Nuclear arms race

The nuclear arms race was an arms race competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies during the Cold War. During this period, in addition to the American and Soviet nuclear stockpiles, other countries developed nuclear weapons, though none engaged in warhead production on nearly the same scale as the two superpowers.

US and USSR nuclear stockpiles
United States and Soviet Union/Russia nuclear weapon stockpiles

World War II

The first nuclear weapon was created by the United States of America. During the Second World War and was developed to be used against the Axis powers.[1] Scientists of the Soviet Union were aware of the potential of nuclear weapons and had also been conducting research on the field.[2]

The Soviet Union was not informed officially of the Manhattan Project until Stalin was briefed at the Potsdam Conference on July 24, 1945, by U.S. President Harry S. Truman,[3][4] eight days after the first successful test of a nuclear weapon. Despite their wartime military alliance, the United States and Britain had not trusted the Soviets enough to keep knowledge of the Manhattan Project safe from German spies: there were also concerns that, as an ally, the Soviet Union would request and expect to receive technical details of the new weapon.

When President Truman informed Stalin of the weapons, he was surprised at how calmly Stalin reacted to the news and thought that Stalin had not understood what he had been told. Other members of the United States and British delegations who closely observed the exchange formed the same conclusion.[5]

In fact Stalin had long been aware of the program,[6] despite the Manhattan Project having a secret classification so high that, even as Vice President, Truman did not know about it or the development of the weapons (Truman was not informed until shortly after he became president).[6] A ring of spies operating within the Manhattan Project, (including Klaus Fuchs[7] and Theodore Hall) had kept Stalin well informed of American progress.[8] They provided the Soviets with detailed designs of the implosion bomb and the hydrogen bomb. Fuchs' arrest in 1950 led to the arrests of many other Russian spies, including Harry Gold, David Greenglass, and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.[9]

In August 1945, on Truman's orders, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japanese cities. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki by the B-29 bombers named Enola Gay and Bockscar respectively.

Shortly after the end of the Second World War in 1945, the United Nations was founded. During the United Nation's first General Assembly in London in January 1946, they discussed the future of Nuclear Weapons and created the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. The goal of this assembly was to eliminate the use of all Nuclear weapons. The United States presented their solution, which was called the Baruch Plan.[10] This plan proposed that there should be an international authority that controls all dangerous atomic activities. The Soviet Union disagreed with this proposal and rejected it. The Soviets' proposal involved universal nuclear disarmament. Both the American and Soviet proposals were refused by the UN.

Early Cold War

Warhead Development

In the years immediately after the Second World War, the United States had a monopoly on specific knowledge of and raw materials for nuclear weaponry. American leaders hoped that their exclusive ownership of nuclear weapons would be enough to draw concessions from the Soviet Union but this proved ineffective.

Just six months after the UN General Assembly, the United States conducted its first post-war nuclear tests. This was called Operation Crossroads.[11] The purpose of this operation was to test the effectiveness of nuclear explosions on ships. These tests were performed at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific on 95 ships, including German and Japanese ships that were captured during World War II. One plutonium implosion-type bomb was detonated over the fleet, while the other one was detonated underwater.

Behind the scenes, the Soviet government was working on building its own atomic weapons. During the war, Soviet efforts had been limited by a lack of uranium but new supplies in Eastern Europe were found and provided a steady supply while the Soviets developed a domestic source. While American experts had predicted that the Soviet Union would not have nuclear weapons until the mid-1950s, the first Soviet bomb was detonated on August 29, 1949, shocking the entire world. The bomb, named "First Lightning" by the West, was more or less a copy of "Fat Man", one of the bombs the United States had dropped on Japan in 1945.

Both governments spent massive amounts to increase the quality and quantity of their nuclear arsenals. Both nations quickly began the development of a hydrogen bomb and the United States detonated the first hydrogen bomb on November 1, 1952, on Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean.[12] Code-named "Ivy Mike", the project was led by Edward Teller, a Hungarian-American nuclear physicist. It created a cloud 100 miles wide and 25 miles high, killing all life on the surrounding islands.[13] Again, the Soviets surprised the world by exploding a deployable thermonuclear device in August 1953 although it was not a true multi-stage hydrogen bomb. However, it was small enough to be dropped from an airplane, making it ready for use. The development of these two Soviet bombs was greatly aided by the Russian spies Harry Gold and Klaus Fuchs.

On March 1, 1954, the U.S. conducted the Castle Bravo test, which tested another hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll.[14] Scientists significantly underestimated the size of the bomb, thinking it would yield 5 megatons. However, it yielded 14.8 megatons, which is the largest nuclear explosion tested by the U.S. The explosion was so large the nuclear fallout exposed residents up to 300 miles away to significant amounts of radiation. They were eventually evacuated, but most of them experienced radiation poisoning and resulted in one death from a crew member of a fishing boat 90 miles from the explosion.

