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The Baruch Plan was a proposal by the United States government, written largely by Bernard Baruch but based on the Acheson–Lilienthal Report, to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) during its first meeting in June 1946. The United States, Great Britain and Canada called for an international organization to regulate atomic energy and President Truman responded by asking Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson and David E. Lilienthal to draw up a plan. Baruch's version of the proposal was rejected by the Soviet Union, who feared the plan would preserve the American nuclear monopoly. Its collapse led to the beginning of the Cold War arms race.
The US agreed to turn over all of its weapons on the condition that all other countries pledge not to produce them and agree to an adequate system of inspection. The Soviets rejected this plan on the grounds that the United Nations was dominated by the United States and its allies in Western Europe, and could therefore not be trusted to exercise authority over atomic weaponry in an evenhanded manner (Nationalist China, a UN Security Council member with veto privileges, was anti-communist and aligned with the US at this time). The USSR insisted that America eliminate its own nuclear weapons before considering proposals for a system of controls and inspections.
Although the Soviets showed increased interest in the cause of arms control after they became a nuclear power in 1949, and particularly after the death of Stalin in 1953, the issue of the Soviet Union submitting to international inspection was always a thorny one upon which many attempts at nuclear arms control were stalled. Crucially, the Baruch Plan suggested that none of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council would be able to veto a decision to punish culprits. In presenting his plan to the United Nations, Baruch stated:
We are here to make a choice between the quick and the dead. That is our business. Behind the black portent of the new atomic age lies a hope which, seized upon with faith, can work our salvation. If we fail, then we have damned every man to be the slave of fear. Let us not deceive ourselves; we must elect world peace or (elect) world destruction.
The Baruch Plan was not agreed to by the Soviet Union, and though debate on the matter continued until 1948, it was not seriously advanced later than the end of 1947. The USSR was, at the time of the negotiations, pursuing their own atomic bomb project, and the United States was continuing its own weapons development and production. With the failure of the plan, both nations embarked on programs of weapons development, innovation, production, and testing as part of the overall nuclear arms race of the Cold War.
Bertrand Russell urged control of nuclear weapons in the 1940s and early 1950s to avoid the likelihood of a general nuclear war, and felt hopeful when the Baruch Proposal was made. In late 1948 he suggested that "the remedy might be the threat of immediate war by the United States on Russia for the purpose of forcing nuclear disarmament on her." Later he thought less well of the Baruch Proposal as "Congress insisted upon the insertion of clauses which it was known that the Russians would not accept."
In his 1961 book Has Man a Future?, Russell described the Baruch plan as follows:
The United States Government ... did attempt ... to give effect to some of the ideas which the atomic scientists had suggested. In 1946, it presented to the world what is now called "The Baruch Plan", which had very great merits and showed considerable generosity, when it is remembered that America still had an unbroken nuclear monopoly. The Baruch Plan proposed an International Atomic Development Authority which was to have a monopoly of mining uranium and thorium, refining the ores, owning materials, and constructing and operating plants necessary for the use of nuclear power. It was suggested that this Authority should be established by the United Nations and that the United States should give it the information of which, so far, America was the sole possessor. Unfortunately, there were features of the Baruch Proposal which Russia found unacceptable, as, indeed, was to be expected. It was Stalin's Russia, flushed with pride in the victory over the Germans, suspicious (not without reason) of the Western Powers, and aware that in the United Nations it could almost always be outvoted.
The Baruch Plan is often questioned by scholars (such as David S. Painter, Melvyn Leffler, and James Carroll) on whether it was a legitimate effort to achieve global cooperation on nuclear control.