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"Das Vadanya" to the Multilateral Force: The Soviet Union's Role in the Johnson Administration's Decision to Abandon the MLF Público Deposited

The Multilateral Force (MLF) was a proposed nuclear sharing arrangement between the United States and a number of its NATO partners. Proposed in 1958, the MLF was debated until about 1965 or 1966 and was often distinguished by its controversial nature and failure to gain traction. This paper examines documents from the Digital National Security Archive (DNSA), Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, and various secondary sources to evaluate the extent to which the Soviet Union contributed to the MLF’s failure as an initiative. The Force is often treated as a narrow and highly technical policy debate by existing literature. However, examination of these documents highlighted the necessity of viewing the Force as a topic of distinct political import in American-Soviet nuclear negotiations. While technical disputes over the MLF’s constitution was an immediate cause of its demise, U.S. policymakers also faced strategic incentives not to pursue the treaty. In particular, the documents reflect growing belief within the Johnson administration that exiting the agreement could improve broader bilateral relations with the Soviet Union and ensure that the international community could continue to make progress on the creation of a nuclear non-proliferation agreement.

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