The Soviet Union detonated its first "true" hydrogen bomb on November 22, 1955, which had a yield of 1.6 megatons. On October 30, 1961, the Soviets detonated a hydrogen bomb with a yield of approximately 58 megatons.[15]

Arms Race

With both sides in the "cold war" having nuclear capability, an arms race developed, with the Soviet union attempting first to catch up and then to surpass the Americans.[16]

Delivery Vehicles

Strategic bombers were the primary delivery method at the beginning of the Cold War.

Missiles had long been regarded the ideal platform for nuclear weapons, and were potentially a more effective delivery system than bombers. Starting in the 1950s, medium-range ballistic missiles and intermediate-range ballistic missiles ("IRBM"s) were developed for delivery of tactical nuclear weapons, and the technology developed to the progressively longer ranges, eventually becoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union showed the world that they had missiles able to reach any part of the world when they launched the Sputnik satellite into Earth orbit. The United States launched its first satellite Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958.

Meanwhile, submarine-launched ballistic missiles were also developed. By the 1960s, the "triad" of nuclear weapon delivery was established, with each side deploying bombers, ICBMs, and SLBMs, in order to insure that even if a defense was found against one delivery method, the other methods would still be available.

Some in the United States during the early 1960s pointed out that although all of the individual components of nuclear missiles had been tested separately (warheads, navigation systems, rockets), it was infeasible to test them all combined. Critics charged that it was not really known how a warhead would react to the gravity forces and temperature differences encountered in the upper atmosphere and outer space, and Kennedy was unwilling to run a test of an ICBM with a live warhead. The closest thing to an actual test was 1962's Operation Frigate Bird, in which the submarine USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608) launched a Polaris A2 missile over 1,000 miles to the nuclear test site at Christmas Island. It was challenged by, among others, Curtis LeMay, who put missile accuracy into doubt to encourage the development of new bombers. Other critics pointed out that it was a single test which could be an anomaly; that it was a lower-altitude SLBM and therefore was subject to different conditions than an ICBM; and that significant modifications had been made to its warhead before testing.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), warheads and throw-weights of United States and Soviet Union, 1964–1982[17][18]
Year Launchers Warheads Megatonnage
United States Soviet Union United States Soviet Union United States Soviet Union
1964 2,416 375 6,800 500 7,500 1,000
1966 2,396 435 5,000 550 5,600 1,200
1968 2,360 1,045 4,500 850 5,100 2,300
1970 2,230 1,680 3,900 1,800 4,300 3,100
1972 2,230 2,090 5,800 2,100 4,100 4,000
1974 2,180 2,380 8,400 2,400 3,800 4,200
1976 2,100 2,390 9,400 3,200 3,700 4,500
1978 2,058 2,350 9,800 5,200 3,800 5,400
1980 2,042 2,490 10,000 7,200 4,000 6,200
1982 2,032 2,490 11,000 10,000 4,100 8,200

Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD)

By the 1950s both the United States and the Soviet Union had enough nuclear power to obliterate the other side. Both sides developed a capability to launch a devastating attack even after sustaining a full assault from the other side (especially by means of submarines), called a second strike.[19] This policy became known as Mutual Assured Destruction: both sides knew that any attack upon the other would be devastating to themselves, thus in theory restraining them from attacking the other.

Both Soviet and American experts hoped to use nuclear weapons for extracting concessions from the other, or from other powers such as China, but the risk connected with using these weapons was so grave that they refrained from what John Foster Dulles referred to as brinkmanship. While some, like General Douglas MacArthur, argued nuclear weapons should be used during the Korean War, both Truman and Eisenhower opposed the idea.

Both sides were unaware of the details of the capacity of the enemy's arsenal of nuclear weapons. The Americans suffered from a lack of confidence, and in the 1950s they believed in a non-existing bomber gap. Aerial photography later revealed that the Soviets had been playing a sort of Potemkin village game with their bombers in their military parades, flying them in large circles, making it appear they had far more than they truly did. The 1960 American presidential election saw accusations of a wholly spurious missile gap between the Soviets and the Americans. On the other side, the Soviet government exaggerated the power of Soviet weapons to the leadership and Nikita Khrushchev.

Initial nuclear proliferation

In addition to the United States and the Soviet Union, three other nations, the United Kingdom,[20] People's Republic of China,[21] and France[22] developed nuclear weapons during the early cold war years.

In 1952, the United Kingdom became the third nation to possess nuclear weapons when it detonated an atomic bomb in Operation Hurricane[23] on October 3, 1952, which had a yield of 25 kilotons. Despite major contributions to the Manhattan Project by both Canadian and British governments, the U.S. Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, which prohibited multi-national cooperation on nuclear projects. The McMahon Act fueled resentment from British scientists and Winston Churchill, as they believed that there were agreements regarding post-war sharing of nuclear technology, and led to Britain developing its own nuclear weapons. Britain did not begin planning the development of their own nuclear weapon until January 1947. Because of Britain’s small size, they decided to test their bomb on the Monte Bello Islands, off the coast of Australia. Following this successful test, under the leadership of Churchill, Britain decided to develop and test a hydrogen bomb. The first successful hydrogen bomb test occurred on November 8, 1957, which had a yield of 1.8 megatons.[24] An amendment to the Atomic Energy Act in 1958 allowed nuclear cooperation once again, and British-U.S. nuclear programs resumed. During the Cold War, British nuclear deterrence came from submarines and nuclear-armed aircraft. The Resolution class ballistic missile submarines armed with the American-built Polaris missile provided the sea deterrent, while aircraft such as the Avro Vulcan, SEPECAT Jaguar, Panavia Tornado and several other Royal Air Force strike aircraft carrying WE.177 gravity bomb provided the air deterrent.

