Nuclear Arms Race Essay

In order to maintain peace and stability in the world, there must be a balance of power between countries. The Nuclear Arms Race started because there wasn’t a balance of power after World War II. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989) 5. The United States was the only country, at that time, which possessed nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union feared the United States would dominate the world so the Soviet Union developed a nuclear bomb of their own. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989)

This started the Arms Race, in which both countries attempted to gain the upper hand in terms of the number of nuclear warheads each possessed. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989) 5. The nuclear arms race was instrumental in shaping the Cold War. Many feared where the Cold War was going with the belief that the more nuclear weapons one had, the more powerful one was. Both America and Russia massively built up their stock piles of nuclear weapons. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989)5.

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However, the Arms Race ended when several treaties in arms reduction were passed and the Soviet Union pulled out due to lack of money. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989) 5. Fearing a nuclear war, arms negotiations began in an attempt to lessen the tension. Up until these treaties, many lived in fear of nuclear warfare as the bombs and artillery of the United States and Soviet Union increased to record numbers. Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press: 2004)

The United States became the first country in the world to use nuclear weapons when they bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Atlantic Unbound, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” available from http://www. theatlantic. com/past/docs/unbound/flashbks/hiroshima. htm; Internet; Accessed April 13th, 2011. These bombs had been dropped by planes but it soon became clear that it would be far more effective to use rockets as a means of delivering the weapon to its target. Rockets were cheaper, faster and more difficult to destroy in the air.

Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005) 40. The Soviet Union was extremely concerned by these developments. Although they had exploded their first atomic weapon in 1949, they were a long way behind the United States in nuclear technology. They had concentrated on producing large missiles that could travel long distances. Although these missiles were inaccurate and their size made them difficult to conceal, it was possible that the sheer power of these weapons and the fear that they evoked, may have stopped a nuclear war.

Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005) 63. The world greatly changed when the United States exploded the H-bomb in 1952. This one bomb was smaller in size than the Hiroshima atomic bomb but 2500 times more powerful. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989) Pullout page in center. The Russians produced an H-bomb in 1953 and the world became a much more dangerous place. Around this time, the United States produced a bomber, the B52, that could fly six thousand miles and deliver absolute destruction.

Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005) 77. This development required massive financial funding from the government which was something that America could afford to do and Russian could not. Russia concentrated on producing bigger bombs which was a far more cost effective procedure. Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press: 2004) 105. In October 1957, the world was introduced to the threats of a missile attack when Sputnik was launched.

This was what lead to Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMS). These missiles were created for long range, usually greater than 3500 miles. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989) Pullout page in center. In 1957, the United States developed the Atlas missile that could travel 6,000 miles and land within a mile of its target. The problem with the Atlas missile was that it took over an hour to prepare for firing. This undermined its effectiveness in a nuclear war. Missile Threat, “Missiles of the World” Available from http://www. issilethreat. com/missilesoftheworld/id. 15/missile_detail. asp; Internet; accessed April 13th, 2011. By the end of the 1950’s, the United States overcame this problem by developing the Minuteman missile. This missile stored its fuel in its own engines. It was now possible to fire a missile in thirty seconds. These missiles were also fairly small (54 feet long and 10 feet in diameter) and could be stored in silos under the ground, protected from an enemy attack. Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005)

Also, in response to the Sputnik launching, America built the Defense and Early Warning system around the Artic. Its function is to detect, track, and provide tactical warning and attack assessment of ballistic missiles launched against the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The radar became operational in 1953, and served as a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) listening post throughout the Cold War. NATO is an organization that constitutes a system of collective defense where its member states agree to mutually defend each other in response to an attack by any external party.

The Defense and Early Warning system is currently operated by the U. S. Air Force and is still used today. GlobalSecurity. org, “Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar System (BMEWS) at Thule (U),” available at http://www. globalsecurity. org/space/library/report/1999/nssrm/initiatives/thule. htm; Internet; accessed April 13th, 2011. At the end of the 1950’s, American Intelligence estimated that in a Russian missile attack, 20 million Americans would die and 22 million would be injured. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989) Pullout page in center.

As if these numbers were not shocking enough, during the 1960’s, the Russians invested their money into producing more missiles regardless of quality while America built fewer but better quality missiles. Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005) 70. By 1961, there were enough bombs to destroy the world in the United States and Soviet Union. Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press: 2004) 155. Despite the great threats which remained at bay, great emphasis was placed on the new weapon systems.

Mobile missile launchers were built and missiles were housed underground in silos. Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005) 74. In 1960, the first Polaris submarine was launched carrying 16 nuclear missiles. Each missile carried four warheads which could be targeted on different cities. Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005) 75. One submarine effectively carried 64 nuclear warheads.

