|Fig. 1: Benard Baruch. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
The United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, killing more than 150,000 people instantly.  The use of these bombs effectively ended the Pacific Theater of World War II. It also left the United States with a monopoly on the most destructive weapon known to humankind.  The sheer devastation of these bombs began a nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was determined to develop an atomic bomb of their own, while the United States wanted to amass an arsenal of powerful atomic weapons. Throughout the arms race, there were widespread fears that humanity would not survive. A single mistake or misunderstanding could initiate the extinction of mankind. 
To avoid such a catastrophe, the United Nations passed a resolution to create a commission that would examine the use of nuclear energy and determine what institutional frameworks were needed to steer the technology toward peaceful uses.  Thus, the creation of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) in January 1946.  This established an international control over the spread and development of nuclear weapons and technology.
Bernard Baruch (see Fig. 1), on behalf of the United States, was given the responsibility to construct a proposal and present it to the UNAEC about the international control of atomic weapons, which would become the Baruch Plan.
The plan proposed to: 
extend between all countries the exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful ends
implement control of nuclear power to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes
eliminate from national armaments atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction
establish effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions.
The violations of this plan were: In the agreement, penalties of as serious a nature as the nations may wish and as immediate and certain in their execution as possible should be fixed for:
Illegal possession or use of an atomic bomb
Illegal possession, or separation, of atomic material suitable for use in an atomic bomb
Seizure of any plant or other property belonging to or licensed by the Authority
Willful interference with the activities of the Authority
Creation or operation of dangerous projects in a manner contrary to, or in the absence of, a license granted by the international control body
Baruch's proposal did provide for international control and inspection of nuclear production facilities, but clearly announced that the United States would maintain its nuclear weapons monopoly until every aspect of the proposal was in effect and working, and only once the plan was fully implemented, would the United States begin the process of destroying its nuclear arsenal.  This was an arsenal that through the research and development of the Manhattan Project had costed the United States $2 billion. 
The Soviets strongly opposed any plan that allowed the United States to retain its nuclear monopoly, not to mention international inspections of Soviet domestic nuclear facilities. Instead, the Soviet representative, Andrei Gromyko, submitted an alternative proposal. It began with a convention to prohibit the production, storage, or use of atomic weapons and to require the destruction of all such weapons.  Violations would constitute a "crime against humanity." The Soviet Union, which for four years had been racing to develop its own nuclear weapons arsenal, rejected the Baruch plan, viewing it as a disingenuous effort to freeze and legitimize the global atomic disparity and preserve an unrivaled U.S. capacity for nuclear coercion. The Soviets also saw intrusive inspections as a threat to their sovereignty. 
The failure of the plan to gain acceptance resulted in a dangerous nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union which would ultimately become the Cold War. By 1949, any discussion of international control of nuclear weapons was a moot point. In September of that year, the Soviets successfully tested a nuclear device.  During the next few years the United States and Soviet Union raced to develop an ever-more frightening arsenal of nuclear weapons, including the hydrogen bomb. Stockpiles of fearsome weapons were built up to levels far beyond any conceivable purpose, which added to the uncertainty of the era.
© Nathaniel Kucera. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
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