France became the fourth nation to possess nuclear weapons on February 13, 1960, when the atomic bomb "Gerboise Bleue" was detonated in Algeria,[25] then still a French colony [Formally a part of the Metropolitan France.] France began making plans for a nuclear-weapons program shortly after the Second World War, but the program did not actually begin until the late 1950s. Eight years later, France conducted its first thermonuclear test above Fangatuafa Atoll. It had a yield of 2.6 megatons.[26] This bomb significantly contaminated the atoll with radiation for six years, making it off-limits to humans. During the Cold War, the French nuclear deterrent was centered around the Force de frappe, a nuclear triad consisting of Dassault Mirage IV bombers carrying such nuclear weapons as the AN-22 gravity bomb and the ASMP stand-off attack missile, Pluton and Hades ballistic missiles, and the Redoutable class submarine armed with strategic nuclear missiles.

The People's Republic of China became the fifth nuclear power on October 16, 1964 when it detonated a 25 kiloton uranium-235 bomb in a test codenamed 596[27] at Lop Nur. In the late 1950s, China began developing nuclear weapons with substantial Soviet assistance in exchange for uranium ore. However, the Sino-Soviet ideological split in the late 1950s developed problems between China and the Soviet Union. This caused the Soviets to cease helping China develop nuclear weapons. However, China continued developing nuclear weapons without Soviet support and made remarkable progress in the 1960s.[28] Due to Soviet/Chinese tensions, the Chinese might have used nuclear weapons against either the United States or the Soviet Union in the event of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the Chinese nuclear deterrent consisted of gravity bombs carried aboard H-6 bomber aircraft, missile systems such as the DF-2, DF-3, and DF-4,[29] and in the later stages of the Cold War, the Type 092 ballistic missile submarine. On June 14, 1967, China detonated its first hydrogen bomb.

Cuban Missile Crisis

On January 1, 1959, the Cuban government fell to communist revolutionaries, propelling Fidel Castro into power. The Soviet Union supported and praised Castro and his resistance, and the new government was recognized by the Soviet government on January 10. When the United States began boycotting Cuban sugar, the Soviet Union began purchasing large quantities to support the Cuban economy in return for fuel and eventually placing nuclear ballistic missiles on Cuban soil. These missiles would be capable of reaching the United States very quickly. On October 14, 1962, an American spy plane discovered these nuclear missile sites under construction in Cuba.[30]

President Kennedy immediately called a series of meetings for a small group of senior officials to debate the crisis. The group was split between a militaristic solution and a diplomatic one. President Kennedy ordered a naval blockade around Cuba and all military forces to DEFCON 3. As tensions increased, Kennedy eventually ordered U.S. military forces to DEFCON 2. This was the closest the world has been to a nuclear war. While the U.S. military had been ordered to DEFCON 2, reaching a nuclear war was still a ways off. The theory of mutually assured destruction seems to put the entry into nuclear war an unlikely possibility. While the public perceived the Cuban Missile Crisis as a time of near mass destruction, the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union were working behind the sight of the public eye in order to come to a peaceful conclusion. Premier Khrushchev writes to President Kennedy in a telegram on October 26, 1962 saying that, "Consequently, if there is no intention to tighten that knot and thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot."[31] It is apparently clear that both men wanted to avoid nuclear war due to mutually assured destruction which leads to the question of just how close the world was from experiencing a nuclear war.

Eventually, on October 28, through much discussion between U.S and Soviet officials, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union would withdraw all missiles from Cuba. Shortly after, the U.S. withdrew all their nuclear missiles from Turkey in secret, which had threatened the Soviets. The U.S.'s withdrawal of their Jupiter Missiles from Turkey was kept private for decades after, causing the negotiations between the two nations to appear to the world as a major U.S. victory. This ultimately led to the downfall of Premier Khrushchev.


By the 1970s, with the cold war entering its 30th year with no direct conflict between the superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a period of reduced conflict, in which the two powers engaged in trade and exchanges with each other. This period known as détente. This period included negotiation of a number of arms control agreements, building with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in the 1950s, but with significant new treaties negotiated in the 1970s. These treaties were only partially successful. Although both states continued to hold massive numbers of nuclear weapons and research more effective technology, the growth in number of warheads was first limited, and later, with the START I, reversed.