Protected by the sea, these submarines moved close to the Soviet Union which increased the missiles’ accuracy. This was an important development, as one Polaris submarine carried more destructive power than all the bombs dropped during all of the Second World War. Science and Technology Review, “Fifty Years of Innovation through Nuclear Weapon Design,” available at https://www. llnl. gov/str/JanFeb02/JanFeb50th. html; Internet; accessed April 13th, 2011. With the development of the U-2 planes, the Soviet missile sites became very vulnerable to attack. The plane could fly at altitudes of above fourteen miles.

Fitted with cameras, the U-2 could photograph and read a newspaper headline from a height of 12 miles. In a matter of minutes, it could take 4,000 photographs that covered an area of 125 miles wide by 3,000 miles long. Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005) 260. It was now possible for the United States to work out the size and position of the Soviet forces. There was one incident where one of these planes was shot down, but the United States came back with an improved model that could fly much higher, out of missile range.

The Lockheed U-2 spy plane was an ultra light glider-like plane designed by the Lockheed Skunk Works for the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency. Its mission was to photograph Soviet military installations. Originally, it was hoped that the plane could fly so high that the Russians could not even detect it. As it turned out, although the Russians could see the U-2 on radar, it flew so high that it was out of range of their missiles and aircraft. Aerospaceweb. org “Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady Tactical Reconnaissance,” available at http://www. erospaceweb. org/aircraft/recon/u2/; Internet; accessed April 13th 2011. There was nothing they could do about it. Because the Russians could not shoot it down, the U-2 flew freely over all of Russia for four years taking pictures of all the Russians’ high security military equipment. Finally, after four years of providing the United States with the most valuable information of the Cold War, one was lost to Soviet action. Bill Yenne, Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI (New York: Berkley Publishing Group: 2005) 263.

Surprisingly, it was not actually shot down by the Russians. The Russians tried by sending up a plane to shoot down the U-2, but It could not reach it, so it shot straight up. At the same time the Russians also fired missiles at the U-2. None of them hit the U-2 but one did hit a Russian plane! It exploded and the shock waves broke off the U-2’s fragile wings. The Russians captured the pilot and plane, which definitively ended the missions over Russia for the U-2. Aerospaceweb. org “Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady Tactical Reconnaissance,” available at http://www. erospaceweb. org/aircraft/recon/u2/; Internet; accessed April 13th, 2011. In 1967, China exploded an H-bomb. Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press: 2004) 265. China was also a communist country, so, in the west, NATO felt out-numbered and they had to place more faith in nuclear missiles. The Warsaw Pact was a mutual defense treaty comprised of eight Eastern Europe states. NATO had 3. 6 million troops whereas the Warsaw Pact had 4 million. NATO had 13,000 tanks whereas the Warsaw Pact had 42,500.

And the Warsaw Pact had nearly three times as much artillery than NATO, with the Warsaw Pact at 31,500 and NATO at 10,750 units. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989) Pullout page in center. Around this same time, the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) developed. This meant that if Russia attacked the west, the west would make sure that they would retaliate. Therefore, there would be no winners. Although the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction certainly continues to be in force today.

Britains-smallwars. com “M. A. D,” availavle at http://www. britains-smallwars. com/Cold-war/MAD. htm; Internet; accessed April 13th, 2011. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, the word “detente” had been used to ease bad relations between the superpowers. Detente (French for relax) was a permanent relaxation in international affairs during the Cold War rather than just a temporary relaxation. This culminated at the Reykjavik meeting between presidents, Reagan and Gorbachev, which started real progress in the cut in nuclear weaponry. Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press: 2004) 316. By 1981, the United States had 8,000 Inter-continental ballistic missiles and the Soviet Union had 7,000 of these missiles.

It is also known that the United States had 4,000 planes capable of delivering a nuclear bomb while the Soviet Union had 5,000 planes. It was estimated that the United States had spent 178 billion dollars in 1981, on defense, and over 367 billion by 1986. Also, by 1986, an estimate of nuclear warheads throughout the world reached 40,000 units. Ronald E. Powaski, March to Armageddon (New York: Oxford University Press: 1989) Pullout page in center This was the equivalent of one million Hiroshima bombs. British Intelligence estimated that just one medium sized H-bomb on London would essentially destroy anything living up to 30 miles away. Buzzle. com, “Cold War Facts,” available at http://www. buzzle. com/articles/cold-war-facts. html; Internet; accessed on April 13th, 2011 Confronted by such awesome statistics, world leaders moved into positions where they trusted each other more. President Ronald Reagan had a great deal to do with the end of the Cold War and the end of the nuclear arms race.

Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press: 2004) 320. Reagan was a visionary who sought the end of the nuclear arms race with the Soviets. His Cold War policy was based on bringing an end to the development and accumulation of nuclear weapons both in the United States and the Soviet Union. Through a series of treaties between the United States and Soviet Union, the Nuclear Arms Race came to an end after nearly 40 years. Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press: 2004) 322.

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