Public Diplomacy for the Nuclear Age: The United States, the United Kingdom, and the End of the Cold War
Eames, Anthony Marshall
Painter, David S
During the 1980s, public diplomacy campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic competed for moral, political, and scientific legitimacy in debates over arms control, the deployment of new missile systems, ballistic missile defense, and the consequences of nuclear war. The U.S. and U.K. governments, led respectively by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and backed by a network of think tanks and political organizations associated with the New Right, sought to win public support for a policy of Western nuclear superiority over the Soviet bloc. Transatlantic peace movement and scientific communities, in contrast, promoted the language and logic of arms reduction as an alternative to the arms race. Their campaigns produced new approaches for relating scientific knowledge and the voice of previously neglected groups such as women, racial minorities, and the poor, to the public debate to illuminate the detrimental effects of reliance on nuclear weapons for Western society. The conflict between these simultaneously domestic and transnational campaigns transformed the nature of diplomacy and public diplomacy, in which official and unofficial actors engaged transnational publics in order to win support for their policy preferences, emerged as an important complement to state-based institutional channels of international relations.The public dimension of diplomacy that flourished in the “nuclear 1980s” altered American and British perceptions of the Cold War, creating space for Western leaders to respond positively to moves by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to deescalate and demilitarize the Cold War. The Thatcher government exploited Britain’s position as an essential conduit for U.S.-Soviet diplomacy and as an independent nuclear actor, even as elements of British society embraced disarmament ideas. Years of competing with the antinuclear movement for public support and the influence of the Thatcher government led Reagan and his second Secretary of State George Shultz, to engage with Gorbachev in efforts to end the arms race and the Cold War. Thus, although the antinuclear movement initially failed to prevent the deployment and development of new nuclear systems, it succeeded in creating a climate in which major nuclear arms reductions agreements could be reached.
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