The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in Moscow on August 5, 1963 after eight years of negotiations between the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. A turning point in those negotiations came after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when both President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev, having faced the possibility of nuclear war, opened a more substantive dialogue. Though this treaty was limited in scope, it paved the way for later arms agreements.


Students will:

  • analyze a political cartoon.
  • interpret the language of an international treaty.
  • assess the opportunities and difficulties for the United States in negotiating and signing a nuclear test ban treaty in the early 1960s.
  • consider the challenges all nations face in developing international arms treaties.

National History Standards

U.S. History: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s), Era 9: 2
Contemporary United States (1968 to the present), Era 10: 1C
World History: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes, Era 9: 1BHistorical Thinking: 1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B, 2C, 4A, 5A, 5B, 5C, 5D, 5E, 5F

MA Frameworks Connections

USII.18, USII.19, WH.32


  1. Have students read the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty overview from the Kennedy Library website:
  2. Provide students with the reading, Negotiations on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: “How About One More Try?” (doc) and examine the editorial cartoon by Herb Block from May 29, 1963, drawn in response to Kennedy’s May 22 Press Conference.

    Discuss the following: 
    What does the saying "The genie is out of the bottle" mean? 
    Have students analyze the political cartoon by: 

    –listing the objects or people they see in the cartoon.
    –identifying the cartoon caption and/or title.
    –considering which of the objects are symbols; what do they think each symbol means. 
    –describing the action taking place in the cartoon. 
    –explaining how the words in the cartoon clarify the symbols. 
    –explaining the message of the cartoon. 
    –considering what special interest groups would agree/disagree with the cartoon’s message, providing their reasoning.

    A handout for cartoon analysis is available from NARA. 

    Discuss with students:
    Do you think the cartoonist is saying that the genie can or can't be put back in the bottle when it comes to putting nuclear weapons under control? Explain.

    What were some of the challenges in getting the genie back in bottle in 1963? What were some of the opportunities for getting the genie in the bottle? What role did the Cuban Missile Crisis and its aftermath play in promoting negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union? What public signals did Kennedy send to the Soviet Union of his desire for a nuclear test ban agreement (consider his American University speech of June 10, 1963)?
  3. Have students read the finalized Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963. (Or to see signatories, click here.)
    Note for students that the United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France were the only countries that had previously tested nuclear weapons. However, it was known that China was preparing to test.
    What are the major points of agreement noted in the Preamble?
    What are the major provisions of the agreement in Article I?
    Why was Article III necessary? (What needs to happen in the United States for an international treaty to become law?)
    What are the key provisions in Article IV?
    What major players did not sign the treaty? How many nations signed it?
  4. For Homework, have students write an essay responding to these questions: To what extent might the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963 have helped “put the genie back into the bottle”? (What aspects of the Treaty would help “put the genie in the bottle”? What would discourage it? What provisions do you think might have been added or deleted to make the agreement stronger?)
  5. Provide students with a nuclear testing chronology from 1945 to 1998 and discuss the history of nuclear testing from 1963 to the present. Note that the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union complied with the LNTB agreement and did not test nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, space, or underwater, although they each continued a significant number of underground tests until the early 1990s. Also, discuss how this agreement paved the way for future non-proliferation agreements.


Have students look at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Signed by President Clinton in 1996, and have them write about or discuss as a group why the Senate did not ratify it.

Additional URLS on nuclear non-proliferation treaties

Chronology of Key Events in Nuclear Non-Proliferation
From the International Atomic Energy Agency, this web page provides a chronology of key events in Nuclear Non-Proliferation from 1945 to the present.

Timeline of Nuclear Treaties
From the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, this site includes a nuclear chronology from 1932 to 2011.

The Making of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1958-1963
This web page not only provides an excellent essay from the National Security Archive, but also includes links to a large number of primary sources.