Preserving the global nuclear order: The Trident agreements and the arms control debate, 1977-82

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The Trident negotiations were a pivotal moment in establishing the US-UK nuclear relationship as an accepted element of the global nuclear order. The Trident agreements marked the first supply of a US delivery system to the UK since the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the development of Superpower arms control. In turn, the development of these agendas in the international sphere influenced Anglo-American discussions on the replacement to Polaris. The Carter White House procrastinated on the provision of Trident due in part to their concerns over the political ramifications for their wider non-proliferation and arms control goals. However, fortuitously for the UK’s nuclear programme, US-UK discussions on the replacement to Polaris coalesced with the reorientation of US foreign policy towards containment of the Soviet Union under Jimmy Carter and then Ronald Reagan – enabling the finalisation of the sale of Trident to the UK. As such, the status of the US-UK nuclear relationship as a broadly accepted element of the global nuclear order is a legacy of the ‘long 1970s’ alongside the early Cold War.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1174-1190
Number of pages17
JournalInternational History Review
Issue number5
Early online date5 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • Thatcher
  • Reagan
  • Carter
  • Anglo-American
  • US-UK Relations

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