In 1958, both the U.S. and Soviet Union agreed to informally suspend nuclear testing. However, this agreement was ended when the Soviets resumed testing in 1961, followed by a series of nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. These events led to much political fallout, as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Something had to be done to ease the great tensions between these two countries, so on October 10, 1963, the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) was signed.[32] This was an agreement between the U.S., the Soviet Union, and the U.K., which significantly restricted nuclear testing. All atmospheric, underwater, and outer space nuclear testing were agreed to be halted, but testing was still allowed underground. An additional 113 countries have signed this treaty since 1963.

SALT I and SALT II limited the size of the states' arsenals. Bans on nuclear testing, anti-ballistic missile systems, and weapons in space all attempted to limit the expansion of the arms race through the Partial Test Ban Treaty.

In November, 1969, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) begun. This was primarily due to the economic impact that nuclear testing and production had on both U.S. and Soviet economies. The SALT I Treaty, which was signed in May, 1972, produced an agreement on two significant documents. These were the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) and the Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.[33] The ABM treaty limited each country to two ABM sites, while the Interim Agreement froze each country's number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) at current levels for five years. This treaty significantly reduced nuclear-related costs as well as the risk of nuclear war. However, SALT I failed to address how many nuclear warheads could be placed on one missile. A new technology, known as multiple-independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV), allowed single missiles to hold and launch multiple nuclear missiles at targets while in mid-air. Over the next 10 years, the Soviet Union and U.S added 12,000 nuclear warheads to their already built arsenals.

Throughout the 1970s, both the Soviet Union and United States replaced old missiles and warheads with newer, more powerful and effective ones. This continued to worsen Soviet-U.S relations. On June 18, 1979, the SALT II treaty was signed in Vienna. This treaty limited both sides' nuclear arsenals and technology. However, this treaty as well as the era of the détente ended with the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in January, 1980.[34] The United States once again significantly increased military and nuclear spending, while the Soviets were unable to respond and continued to pursue the détente.

In 1991, the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was negotiated between the U. S. and the Soviet Union, to reduce the number and limit the capabilities of limitation of strategic offensive arms. This was eventually succeeded by the START II, START III, and New START treaties.

Reagan and the Strategic Defense Initiative

Despite détente, both sides continued to develop and introduce more accurate weapons and weapons with more warheads ("MIRVs"). The presidency of Ronald Reagan proposed a missile defense programmed tagged the Strategic Defense Initiative, a space based anti-ballistic missile system derided as "Star Wars" by its critics; simultaneously, missile defense was also being researched in the Soviet Union. However, the SDI would require technology that had not yet been developed, or even researched. This system proposed both space- and earth-based laser battle stations. It would also need sensors on the ground, in the air, and in space with radar, optical, and infrared technology to detect incoming missiles.[35] Simultaneously, however, Reagan initiated negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev ultimately resulting in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on reducing nuclear stockpiles.

Due to high costs and complex technology for its time, the scope of the SDI project was reduced from defense against a massive attack to a system for defending against limited attacks, transitioning into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.

The end of the Cold War

During the mid-1980s, the U.S-Soviet relations significantly improved, Mikhail Gorbachev assumed control of the Soviet Union after the deaths of several former Soviet leaders, and announced a new era of perestroika and glasnost, meaning restructuring and openness respectively. Gorbachev proposed a 50% reduction of nuclear weapons for both the U.S and Soviet Union at the meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland in October 1986. However, the proposal was refused due to disagreements over Reagan's SDI. Instead, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed on December 8, 1987 in Washington, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.[36]

Due to the dramatic economic and social changes occurring within the Soviet Union, many of its constituent republics began to declare their independence. With the wave of revolutions sweeping across Eastern-Europe, the Soviet Union was unable to impose its will on its satellite states and so its sphere of influence slowly diminished. By December 16, 1991, all of the republics had declared independence from the Union. The Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the country's President on December 25 and the Soviet Union was declared non-existent the following day.

Post–Cold War

With the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia cut down on nuclear weapons spending. Fewer new systems were developed and both arsenals were reduced; although both countries maintain significant stocks of nuclear missiles. In the United States, stockpile stewardship programs have taken over the role of maintaining the aging arsenal.[37]

After the Cold War ended, large inventories of nuclear weapons and facilities remained. Some are being recycled, dismantled, or recovered as valuable substances. As a result, a large amount of resources and money which was once spent on developing nuclear weapons in Soviet Union was then spent on repairing the environmental damage produced by the nuclear arms race, and almost all former production sites are now major cleanup sites. In the United States, the plutonium production facility at Hanford, Washington and the plutonium pit fabrication facility at Rocky Flats, Colorado are among the most polluted sites.

Military policies and strategies have been modified to reflect the increasing intervals without major confrontation. In 1995, United States policy and strategy regarding nuclear proliferation was outlined in the document "Essentials of Post–Cold War Deterrence", produced by the Policy Subcommittee of the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) of the United States Strategic Command.

