Jeffrey LewisEdward Teller on the ABM Treaty

Another dispatch from Michael Krepon’s shoebox, this one related to late Edward Teller (right) and his argument for ratifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty:

“The ABM Treaty which is up for ratification… merely recognizes political realities. We must make a choice if we indeed care for the American people. We might decide to spend a minimum of an additional $100 billion for defense in the next five years, and thus build a full-scale antimissile defense system. No great gift of prophecy is needed to know this will not happen. The only alternative is to ratify the treaty.”

Treaty ratification usually happens by comfortable majorities or not at all. The ABM Treaty breezed through the Senate in 1972 with only two dissenting votes. Within a decade it became a rallying cry for skeptics of arms control. Teller, the “father of the H-bomb,” was not averse to oppositing treaties, but in this case, bowed to political realities. His thoughts then turned to advanced concepts of space-based weapons that would make nuclear weapons, as well as the ABM Treaty, impotent and obsolete. This quote is drawn from a National Review article Teller wrote in July, 1972.


  1. Andrew Tubbiolo (History)

    Back in ’97, Teller paid for my first few years of asteroid survey. In his eternal quest for another excuse to build bigger bombs for a better world he helped fund several asteroid survey groups. It was my last job with a direct tie to the Cold War. …. Thanks Ed.

  2. Alex W. (History)

    Boy, one could have a whole feature of just prime Edward Teller quotes. A fascinating figure, not afraid of offering up his opinions, and with half-a-century’s worth of influence.