Mr Oliver Barton

Mr Oliver Barton

PhD Student

Department of International History

Key Expertise
Cold War, Nuclear Strategy, NATO

About me

Oliver Barton is a part-time PhD candidate in International History at the LSE, and a Senior Principal Analyst at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Oliver read History at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and holds an MA in War Studies from King’s College London. His PhD project sheds light upon how the Thatcher Government contributed to the successful implementation of NATO’s 1979 dual track decision: the deployment by NATO of intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Western Europe, and the negotiations that led to the elimination of all American and Soviet INF systems. Oliver’s work is supervised by Professor Matthew Jones, the official historian of the UK’s strategic deterrent.

Provisional thesis title

Dual Track Diplomacy: Britain, Intermediate Nuclear Forces, and Transatlantic Relations, 1977-87

Although Britain was not a direct participant in the INF negotiations, as a NATO nuclear power, an INF basing nation, and an active player in East-West relations, Britain had considerable interest in, if not always influence over, the arms control process. Britain had three overarching objectives for INF: to maintain Allied cohesion; to strengthen NATO’s deterrence posture; and, above all, to ensure that the UK’s nuclear capabilities remained outside of any arms control negotiations. In pursuing these objectives Britain had to navigate the creative tensions inherent to the dual track decision, often fraught transatlantic relations, and fractious American interagency politics. All while remaining one-step-removed from the negotiations in Geneva and having little high-level engagement with the Soviet Union, until the arrival of Gorbachev. The end result was an INF Treaty that Her Majesty’s Government applauded, but about which Margaret Thatcher held deep misgivings both because the treaty would eliminate a category of nuclear weapons that she saw as strengthening NATO’s deterrence posture, and because of the slide towards the denuclearisation of Europe that the treaty might herald.

Expertise Details

British Defence Policy; Cold War; Arms Control; Nuclear Strategy; Deterrence Theory; Anglo-American Relations; NATO



  • "'No Special Privileges'? British Nuclear Forces, Transatlantic Relations, and the INF Negotiations" at the Oslo Nuclear Seminar, online (31 March 2021); the 2021 CIENS/PSL-ENS Nuclear Deterrence in Europe Conference, online (28 June 2021); and the 2021 NATO Early Careers Nuclear Strategists Workshop, online (7 July 2021);
  • "Whose Hand on the Button? Britain, Cruise Missiles, and the Dual Key Controversy, 1983" at 2020 British Nuclear History Conference, King's College London, online (15-24 July 2020); the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project Seminar, online (25 September 2020); the 2020 Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium, Cranfield University, online (10 November 2020); the LSE-Sciences Po Seminar in Contemporary International History, online (3 March 2021); and the 2021 Transatlantic Studies Association Conference, online (6 July 2021).
  • “Dual Track Diplomacy: Britain, Intermediate Nuclear Forces, and Transatlantic Relations, 1977-87” at 2018 Nuclear History Boot Camp, University of Rome Tré, Allumiere, Italy (15-25 June 2018); and Historical Analysis Defence & Security Symposium, Fareham, UK (26-27 June 2018).
  • “‘The Most Staunch and Dependable of the Allies’? Britain, INF, and the Zero Option, 1981-82” at Nuclear Diplomacy in the ‘Second Cold War’: New Perspectives on NATO and the Euromissiles Crisis, London School of Economics, UK (26 March 2018); and the 2018 BISA Global Nuclear Order Conference, King's College London, UK (4 December 2018);
  • “‘Special No More?’: Britain and the INF Treaty” at The INF Treaty of 1987: A Re-Appraisal, European Academy Berlin, Germany (30 November – 2 December 2017);
  • “Deterrence Communications: Theory and Practice” at UK PONI Conference 2017, London, UK (1 June 2017); and PONI 2018 Capstone Conference, Bellevue, Nebraska, US (12 April 2018).