Cold War Arms Race

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Development of Weapons

  • UN had $58 billion on defense requirements
  • Stalin had tested their first atomic bomb in 1949 and ended US monopoly
  • Truman then commissioned the developement of the Hydrogen bomb and thermo-nuclear bombs
  • USA's Mike Tests in November 1952 resulted in a megaton explosion, bombs were 1000x more powerful than the ones in China, mushroom cloud of 41,000 metres
  • Soviets produced their own H-bomb within a year and tested it in August 1953- Joe 4, the 'Third Idea' bomb in November 1955 showed Soviets had caught up with the USA
  • Both sides saw their weapons as vital for security 
  • 1950-60 number of US warheads went from 1000-18,000
  • Battlefeild tactical nucelar weapons stationed in West Germany in 2953
  • 1961 speech by Khrushchev announced the successful testing of a 50-megaton bomb, but the CIA proved this was an impossibility as it could not be loaded onto an ICBM
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Impact of Weapons Development

  • MAD: mutually assured destruction- if one side uses nuclear weapons then the other will too
  • Prolferation: fear of nuclear knowledge being spread
  • Counterforce: Kennedy's policy to have a limited nuclear war, only targeting miltary targets
  • Military industrial complex: booming trade from the manufacture of weapons
  • Balance of terror existed between the two which detered direct miltary conflict which could esculate into nuclear war
  • The superpowers had to respect each other's spheres of influence
  • Development of new weapons but a massive strain of the economies of both
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Delivery Systems

  • During 1950s-60s superpowers developed four delivery systems: strategic bombers, ICBMs, short-range missiles and ballstic missles fired from submarines
  • 1956 Soviets deployed the TU20 Bear- long range bomber which could reach US territory, but bombers were slow and therefore could be intercepted
  • Successful Soviet ICBM test May 1957 and launch of Sputnik later, showed the Soviet technology was more powerful and caused panic in the USA
  • USA focused on deploying IRBMs in the 1950s which had a smaller range than ICBMs but could target the Soviets when placed in Europe/ Middle East
  • By early 1960s USA had developed ICBMs that were superior to the Soviets'
  • USA developments
    • Long-range bomber B52 Stratofortress in 1955- could reach Soviets from US bases
    • Explorer 1 launch in 1958, first US space satellite
    • Polaris sumbmarines in 1960- could fire missiles from the ocean
    • Successful test of Minuteman ICBM in 1961- capable of striking Soviet territory from the USA
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Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Cuban Revolution of 1959 led to a communist regime under Castro
  • Khrushchev formed trade links to buy sugar after the USA broke off, and was allowed to station missiles on Cuba 160 km away from USA
  • Khrushchev planned to send 40 missiles and 50,000 soliders to Cuba as well as sustaining a communist regime
  • USA tried to overthrow Castro with Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and through Operation Mongoose
  • Khrushchev though pressure from Cuba would make the USA surrender West Berlin and withdraw Jupiter missiles from Turkey
  • Missles were deployed August 1962 and were spotted by US spy planes in October
  • Kennedy established a naval blockade, which worked when Soviet ships reached the line
  • 25th October UN Security Council set up, attempts to turn international opinion against USSR
  • 26th October Kennedy recieved a telegram from Khrushchev proposing if Kennedy removed his missiles then Khrushchev would remove his, this was then repelled in a second telegram
  • Spy plane was shot down over Cuba, by Kennedy did not start war but negotiated with the Soviets to agree to the first terms, and to allow Cuban independance 
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Consequences of Cuba

  • No public statement of withdrawal of Turkey missles but Cuban withdrawal announced 28th October- made Khruschev seem weak in Moscow, one of the reasons he was ousted in 1964
  • Kennedy was praised for his peacefull resolution without backing down
  • Both sides realised the seriousness of nuclear war and how close it had come
  • Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963
    • Banned the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, space and under water
    • No reduction of armaments- couldn't prevent defence of security
    • Stockpiling of warheads and future production still allowed
  • Superpower hot line set up to improve communication
  • USSR miltary policy change- Brezhnev stepped up production of warheads to aim to achieve  nuclear parity with the USA
  • Nuclear disparity caused instability:
    • US generals advised aggressive policies because they assumed USA would be victorious in war
    • Khrushchev's aggressive policies were a bluff to make the West believe the USSR was stonger
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