1 July, 1968 is a largely unremarkable date for most people. It came a few weeks after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, a few weeks before the Palestinian Liberation Organisation hijacked its first El Al plane. In South East Asia, the Vietnam conflict rumbled on and in August, a new reminder of Cold War differences would emerge in Czechoslovakia.
All of these events gained major headlines and chapters in history books. But less covered, both then and since, was the treaty signed on 1 July, 1968 which may have proved to have had a longer lasting influence than all of these other events and many others since. That day, the world started the ball rolling towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons by setting up the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Today, the NPT is the treaty with the most signatories in the world. It has largely prevented nearly all non-nuclear states from obtaining these weapons. And it put a focus on nuclear states to try to start moving towards eliminating them.
This year, the treaty is more important than ever as issues such as Iran's nuclear programme, controlling loose nuclear materials and new nuclear arsenal reductions have all risen up the international agenda.
So, as the NPT celebrates its 40th birthday (it came into force in March 1970), NATO Review asks experts how the treaty can adapt to changes in those seeking nuclear weapons (such as terrorist organisations), whether its rules can really be enforced and whether 2010 will be a key year for nuclear issues.
Paul King, Editor