Side Effects May Include Peace: Richard Nixon, the Soviet Union, and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT)
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In today’s climate, when each day seems to revisit conflicts of days gone by, particularly the Cold War, examination of the history of international relations is more important than ever. In my research, I analyzed the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between the United States and the Soviet Union. Through a close reading of recently declassified government documents including memorandums, meeting minutes, and transcripts of conversations between the negotiating powers and within the Nixon administration, I found that US diplomacy at the time was marked by inter-administration competitiveness, ignorance of other cultures, and strategic pragmatism. In this thesis, I scrutinize the early events of the nuclear age which influenced SALT, and the three-year process of the talks, from the drafting of potential treaty options to lobbying for legislative approval. I ultimately argue that SALT was not a tool of peace, but a tool to enhance President Richard Nixon’s domestic image, and to maintain the United States’ defensive power.