The Arms Race


The USA and the USSR began an Arms Race

  • During the Cold War, the USA and the USSR worked to develop the most powerful weapons they could- there was an arms race
  • Neither side really wanted to use these weapons, but they both felt the other couldn't be allowed to gain an advantage.  The fear was that if either gained a significant military advantaged, that country might be tempted to trigger a war to take advantage of it
  • Instead, a stand-off developed where both countries didn't act against each other, but didn't get left behind either
  • This competition sometimes spilled over into other areas, e.g. when the USSR launched the first satellite into space, the USA quickly developed one of its own.  The space race led to the USSR sending the first man into space in 1961, and the USA sending astronauts to the Moon in 1969
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Both Countries Developed Nuclear Stockpiles

1. The USA had developed its atom bomb during the Second World War

2. The USSR wasn't far behind and in 1949 succeeded in exploding its own atom bomb

3. The USA detonated the first hydrogen bomb in 1952

4. The USSR followed with its own hydrogen bomb by 1955

5. 1957- the USSR test-fired the first ICBM, which could strike the USA after being launched from within the USSR, which was virtually unstoppable

6. The USA's Atlas ICBM was launched later the same year, and the USA quickly increased its stock of these missiles until it had a significant advantage over the USSR

7. The USSR began catching up again as American resources were diverted into a war in Vietnam

  • By this point, the USSR and the USA had the power to destroy each other and as tensions increased, the threat of a nuclear war became a real possiblity
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Khrushchev raised hopes of 'peaceful co-existence'

  • Stalin died in 1953 and Khrushchev took power
  • He said he wanted 'peaceful co-existence' with the West and his words brought how that there would be a thaw in the Cold War
  • But Khrushchev remained very competitive with the USA- because he continued to develop weapons, the West still felt threatened, so the arms race didn't slow down
  • He wanted communism to spread but thought the best way to achieve this was to clearly demonstrate its superiority, not by defeating the West in a war
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