The Cold War and Anti-Nuclear Protests in Europe

The Cold War and Anti-Nuclear Protests in Europe


The article explores the attitudes and responses of European nations towards the Cold War threat and nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. It examines how anti-nuclear protests were received and how they shaped public opinion, with a focus on countries such as Britain, West Germany, France, and Greece. The article highlights the challenges faced by the anti-nuclear movement and the reasons for the limited success they had in most countries.

Table of Contents

  • Britain and Nuclear Weapons
  • The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)
  • West Germany and the Cold War
  • French Nuclear Power
  • Anti-Nuclear Protest in Europe
  • Conclusion


Britain and Nuclear Weapons

Q: What was the prevailing attitude towards nuclear weapons in Britain in the 1950s and early 1960s?

A: In the early 1950s, British citizens were fearful of nuclear war and expressed concerns about atomic bombs and civil defense, but the fear dissipated after the Korean War. Most people believed that possession of nuclear weapons was necessary for safeguarding against attack.

Q: Did anyone in Britain oppose nuclear weapons at this time?

A: Opposition to Britain’s nuclear capability was limited to a small minority initially, with most supporters being mainly from the Labour Party. However, a more significant anti-nuclear campaign was launched in 1958 by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

Q: How successful was the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in Britain?

A: Although the CND had significant support from mainly Labour supporters, it never gained majority backing, even within the party. Fear of imminent nuclear war reached its peak during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, but the Test Ban Treaty’s signing the following year provided cautious optimism. Fatalistic acceptance of the situation remained the norm.

Q: Did the CND movement inspire anti-nuclear protests in other European countries?

A: Yes, the CND movement in Britain inspired anti-nuclear campaigns in other Western European countries. Some countries emphasized unilateral disarmament, while others were focused on a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.

West Germany and the Cold War

Q: How did West Germany respond to the Cold War threat?

A: West Germany believed that it was in the front line of Cold War confrontation and feared another war, with many people believing that a future war would entail the use of atomic weapons.

Q: Did anti-nuclear protests gain ground in West Germany during the Cold War?

A: Despite anxieties, anti-nuclear protests made relatively little progress in West Germany during the most dangerous phase of the Cold War and held little appeal for the majority of the German population due to concerns about the perceived communist threat.

French Nuclear Power

Q: What was the attitude towards nuclear power in France?

A: In France, the anti-nuclear protest movement also faced great difficulties, with the French bomb seen as a prestige symbol indicating the country’s status as a great power.

Q: Did the French anti-nuclear campaign face opposition from the political and military establishment?

A: Yes, the anti-nuclear movement gained support among the well-educated middle classes and the far left, but it ran up against the opposition of the political establishment, the military, and most of the press, and failed to win over the majority of the population.

Anti-Nuclear Protest in Europe

Q: Was there widespread support in Western Europe for nuclear disarmament?

A: Yes, opinion surveys revealed widespread and increasing support in Western Europe for complete nuclear disarmament of all countries, with many people calling for an immediate ban on testing nuclear weapons.

Q: Was the anti-nuclear campaign successful in Eastern Europe?

A: In Eastern Europe, open opposition to the regime’s policy on nuclear weapons was not possible due to the heavily controlled public opinion by state-controlled media and propaganda. The views of most people are unknown, although the official stance of the regime on nuclear weapons was likely not wholly aligned with popular views.


In conclusion, the responses of European nations to the Cold War threat and nuclear weapons varied widely, with Britain, West Germany, and France having different approaches that shaped anti-nuclear protests and campaigns. Despite widespread support for nuclear disarmament in Western Europe, the movement faced significant opposition from political and military establishments and failed to gain momentum, with people mostly accepting their inability to change the situation becoming the norm.

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