Q14. Discuss the nuclear arms race unleashed by Cold War.
United States had worked intensively to develop an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany could do the same under program known as Manhattan Project, since 1942. They successfully tested the first nuclear bomb at Almogordo, New Mexico. Soviet scientists successfully developed and tested their own atomic bomb in 1949.
After the advent of Cold War Americans wanted to counterbalance Soviet’s huge conventional forces by technological superiority and developed and tested Hydrogen bomb in 1952, however Russians countered with their own super bomb in 1953.
The threat and fear of nuclear war grew throughout the 1950s. Soviets were comparatively better in delievery mechanism and in 1957, they developed the first Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of delivering nuclear warheads to targets in the United States when fired from Soviet territory. The same year, the Soviets launched the first space satellite, Sputnik, raising American fears of the Russians launching nuclear attacks from outer space. Also, the Russians started developing their first long-range bomber force, another area where the United States previously had a monopoly.
increased military spending from one country led to brought a similar reaction from the other. Even the school curricula was modified to emphasize math and science in order to close the perceived “education gap”.
A series of massive atmospheric tests of Hydrogen bombs were undertaken by both countries having huge environmental impacts.
mutually assured destruction (MAD) strategy of cold war evolved out of this situation: each side built up such an immense amount of nuclear firepower known as overkill that no one would dare launch a war out of fear of massive retaliation. Both sides continued to build huge nuclear stockpiles and progressively more accurate delivery systems.
This race was prohibitively expensive because of research and development of new weapons systems because of increasing level of technology and sophistication involved. There was the danger that human or mechanical (especially computer) error could accidentally trigger World War III. Huge price tag of the arms race drove the Soviet Union into financial oblivion and help end the Cold War.