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In the early 1960s, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev each expressed deep concern about the strength of their respective nations’ nuclear arms forces. This concern led them to complete the first arms control agreement of the Cold War, the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963.
====Negotiations for a Test Ban began in 1958====
The three countries entered into negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty in 1958. Having recently completed rounds of tests, at that time all three entered into a voluntary moratorium on all forms of testing, initiated first by the Soviet Union but later adhered to by the United States and Great Britain. In spite of this willingness to self-restrict testing, one of the most difficult issues preventing the conclusion of a formal treaty was the question of verification. The United States and Great Britain, in particular, pushed for on-site inspections of Soviet facilities as, without them, it was impossible to determine whether the Soviets were continuing underground nuclear tests or just experiencing the frequent seismic activity to which its geographic area was prone.
====China nuclear program and the Cuban Missile Crisis convinced US, USSR, and Great Britain to restart talks====
Over the course of the next year, however, the situation changed dramatically for a number of reasons. Concerns about nuclear proliferation increased interest in the testing ban, as France exploded its first weapon in 1960 and the People’s Republic of China appeared close to successfully building its own atom bomb.
However, it was the rapid escalation of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 that compelled leaders in both the United States and the Soviet Union to pursue more aggressively an agreement that could help them avoid the devastating destruction that nuclear warfare would bring. Although the crisis provided the impetus for an agreement, its final negotiation was made possible by the decision to step back from the original idea of a comprehensive test ban treaty and work instead on a more limited arrangement.
Atmospheric and underground tests proved equally effective for scientific purposes, so there was no reason to insist that access to both types of testing remain available. In past negotiations, the inability to detect underground explosions and agree on provisions for inspections to ensure such explosions were not taking place became a problem that prevented an agreement. Once the Soviet Union and the United States decided that underground testing would not be included in this first treaty, the two sides very quickly reached terms they could agree upon.