The Arms Race

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The Arms race


-The growth of international tension

- USA had a monopoly from 1945- 1949

- Berlin, China and Korea prompted the US to develop H bomb

- There was growing hostility between the two superpowers after 1945 it was necessary to safeguard interests of E+W

- Secrecy

- Increased destructibility one could use

- National and Personal considerations

- Keeping ahead was essential to national pride

-Secure reputation especially is the 3rd world with either the benefits of capitalism or communism

- Increase the political standing of leaders

- US presidents made it difficult to reduce expenditure

- Technology/ arms became the benchmark in which merits of capitalism/ communism could be measured

- Domestic issues

- Arms race provided orders and resources for those involved in industry

- Groups who'd benefited from armaments orders gained considerable power and influence

- It was in the interests of the military; industrial complex to highlight the danger posed by USSR/ USA

Extra info

By 1962 the USA had 4000 missile warheads compared with the Soviets 220

With the development of nuclear arms and delivery systems both superpowers able to launch nuclear strikes and counter strikes to produce mutually assured destruction (MAD)

How did the arms race develop between '49 and '63?

Dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima led to a race to develop weapons of even more destructive power

The bombs


First test firing of an atomic bomb Alamogordo; New Mexico. It was the culmination of the work of scientists under a programme known as the Manhattan Project

For a moment US had a nuclear monopoly

- The Baruch Plan

Called on America to share its knowledge of nuclear technology but stipulated that no other nation would be allowed to develop nuclear weapons

USSR saw plan as an attempt to maintain nuclear monopoly

The plan was dropped


USSR exploded own atomic bomb at Seriplantrisk

Their programme was headed by Igor Kurchatov


USA tested its first H bomb

Oct 53

Only nine month later USSR tested their super bomb; used lithium rather than hydrogen


USA tested its own lithium bomb

The delivery systems


USA possessed first bomber with intercontinental range, the B52 Stratofortress.


USSR replied by developing the TU20 Bear


USSR launched first rocket in Kazakhstan. It was the first ICBM capable of carrying a thermo nuclear bomb

Success of Soviet rocket programme further highlighted by successful launch of Sputnik (Oct) Sputnik II (Nov) carried a dog Laika into space


Soviet Union became the first nation to put a man in space; Yuri Gagarin and Vostok I


Historian John Lewis Gaddis has termed Khrushchev’s approach to technological advancements

It refers to the process of building just enough capability to provide the illusion that more lies behind it.

EXAMPLE: Moscow air shown of '55 when the indentifying numbers on planes were pained out so that they could do several flypasts in front of foreign guests to give the illusion that the USSR possessed


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