Cold War Arms Race Essay
Drew Valerio Prof. McNally History 268 September 6, 2012 Introduction The Cold war dated from 1947-1991. It was characterized by both political and military superiority between United States, which was backed by its NATO allies, and Soviet Union that led the communist side. The cold war was mainly started after the success of the alliance that was formed against Nazi Germany. This competition supremacy on nuclear warfare attracted other countries that also started making nuclear weapons due to the tension that existed in the world.
Both sides directed huge sums of money to their military budgets with each side trying to outdo the other. History of the cold war The relation’s gap between United States and Soviet Union were widened by their philosophical differences in both economic and political ideologies. As a result, each country started suspecting the other as fears of attack by opposing sides rose to greater heights. These differences prevented them from coming to a mutual understanding, something of which could have reduced their rivalry. Some of the key policies that widened this rivalry were for example, the case of Cuban missile crisis.
In addition, immediately after World War II the United States had monopolized the existing knowledge concerning the raw materials that were required to develop nuclear weapons. The United States thought that by owning nuclear weapons concessions as well as fear may be drawn from our counterparts but this was not the case. The Soviet Union started by trying to match nuclear weapons capabilities by working on the atomic bomb silently with a steady supply of uranium coming from Eastern Europe which provided hope to the Soviet Union.
Although the project was so expensive for the country, they succeeded in making an atomic bomb. In 1949 the Soviet Union detonated their first nuclear bomb, an aspect that caught the world unaware (Phillips, 2010). Arms race The decision by United States to drop nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945 signalled the starting of the cold war and also triggered many main aspects of the cold war. A tense moment followed when both superpowers began competing with each other in terms of nuclear arms in 1949 when USSR tested its nuclear bomb that was known as ‘Joe one’.
The weapon matched was called “Fat man” which, was dropped by United States in Japan during WWII. Once each country began to realize that their weapons matched their counterpart’s weapons, they each started funding for research that was directed towards making stronger nuclear weapons that were capable of mass destruction. This resulted in increased quantities, and quality of nuclear arsenals. The move saw both countries starting to develop a hydrogen bomb.
The United States was the first to detonate a hydrogen bomb in 1952 and following this move; the Soviet Union intensified their efforts to develop a more powerful nuclear bomb. In August 1953, the Soviet Union surprised the whole world by detonating a thermonuclear device despite not being a hydrogen bomb as many were expecting. Furthermore, in 1955, the Soviet Union exploded a hydrogen bomb an aspect that ended speculation that the country had been working on such a device (Ringer, 2005, p. 67). The next major development followed in 1957 when USSR launched the first satellite called ‘sputnik’.
This was the largest satellite that the world had ever seen, and in addition, developed long-range inter-continental ballistic missiles. These missiles were regarded as a more advanced platform of nuclear weapons and were a more effective delivery system in comparison to strategic bombers that were initially used at the starting of the cold war. The Soviet Union was therefore, able to prove to the world that they had the ability to launch a missile to any part of the world after they launched Sputnik in earth orbit.
Following this incident, each country started concentrating on advancing the level of technology that was used to develop nuclear weapons. Although United States were developing missiles, they had kept it a secret up until 1958 when it announced that they possessed missiles. This was after a public outcry that the country must rapidly build up its block of ICBM’s. The United States then went ahead to develop U-2 spy planes, which played a great role in helping United States spy the Soviet Union weapons and facilities.
This build up forced USSR to try and catch up with United States development at all costs despite its weakening economy. One of the following developments was the announcement by United States that it possessed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the third and most effective delivery system developed. The USSR maintained silence until 1968 when they too started using the new technology. This new technology came up with various new challenges because the country had very few harbours that could service its nuclear submarines (Phillips, 2003).
In 1968, the Soviet Union came up with a new development- the building of antiballistic missiles defence systems. These were to be used for nuclear, chemical, biological or even conventional warheads in the homeland defence of such a strike because they were designed to counter ICBM’s. As a method to counter this development, United States came up with multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV’s) which improved the chances of avoiding detection by ABM systems. In addition to this, United States also developed its own IBM in order to match that of Soviet Union.
During this period that countries were developing their own nuclear weapons, countries were also drafting strategies that could be used to launch these weapons. This happened despite early leaders such as Stalin and Eisenhower believing that nuclear weapon would only lead to a global catastrophe. Eisenhower’s policy stated that if attacked, the United States would respond by using any weapon that is under its possession rather than using a limited nuclear war. This policy was replaced by Kennedy’s policy, which was more flexible.
His policy emphasized more on counterforce as a more effective policy to fight a nuclear war. This strategy targeted the military rather than the public and was mainly seen by the Soviet Union as an attempt by United States to launch pre-emptive strikes in any international crisis short of war. Unfortunately this strategy failed to work during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, an aspect that led to its replacement by a more effective policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD). This policy aimed at both the military and public in order to cause mass destruction and cause maximum casualties.
The idea that was behind the formation of this policy was that risks of such a war would prevent both sides to avoid any future crisis from getting out of control. This policy was mainly a reversion of Eisenhower idea that called for massive retaliation. Conventional weapons Although the obvious features that characterized the cold war was stockpiling of nuclear warheads, new types of weapons and also delivery systems play a great role in the war. During the Cold War, the USSR had a vastly superior arsenal in comparison to any other countries in belonging to NATO.
