Atomic diplomacy refers to attempts to use the threat of nuclear warfare to achieve diplomatic goals. After the first successful test of the atomic bomb in 1945, U.S. officials immediately considered the potential non-military benefits derived from the American nuclear monopoly. In the years that followed, there were several occasions in which government officials used or considered atomic diplomacy.
During the Second World War, the United States, Britain, Germany, and the U.S.S.R. were all engaged in scientific research to develop the atomic bomb. By mid-1945, however, only the United States had succeeded. It used two atomic weapons on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to bring a rapid and conclusive end to the war with Japan. U.S. officials did not debate at length whether to use the atomic bomb against Japan. Still, they argued that it was a means to a faster end to the Pacific conflict that would ensure fewer conventional war casualties. They did, however, consider the role that the bomb’s impressive power could play in postwar U.S. relations with the Soviet Union.
While presiding over the U.S. development of nuclear weapons, President Franklin Roosevelt decided not to inform the Soviet Union of the technological developments. After Roosevelt’s death, President Harry Truman decided whether to continue this policy of guarding nuclear information. Ultimately, Truman mentioned a particularly destructive bomb to Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin at the Allied meeting at Potsdam. Still, he did not provide specifics about the weapon or its uses. By mid-1945, it was clear the Soviet Union would enter into the war in the Pacific and thereby be in a position to influence the postwar balance of power in the region.