Recent scholarship has begun to shift our understanding of Cold War diplomacy, highlighting unofficial tracks and the role of public pressure groups. This article reinterprets the existing evidence and brings new documents and secret White House recordings to bear in order to explore the important but previously overlooked role that Norman Cousins, long-time editor of The Saturday Review of Literature, played in helping to move the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty forward. In 1962–1963, Cousins twice served as John F. Kennedy's emissary to Nikita Khrushchev in the hopes of unblocking the stalled process. Although Cousins played only a small part in the larger effort, he intervened at a pivotal crossroads. His direct access to both Khrushchev and Kennedy allowed him to assuage Khrushchev's intransigence and inject fresh thinking into Kennedy's approach, ultimately cumulating in the U.S. president's now famous American University speech, which is regarded as the catalyst leading to the treaty's success.

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