This was in terms of troops and tanks. Despite the country being a European state, its conventional forces were also deployed along the boundaries of china. This intensified the cold war. Space race Since 1950, The Cold War was also directed towards the space. Both the Soviet Union and the United States of America tried to gain a lead in the new scientific endeavour, the exploration of space. This race towards space however, was mainly tied to military development. Some of the developments included rockets to launch nuclear warheads in space.
Each of these sides was determined to show its might no matter the economic impact that the war could have on the country and the entire world. The USSR president was determined to ensure that the Soviets won the space race, and at first USSR recorded a score of successes. In 1957, they were able to send a single man to space. In the initial stages, the USSR was able to dominate the race up to 1970’s when United States joined. President Kennedy poured money into the US space program in hopes of catching up to the successes of the Soviet Union. This helped the country to rise to the same level in terms of space technology with USSR.
In 1969, the United States sent the first person to the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin actually walked on the surface. The USSR tried to catch up with United States but had no real success (Sheehan, 2003). Spies and lies One of the Cold War features that were familiar to people from east and west was spying. One of the people that became well known by spying during the cold war was Ian Fleming. It was during this time that activities of organizations such as the CIA hit the headlines in newspapers around the world. Spying became common art to both countries as they tried to gain access to each other’s military intelligence.
Different journalists from both the United States and Soviet Union were arrested during the Cold War and accused of spying. Despite public denials by both governments that spying was not happening, both nations continued to spy each other. In addition to spying, propaganda was common during the Cold War. Both governments funded propaganda campaigns through its media (Combs, 2008, p. 17). These propaganda campaigns tried to convince the public that the steps they were taking was necessary in the defence of the people and country and that it was in their best interests.
Propaganda however, lied to the public concerning government actions such as assassinations, sabotage and support for the terrorist, which was deemed “less protective”. Impact of the cold war For a period of decades, the world experienced an intensified arm race with world superpowers trying to outdo each other. This rivalry saw the development of sophisticated weapons and intelligence services. In addition, countries started diverting their attention towards expanding their overall troop sizes and ensuring that they are properly updated at all times.
On the other hand, despite the arms race having a overall negative effect on the world, the race did have some positive impacts. As a result of arm race, countries were able to divert their attention towards technological development, an aspect that saw the world become a technological hub (Gottfried, 2003, p. 56). This in particular had a major role in the communications sector. Through the use of the satellites, other services such as maintaining security, a large improvement was made from pre Cold War times.
After four decades of the Cold War and military rivalries, the Cold War came to an end after Gorbachev assumed power in the Soviet Union. No one predicted that he could bring any changes to the rivalry that was deteriorating. After United States continued to advance technologically, USSR economy started to deteriorate. This resulted to military build up, which was at the expense of domestic development and economic growth. Gorbachev’s political and social freedoms also contributed largely to the collapse of USSR. This is because these new found freedoms created an atmosphere open for critics.
The situation in USSR became even worse after the drop of oil prices in 1985 and 1986. This was backed up by lack of foreign exchange reserves in years that followed. Making it hard for the country to purchase grain to sustain its growing population. The public started to lose its trust towards the sitting government as it was unable to satisfy its interest (Morgan, 2010). As a way to revert the situation Gorbachev started drafting new policies of ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’. Glasnost, which most simply meant openness, described a great willingness by Soviet officials to allow ideas and goods from the west to flow into the ountry. On the other hand, perestroika was an initiative that was meant to allow limited incentives of the market to Soviet citizens. The president hoped that these changes would spark off the economy, but that was not the case. Instead, country saw these as failed policies an aspect that led to unravelling of the Soviet bloc which began with Poland in June 1989. Although the soviet military tried to intervene in countries such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland the locals voted unanimously for a non-communist opposition government to form their government.
Although the whole world was watching in anxiety to see Soviet tanks roll through these countries in an attempt to prevent new governments like in Poland from taking power, Gorbachev never acted. After Poland formed an independent government, other countries started to go against dictatorship regimes and started a domino effect in favor of Democracy. As demand of the countries to gain freedom spread throughout the Soviet Union (Ganske, 2008, p. 152). This led Gorbachev with no country to rule, something that even led to his arrest and being declared under house arrest.
The turn of events shocked the world especially the United States which pumped trillions of dollars towards armament of the war that was never to be. Conclusion After the end of the Cold War, the world was left with only one superpower and one new emerging superpower. Since then countries have tried to re-establish their nuclear weapons with Russia while other up and coming countries have begun to be suspected for developing nuclear weapons.
Works Cited Combs, Dick. Inside The Soviet Alternate Universe: The Cold War’s End and the Soviet Union’s Fall Reappraised. N. p. 2008. Print. Ganske, Christian. U. S. foreign policy and the end of the Cold War. N. p. , 2008. Print. Gottfried, Ted. The Cold War. Twenty-First Century Books, 2003. Print. Morgan, Kayla. The Cold War. Minnesota: ABDO, 2010. Print. Phillips, Steve. The Cold War: Conflict in Europe and Asia. 3th ed. New York, United States: Heinemann, 2001. Print. Phillips, Steve. The Cold War: New York: Heinemann, 2003. Print. Ringer, Ronald E. Excel HSC Modern History. New York, United States: Pascal Press, 2005. Print. Sheehan, Sean. The Cold War. Black Rabbit Books, 2003. Print.