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.