On April 8, 2010, former U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START Treaty, which called for a fifty percent reduction of strategic nuclear missile launchers and a curtailment of deployed nuclear warheads.[38] The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in December 2010 by a three-quarter majority.

On December 22, 2016, U.S. President Donald Trump proclaimed in a tweet that "the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,"[39] effectively challenging the world to re-engage in a race for nuclear dominance. The next day, Trump reiterated his position to Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC, stating: "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."[40]

India and Pakistan

In South Asia, India and Pakistan have also engaged in a technological nuclear arms race since the 1970s. The nuclear competition started in 1974 with India detonating the device, codename Smiling Buddha, at the Pokhran region of the Rajasthan state.[41] The Indian government termed this test as a "peaceful nuclear explosion", but according to independent sources, it was actually part of an accelerated covert nuclear program of India.[42]

This test generated great concern and doubts in Pakistan, with fear it would be at the mercy of its long–time arch rival. Pakistan had its own covert atomic bomb projects in 1972 which extended over many years since the first Indian weapon was detonated. After the 1974 test, Pakistan's atomic bomb program picked up a great speed and accelerated its atomic project to successfully build its own atomic weapons program. In the last few decades of the 20th century, India and Pakistan began to develop nuclear-capable rockets and nuclear military technologies. Finally, in 1998 India, under Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, test detonated 5 more nuclear weapons. While the international response to the detonation was muted, domestic pressure within Pakistan began to build steam and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the test, detonated 6 nuclear war weapons (Chagai-I and Chagai-II) in a tit-for-tat fashion and to act as a deterrent.

Defense against nuclear attacks

From the beginning of the Cold War, The United States, Russia, and other nations have all attempted to develop Anti-ballistic missiles. The United States developed the LIM-49 Nike Zeus in the 1950s in order to destroy incoming ICBMs.

Russia has, too, developed ABM missiles in the form of the A-35 anti-ballistic missile system and the later A-135 anti-ballistic missile system. Chinese state media has also announced to have tested anti-ballistic missiles,[43] though specific information is not public.

India has successfully developed its Ballistic Missile Shield in the programme Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Programme with the test fire of Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) and it has also developed a cruise missile defense Akash Air Defense (AAD)[44] to intercept low flying missiles making India one of the five countries with Missile Shield. [45]

See also


  1. ^ "Key Issues: Nuclear Weapons: History: Pre Cold War: Manhattan Project".
  2. ^ "The Soviet Nuclear Weapons Program".
  3. ^ The Potsdam Conference between allied forces Archived 2007-10-24 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Atomic Bomb: Decision - Truman Tells Stalin, July 24, 1945".
  5. ^ "Atomic Bomb: Decision - Truman Tells Stalin, July 24, 1945".
  6. ^ a b Potsdam Note (Animation) Archived 2007-11-16 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Klaus Fuchs: Atom Bomb Spy
  8. ^ Mike Fisk, Chief Information Officer, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Operated Los Alamos National Security, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy. "Our History". maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ "Atomic Espionage".
  10. ^ "The Beginnings of the Cold War". Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  11. ^ "Operation Crossroads". Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  12. ^ "The Mike Test". Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  13. ^ "The Soviet Atomic Bomb". Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  14. ^ "The Bravo Test".
  15. ^ "The Soviet Response".
  16. ^ "More accurate than the "race" metaphor is the observation that if it was a contest at all, the Americans walked while the Soviets trotted. There was no race-but to the extent that there was an arms competition, it was almost entirely on the Soviets side, first to catch up and then to surpass the Americans." --Herman Kahn (1962) Thinking about the Unthinkable, Horizon Press.
  17. ^ Gerald Segal, The Simon & Schuster Guide to the World Today, (Simon & Schuster, 1987), p. 82
  18. ^ Edwin Bacon, Mark Sandle, "Brezhnev Reconsidered", Studies in Russian and East European History and Society (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
  19. ^ "404w Page Not Found (DTIC)".
  20. ^ "United Kingdom Nuclear Forces".
  21. ^ "China Nuclear Forces".
  22. ^ "France Nuclear Forces".
  23. ^ "Australian Institute of Criminology - page not found". 2018-10-21.
  24. ^ "Britain Goes Nuclear".
  25. ^ Chapitre II, Les premiers essais Français au Sahara : 1960-1966 (in French)
  26. ^ "France Joins the Club".
  27. ^ "China's Nuclear Weapons".
  28. ^ "Chinese Nuclear Weapons".
  29. ^ "Theater Missile Systems".
  30. ^ "Cuban Missile Crisis".
  31. ^ "Document 65 - Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963, Volume VI, Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges - Historical Documents - Office of the Historian." Document 65 - Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963, Volume VI, Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges - Historical Documents - Office of the Historian. Accessed October 30, 2014.
  32. ^ "Limited Test Ban Treaty".
  33. ^ "Easing the Tensions".
  34. ^ "The Arms Race Resumes".
  35. ^ "Reagan's Star Wars".
  36. ^ "The End of the Cold War".
  37. ^ Masco, Joseph (2006). The nuclear borderlands: the Manhattan Project in post-Cold War New Mexico (paperback ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-691-12077-5.
  38. ^ "What's the arms race? A short history".
  39. ^ "Trump's call for an 'arms race' flabbergasts nuclear experts".
  40. ^ Pilkington, Ed; Pengelly, Martin (2016-12-24). "'Let it be an arms race': Donald Trump appears to double down on nuclear expansion". The Guardian.
  41. ^ "India's Nuclear Weapons Program - Smiling Buddha: 1974".
  42. ^ FIles. "1974 Nuclear files". Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Nuclear files archives. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  43. ^ Tania Branigan (2010-01-12). "China 'successfully tests missile interceptor'". the Guardian.
  44. ^ "Akash Missile Achieves Direct-Hit, Destroys Banshee Target". The New Indian Express.
  45. ^ Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Programme
  • Boughton, G. J. (1974). Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs (16th ed.). Miami, United States of America: Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami.
  • Brown, A. Reform, Coup and Collapse: The End of the Soviet State. BBC History. Retrieved November 22, 2012
  • Cold War: A Brief History. (n.d.). Atomic Archive. Retrieved November 16, 2012
  • Doty, P., Carnesale, A., & Nacht, M. (1976, October). The Race to Control Nuclear Arms.
  • Jones, R. W. (1998). Pakistan's Nuclear Posture: Arms Race Instabilities in South Asia.
  • Joyce, A., Bates Graber, R., Hoffman, T. J., Paul Shaw, R., & Wong, Y. (1989, February). The Nuclear Arms Race: An Evolutionary Perspective.
  • Maloney, S. M. (2007). Learning to love the bomb: Canada's nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Washington, D.C: Potomac Books.
  • May, E. R. (n.d.). John F Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. BBC History. Retrieved November 22, 2012
  • Van, C. M. (1993). Nuclear proliferation and the future of conflict. New York, United States: Free Press.

