1950s |

Antarctica Made A Military-Free Continent – 12/1/1959

On this day in 1959, the Antarctica Treaty, which is the first arms control, was signed after the cold war period. The United States, Soviet Union and twelve countries, sign the Antarctica Treaty, which bans military activity and weapons testing on the continent.

Back as the 1800s, Great Britain, Australia, Chile, and Norway, including several countries had claimed to own parts made of Antarctica. As a result, there were diplomatic disputes as well as armed conflicts between countries that had interest in the region. In fact, Argentina military forces opened fire on British troops concerning an area claimed by both countries in 1948. 

All these armed clashes coupled with proof linking the Soviet Union to having interest in the continent made the United States recommend that Antarctica should be made a trustee of the United Nations. Immediately, countries that were interested in the continent reject the idea claiming they cannot surrender their claims of sovereignty to the U.N.

Additionally, in the early 1950s, some of United States government officials started agitating for a more active U.S. role in Antarctica hoping that the continent might be useful for military activities and nuclear weapon testing. However, President Dwight D. Eisenhower devised an alternative strategy to settle territorial claims by concerned nations. United States diplomats alongside their Soviet partners drafted a treaty that made Antarctica a military-free zone and adjourned settling regional cases for future discussion. The Antarctica Treaty emphasize that there would be no military presence on the continent, and no testing of weapons of any kind, including nuclear weapons.

In addition, scientific research was permitted, and researchers would not be barred from going through any of the regions claimed by different countries. Twelve countries signed the treaty, and since the document did not specifically alter issues of territorial claims in Antarctica, countries with territorial claims on the continent append their signatures to the document. In view of this, the treaty indicated little but major move towards U.S. - Soviet arms control and political cooperation. On June 1961, the treaty became effective, setting the standard for the fundamental policies that keep on governing Antarctica.

The main purpose of the Antarctica Treaty is to safeguard the interest of every human, and make Antarctica a peaceful continent and not a ground to creating international disharmony.

Share On Facebook

Kelly Sutherland


Hi! I'm Kelly. My favorite time period was the 70s. I had a boatloads of fun traveling around with my close friends spreading love and just living my life to the fullest... if you know what I mean ;) Now I enjoy sitting in my cozy nook writing and learning about history.