to hold a four-power summit with the Soviet Union in an effort to achieve détente. From the US perspective similarly it was unwise to unduly alienate France, a key member of NATO.


France's first nuclear tests in Algeria in 1960 occurred at a critical moment in the Cold War. The tests posed a serious dilemma for both Washington and London. The three nuclear weapons states had suspended their tests, test ban talks were occurring in Geneva, an increasing number of African and Asian states were represented in the United Nations General Assembly, and the old European imperial states were decolonizing in earnest. Prime Minister Macmillan faced a vociferous 'Ban the Bomb' movement and he was a tenacious pursuer of détente. The US State Department wished to prevent Soviet propaganda in the Third World. Nonetheless both Britain and America adopted a sensitive and sympathetic stance towards Charles de Gaulle's France in the run-up to the first test in February 1960. Britain limply represented the concerns of Nigeria and other soon-to-be independent African territories, still under British control, to the French. It co-sponsored a diversionary resolution in the United Nations during November 1959 in order to prevent undue Afro-Asian criticism of France¿s conduct. Although the American administration was of less overt assistance in efforts to deflect criticism of the first French test, nonetheless it too adopted a more understanding posture towards Paris than might be expected.


MIT Press, MA, Cambridge USA
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