Further reading

  • "Presidency in the Nuclear Age", conference and forum at the JFK Library, Boston, October 12, 2009. Four panels: "The Race to Build the Bomb and the Decision to Use It", "Cuban Missile Crisis and the First Nuclear Test Ban Treaty", "The Cold War and the Nuclear Arms Race", and "Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, and the Presidency".

External links

American University speech

The American University speech, titled "A Strategy of Peace", was a commencement address delivered by United States President John F. Kennedy at the American University in Washington, D.C., on Monday, June 10, 1963. Delivered at the height of his rhetorical powers and widely considered one of his most powerful speeches, Kennedy not only outlined a plan to curb nuclear arms, but also "laid out a hopeful, yet realistic route for world peace at a time when the U.S. and Soviet Union faced the potential for an escalating nuclear arms race." In the speech, Kennedy announced his agreement to negotiations "toward early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty" (which resulted in the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty) and also announced, for the purpose of showing "good faith and solemn convictions", his decision to unilaterally suspend all U.S. atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons as long as all other nations would do the same. Noteworthy are his comments that the United States was seeking a goal of "complete disarmament" of nuclear weapons and his vow that America "will never start a war". The speech was unusual in its peaceful outreach to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and is remembered as one of Kennedy's finest and most important speeches.

Arms race

An arms race occurs when two or more nations participate in interactive or competitive increases in "persons under arms" as well as "war material". Simply defined as a competition between two or more states to have superior armed forces; a competition concerning production of weapons, the growth of a military, and the aim of superior military technology.

The term is also used to describe any long-term escalating competitive situation where each competitor focuses on out-doing the others.

An evolutionary arms race is a system where two populations are evolving in order to continuously one-up members of the other population. This concept is related to the Red Queen's Hypothesis, where two organisms co-evolve to overcome each other but each fails to progress relative to the other interactant.

In technology, there are close analogues to the arms races between parasites and hosts, such as the arms race between computer virus writers and antivirus software writers, or spammers against Internet service providers and E-mail software writers.

More generically, the term is used to describe any competition where there is no absolute goal, only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitors in rank or knowledge. An arms race may also imply futility as the competitors spend a great deal of time and money, yet end up in the same situation as if they had never started the arms race.

Balance of terror

The phrase "balance of terror" is usually, but not invariably, used in reference to the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

It describes the tenuous peace that existed between the two countries as a result of both governments being terrified at the prospect of a world-destroying nuclear war. The term is usually used for rhetorical purposes, and was probably coined by Lester Pearson in June 1955 at the 10th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter: "the balance of terror has succeeded the balance of power".Some political scientists use this phrase as a means of differentiating the world situation that followed World War II from that which preceded it. Previously, empires had prevented war between each other by maintaining a relative balance of their ability (economic, military, and political) to wage war against each other—the phrase "balance of power" was often used to describe this kind of tentative peace.

The atomic bomb created a new political reality, in which two superpowers had the ability to destroy each other and at least gravely damage all of human civilization. The obstacle to war between the communists and capitalists was no longer the fear that the other side was more powerful, but rather the realization that nuclear arsenals were now large enough and deadly enough that winning would still likely result in the destruction of one's own country and perhaps the rest of the world as well.

