Cold War Arms Race 1949-1961

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Vicious circle/perpetuity of arms race

US developed their nuclear bomb in 1945, yet they only had a short 'monopoly period' as the USSR achieved the same feat in 1949, much earlier than the Americans had anticipated.

From then on, the nuclear arms race led to thermonuclear devices, with the US hydrogen bomb (1952) and the USSR's lithium bomb by 1953

The Baruch Plan had ultimately failed to prevent proliferation

Intercontinental bombers, B-52 (US) and the TU-20 Bear (USSR)

Atlas ICBM tested by the USA in 1957

Polaris SLBM given large investment by Kennedy in 1960

Gaither Report (1957) and the purported 'missile gap' encouraged greater production

NASA established in 1958

Development of Second Strike Capabilities

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National and personal prestige

Both sides invested heavily in the arms race to gain a boost in national prestige, as well as the prestige of their respective leaders. They were competing for ideological as well as military domination.

Launch of Soviet Tsar Bomba, most powerful nuclear device ever detonated, in 1961.

Space race and propaganda, there was hope that space technology could be used as a delivery system

Launch of Soviet Sputnik

All of these raised tensions in the third world, the US and USSR used the arms race to display the advantages of their respective systems

NASA in 1958

Policies of Massive Retaliation, Flexible Response, Brinkmanship and Counterforce

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Culture of secrecy and suspicion

There was little cooperation between the US and the USSR, the arms race expanded so quickly because they could not trust eachother.

Stalin had discovered about the Manhattan Project through spies

Failure of Baruch Plan to augment transparency because of underlying suspicion

U-2 Spyplane incident led to the collapse of the Paris Summit

Failure to pass 'Open Skies' legislation with USSR

Lockheed Skunkworks began operating in 1955

Cuban Missile Crisis >> neither side could trust each other to respect spheres of influence

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Military Industrial Complex

The effect of the post-war boom was being felt in both nations; they had no desire to reduce military spending because it provided large scale employment and kept the economy growing quickly

USA in 1960 - defense budget was $50 billion - over 50% of federal budget

In the USSR under Khrushchev, 30 million were employed in the military sector

Defense budgets given high priority in both countries

The USA had a large lobbying culture 

The USSR had many state owned military companies that the government had unlimited control over

Both economies relied heavily on their defense industries, Kennan argued that if the USSR fell, spending on defense would have to remain high because it would be an "unnacceptable shock" to the US economy.

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