The arms race: How did the arms race change the cold war conflict between 1959 & 1963?

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  • Created by: Jess
  • Created on: 09-04-13 14:51
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  • How did the arms race change the Cold War conflict between 1959 & 1963?
    • Awareness of danger.
      • The danger of initiating nuclear war retained both the USA & the USSR from direct, armed confrontation.The Superpowers would not have coorporated had it not been for nuclear weapons.
    • The concept of the 'limited war'
      • Used to avoid direct confrontation. First emerged during Korean War (1950-53). USSR took no direct role in the war & despite calls of General MacArthur to use nuclear weapons against China, Truman preferred to use military tactics that ensure the war remained limited in scale.
      • Nuclear weapons forced each side to think twice before taking any measure to escalate war.
    • Massive retaliation
      • Based on the threat of using large numbers of US nuclear bombs against Communist aggression. It was hoped it would act as a deterrent.
      • It was risky business, as Kennedy found out during the Cuban missile crisis on 1962.
    • Development of Mutually Assured Destruction
      • By the early 1960s both superpowers possessed enough nuclear missiles to destroy the other & systems to ensure a counter-strike was possible even after being hit first.
      • Both sides recognised the limitations of this all-or-nothing approach and decided that a more flexible range of responses was needed.
        • This led to the strategy of counterforce, which would use smaller  targeted nuclear missiles to provide the option of using more limited action to achieve more specific objectives.
    • Attitudes to conventional weapons
      • If the devastation caused by nuclear weapons was too horrific to contemplate except as a last resort, the importance of convetional arms remained central to military strategy.
      • Attempts to reduce conventional arms were undertaken by Eisenhower & Khrushchev; both of whom saw nuclear weapons as a cheaper alternative.
      • The Korean & Vietnam wars were fought with conventional arms & showed the need to keep a numerical advantage in conventional weaponry. This would allow each side an alternative to the use of nuclear missiles, a strategy Kennedy referred to as 'Flexible response'
    • Civilian impact
      • The innovation it promoted led to computers & space technology; yet the vast economic cost of the arms race was to pace a significant burden on the populations of the Superpowers.
        • Resources that could have been used to develop adequate up-to-date consumer goods was diverted to the military.
      • The development of nuclear arms was to become a weapon by which the economic resources of the opponent could be stretched to breaking point.



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