In this counterintuitive way, the existence of the most powerful weapons ever created actually supported a kind of peace: while many wars were fought around the world during the Cold War, the superpowers never fought each other directly, nor have atomic bombs been dropped in war since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945.

Lawrence Summers, after the financial meltdown of 2008, adopted the term as appropriate for the situation of a 'financial balance of terror' in global markets.

Committee for Non-Violent Action

The Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA) was an American anti-war group, formed in 1957 to resist the US government's program of nuclear weapons testing. It was one of the first organizations to employ nonviolent direct action to protest against the nuclear arms race.

The CNVA's immediate antecedent, a committee known as Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, was formed by radical Quaker Lawrence Scott. Other leaders of the CNVA included A.J. Muste, Albert Bigelow, Bayard Rustin and George Willoughby.

David E. Hoffman

David Emanuel Hoffman is an American writer and journalist, a contributing editor to The Washington Post. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for a book about the legacy of the nuclear arms race.

Food Race

American environmental author Daniel Quinn coined the term Food Race (by analogy to the Cold War's "nuclear arms race") to describe an understanding of the current overpopulation emergency as a perpetually escalating crisis between growing human population and growing food production, fueled by the latter. Quinn argues that as the worldwide human population increases, the typical international response is to more intensely produce and distribute food to feed these greater numbers of people. However, assuming that population increases according to increased food availability, Quinn argues that this response only ends up leading to an even larger population and thus greater starvation in the end. Therefore, Quinn's clear solution to the Food Race—to stop producing so much food—is not generally a common-sense or intuitive response; instead, it derives from seemingly counter-intuitive or "outside-the-box" thinking.

Franck Report

The Franck Report of June 1945 was a document signed by several prominent nuclear physicists recommending that the United States not use the atomic bomb as a weapon to prompt the surrender of Japan in World War II.

The report was named for James Franck, the head of the committee that produced it. The committee was appointed by Arthur Compton and met in secret, in all-night sessions in a highly secure environment. Largely written by Eugene Rabinowitch, the report spoke about the impossibility to keep the United States atomic discoveries secret indefinitely. It predicted a nuclear arms race, forcing the United States to develop nuclear armaments at such a pace that no other nation would think of attacking first from fear of overwhelming retaliation. This prediction turned out to be accurate, as the nuclear arms race and the concept of mutual assured destruction became a major factor in the Cold War. The report recommended that the nuclear bomb not be used, and proposed that either a demonstration of the "new weapon" be made before the eyes of representatives of all of the United Nations, on a barren island or desert, or to try to keep the existence of the nuclear bomb secret for as long as possible.In the first case, the international community would be warned of the dangers and encouraged to develop an effective international control on such weapons. In the later case, the United States would gain several years time to further develop their nuclear armament, before other countries would start their own production. The Franck Report was signed by James Franck (Chairman), Donald J. Hughes, J. J. Nickson, Eugene Rabinowitch, Glenn T. Seaborg, J. C. Stearns, and Leó Szilárd.

Franck took the report to Washington June 12, where the Interim Committee, appointed by President Truman to advise him on use of the atomic bomb, met on June 21 to reexamine its earlier conclusions. However, this committee reaffirmed that there was no alternative to the use of the bomb and on August 6 and 9, the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Report was declassified and released to the public in early 1946, but Manhattan Project officials required the censorship of some passages.

Hell-Fire (story)

"Hell-Fire" is a science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov, originally published in the May 1956 issue of Fantastic Universe and reprinted in the 1957 collection Earth Is Room Enough. It is one of a number of stories, such as "Darwinian Pool Room" and "Silly Asses", in which Asimov worries about the nuclear arms race of the 1950s.


Hollanditis was a term coined in 1981 by the American historian Walter Laqueur. It was used to describe the wave of pacifist neutralism that swept through the Netherlands in the first half of the 1980s and which influenced similar grass roots movements in other European countries. It was the biggest popular movement in the Netherlands in the post-war era and it came as a response to the confrontational politics of the Reagan administration in the US that were seen as a threat to the peaceful co-existence of the 1970s.

The movement gathered pace after a 1981 manifestation against the nuclear arms race in Amsterdam attracted an unexpected 400,000 demonstrators. A motley coalition of anti-military and peace groups of different persuasions came together and collected over 3.75 million signatures (a quarter of the population) against the deployment on Dutch soil of US cruise missiles that were destined to carry nuclear warheads, in particular neutron bombs, but by the time the petition was presented, the Dutch centre-right government had already given in to the diplomatic pressure from NATO. The Hollanditis fever peaked in 1983 with a mass demonstration in The Hague aimed against the deployment. The demonstration drew a record 550,000 participants and was entirely non-violent, unlike other anti-nuclear protests of the era.

