Did Nuclear Parity Between the USA and USSR Make the World More or Less Secure

looks at whether the nuclear parity between the Soviet Union and the USA that occurred during the nuclear arms race made the world more or less secure

a2 history with edexcel

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  • Created on: 27-06-12 17:18
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1. Did nuclear parity between the USA and USSR make the world more or less secure?
The nuclear parity between the USA and the USSR arguably made the world less secure as both sides
now had enough weapons of mass destruction to destroy the other's economy, country and the
world. However, this fact did force both sides to acknowledge the situation and, consequently,
created a nuclear stalemate. Yet, despite this, the world was still less secure as the mutually assured
destruction (MAD) encouraged each side to strike first.
2. What did the USSR stand to gain from détente?
The USSR stood to gain crucial foreign technology, exports in oil and gas to the West (brought in
dollars), technical experts, money, a reduction in military spending that lead to more funds being
diverted towards consumer goods, and the decision that post-Second World War boundaries in
Europe would be retained and that force would not be used to change frontiers. The USSR also
gained artistic and sporting exchanges and tourist visits to Moscow and Leningrad.
3. What definite conclusions can we draw from SALT's failure to include MIRVs?
SALT's failure to include MIRVs in the agreement kept the Americans ahead of the Soviets in terms of
nuclear weapons, causing instability. However, arguably the most significant reason for leaving out
MIRVs in SALT being a failure was outlined by historian, Stephen Ambrose. He said it was a `strange
way to control the arms race' seeing as "the restrictions on ICBMs but not on MIRVs was `about as
meaningful as freezing the cavalry of the European nations in 1938 but not the tanks.'"
4. Why should invading Afghanistan have undermined the Soviet regime when Vietnam did not
have the same effect on America?
Due to the failure of the Soviet economy, the USSR could not afford a termination in grain supplies
and trade with the USA. Consequently, the invasion of Afghanistan ­ and collapse of détente ­ meant
that the Soviet regime was undermined. Comparatively, the USA, though significantly economically
damaged by the Vietnam War, was still able to sustain itself. This therefore meant that, unlike the
Soviet Union, it was not undermined.

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