Introduction: The Strategic Defence Initiative and the Atlantic Alliance in the 1980s

Brunet, Luc-Andre (2022). Introduction: The Strategic Defence Initiative and the Atlantic Alliance in the 1980s. In: Brunet, Luc-Andre ed. NATO and the Strategic Defence Initiative: A Transatlantic History of the Star Wars Programme. Cold War History. London: Routledge.

URL: https://www.routledge.com/NATO-and-the-Strategic-D...

Abstract

This chapter introduces the topic and themes of the volume. While existing literature on the SDI has largely focused on its influence on superpower relations during the final years of the Cold War, this chapter explores the impact it had on transatlantic relations, specifically with NATO allies. President Reagan’s SDI speech of March 1983, and the invitation by Secretary of Defense Weinberger two years later for NATO allies to formally join the SDI research programme, provoked tensions within the Alliance during an already febrile period of the Cold War. The chapter explains the responses of eight different NATO governments to the American initiative, and why some opted to join the SDI and why others refused. It also outlines the responses to the SDI among peace organisations, civil society, and the commentariat, highlighting the impact of Star Wars across society. It then considers why, having placed significant strains on relations between the US and its Allies, the SDI ultimately did not lead to an even deeper crisis within NATO in the 1980s.

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