Journey to the Centre of the Eye

Journey to the Centre of the Eye is the debut album from English progressive rock band Nektar that came out in 1971. Though formally divided into 13 tracks, the entire album consists of a single continuous piece of music, with some musical themes which are repeated throughout the work. Because of its narrative nature, it has been called a rock opera and/or dense concept album. The story follows an astronaut who, while on a voyage to Saturn, encounters aliens who take him to their galaxy, where he is suffused with knowledge and wisdom. It is usually interpreted as a commentary on the nuclear arms race.

List of United States' nuclear weapons tests

The nuclear weapons tests of the United States were performed between 1945 and 1992 as part of the nuclear arms race. The United States conducted around 1,054 nuclear tests by official count, including 216 atmospheric, underwater, and space tests. Most of the tests took place at the Nevada Test Site (NNSS/NTS) and the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands and off Kiritimati Island in the Pacific, plus three in the Atlantic Ocean. Ten other tests took place at various locations in the United States, including Alaska, Nevada other than the NNSS/NTS, Colorado, Mississippi, and New Mexico.

List of nuclear weapons tests of the Soviet Union

The nuclear weapons tests of the Soviet Union were performed between 1949 and 1990 as part of the nuclear arms race. The Soviet Union conducted 715 nuclear tests using 969 total devices by official count, including 219 atmospheric, underwater, and space tests and 124 peaceful use tests. Most of the tests took place at the Southern Test Site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan and the Northern Test Site at Novaya Zemlya. Other tests took place at various locations within the Soviet Union, including now-independent Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Turkmenistan.

Naval arms race

A naval arms race is when two or more countries continuously construct warships that are consistently more powerful than warships built by the other country built in the previous years. These races often lead to high tension and near-wars, if not outright conflict.

Examples include:

The Austro-Italian ironclad arms race between the Kingdom of Italy and the Austrian Empire (and later Austria-Hungary) from 1860 to 1882

The South American dreadnought race between Argentina, Brazil and Chile from 1907 to 1914

The World War I naval arms race between several powers, including Germany, the United Kingdom and Russia, culminating in World War I

The World War II naval arms race, when Japan, America and Britain, after the Washington Naval Treaty, attempted to gain power in the Pacific.

The Cold War nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, which involved both land and naval nuclear expansion.

Nuclear Freeze campaign

The Nuclear Freeze campaign was a mass movement in the United States during the 1980s to secure an agreement between the U.S. and Soviet governments to halt the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. The movement quickly gained enormous public support and, together with antinuclear allies abroad, played a key role in curbing the nuclear arms race and preventing nuclear war.

Nuclear Tipping Point

Nuclear Tipping Point is a 2010 documentary film produced by the Nuclear Threat Initiative. It features interviews with four American government officials who were in office during the Cold War period, but are now advocating for the elimination of nuclear weapons: Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and William Perry. Michael Douglas narrated the film.These "Four Cold Warriors", who each contributed in important ways to the nuclear arms race, built on classical deterrence theory, now argue that we must eliminate all nuclear weapons or face disaster on an enormous scale. Former Secretary Kissinger puts the new danger this way: "The classical notion of deterrence was that there was some consequences before which aggressors and evildoers would recoil. In a world of suicide bombers, that calculation doesn’t operate in any comparable way". Shultz has said, "If you think of the people who are doing suicide attacks, and people like that get a nuclear weapon, they are almost by definition not deterrable".The film was screened at the White House on April 6, 2010.

The Architect's Resistance

The Architects' Resistance (TAR) is a group formed in 1968 by architecture students from Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University. The group was formed as "a communications network, a research group, and an action group . . . concerned about the social responsibility of architects and the framework within which architecture is practiced."The group produced position papers titled: "Architecture and Racism," "Architects and the Nuclear Arms Race," and "Architecture: Whom Does It Serve?"The "Architecture and Racism" position paper led to the picketing of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill by TAR in 1969 for its design of the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa during apartheid.

The Gentle Vultures

"The Gentle Vultures" is a science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov. The story first appeared in the December 1957 issue of Super-Science Fiction, and was reprinted in the 1959 collection Nine Tomorrows.

The story is one of a number that Asimov wrote expressing his abhorrence of the cold war nuclear arms race, but its lightly ironic flavor has earned it more positive critical responses than those drawn by the bitter moralism of "Silly Asses" and "Darwinian Pool Room".

The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind

"The Golden Kite, The Silver Wind" (1953) is a short story by Ray Bradbury, one of his collection The Golden Apples of the Sun.

The story was published during the Cold War, and serves as an allegory to the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Tom Kibble

Sir Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble, (; 23 December 1932 – 2 June 2016), was a British theoretical physicist, senior research investigator at the Blackett Laboratory and Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London. His research interests were in quantum field theory, especially the interface between high-energy particle physics and cosmology. He is best known as one of the first to describe the Higgs mechanism, and for his research on topological defects. From the 1950s he was concerned about the nuclear arms race and from 1970 took leading roles in promoting the social responsibility of the scientist.

Frozen conflicts
Foreign policy
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