Nuclear Arms Race and
Star Wars
History 12
Ms Leslie
1940’s - 50’s
• Allied powers were the first to
have the bomb.
• Churchill and Eisenhower came
to the agreement that if the
USSR attacked then there
would be the ‘Doctrine of
Massive Retaliation’ where the
USSR would simply be
destroyed by nuclear weapons.
• This policy was in effect until the
Soviets had the bomb
• Soviets kept a large
standing army to
counter until they had
the bomb in 1949.
• The UN tried to place
controls on Nuclear
power with the
Baruch plan
Baruch plan
• called for international management of the
raw materials and inspection by international
management of facilities.
• no vetoes in the UN on these policies and
majority rule in decision making.
• The USSR rejected this plan as it would
restrict them as to where and how they could
build their nuclear facilities.
• They countered with a demand of the
destruction of all nuclear bombs and the
cessation of production. This was rejected by
the Americans.
Nuclear strategy =
• Now each side built up an
arsenal to survive the first
• The goal of a nuclear war would
be to destroy the opponent
before they destroyed you.
• The theory is that the
possession of Nuclear weapons
would make war unthinkable.
• The relation between the USSR
and the USA in the 1960’s to
1979 is known as Detente this is
characterized by the relaxing of
tension and the better relations
between the two powers.
• Detente was seen as necessary
because of the parity of their
nuclear arsenals after the Cuban
Missile Crisis.
2 justifications for nuclear
build up
1. the growth in enemy stocks
required a balanced growth
in one’s own arsenal to
ensure parity. There also
had to be continual
refinement of delivery
systems to ensure that the
threat of retaliation
remained a credible one.
2. A wide variety of nuclear
weapons systems were
now required to ensure
maximum flexibility in
responding to any
situation, from a localized
tactical affair with battle
field weapons to an all
out holocaust.
July 1969 – Lunar Landing
mid 1970’s
• weapons were
developed in secret
under ground or under
the sea with nuclear
powered submarines.
• Both side invested in
early-warning radar
systems, anti-missile
systems and cluster
The Strategic Defense
Initiative (SDI):
• Also referred to as ‘Star Wars’ as it
came out at the same time as the movie
• The American system would destroy
Soviet missiles in space before they
reached their destination.
• Gorbachev said this would only make
the Soviets make their own SDI and
thus make the arms race continue.
• SDI would be a defensive shield to
prevent enemy missiles from
• Not only can an effected system prevent
a first strike, it can also provide
protection against a retaliatory strike
after the enemy has been hit.
• This is why the Soviets are wary of SDI
Is it feasible? no
• Most scientists agreed that there is little
hope of developing an effective
protective shield.
• Despite billions of American dollars
being spent, it is an impossible task to
prevent an entire attack.
Why not?
• Part of the problem is that we don’t even
know much about the weapons we would be
protected against. No above ground testing
of bombs has taken place since the early
• It is also impossible to predict how an enemy
will attack.
• Often times is it relatively low-tech counter
measures that defeat high-tech defenses.
Nuclear Proliferation
• First the USA, then the
USSR, then the British,
French and Chinese joined
the ‘nuclear club’.
• Their justifications mirrored
each other – these
weapons systems were
purely defensive and
intended to promote peace.
1968 Nuclear NonProliferation treaty
• A success of Detente
• President Johnson’s initiative
• To not share information about Nukes to
• 1968 signed by USA and USSR and UK
• 1975 – 93 countries signed, but not
France, China, Egypt, Japan, Israel or
South Africa.
• Doesn’t really matter as countries have
made bombs all on their own
• India - 1974
• Israel - 1979
• Pakistan - 1998
• North Korea - 2006 (oh boy)
Arms limitation agreements
• Cuban missile crisis alerted world for
need for limits
• Did not want accidental nuclear war
• Started with the red phone
1963 - Test Ban Treaty
• this ended aboveground testing of
nuclear weapons.
• Though France and
China refused to sign,
the practice of limiting
tests to underground
locations was
ultimately accepted.
Strategic Arms Limitations
Talks (SALT 1)
• In 1969 in Helsinki
• limits number of
intercontinental ballistic
• Both sides ultimately
agreed to limit the
number of launchers
that they might employ.
Though the limits were
very high, it was a good
initial step.
• Unfortunately,
technology ran ahead
of the agreement and
soon new weapons,
particularly in multiple
warheads, mobile
launchers and cruise
missiles, would cause
further destabilization.
• SALT 1 was extended in Moscow in
1972 and Vladivostok in 1975 as first
Nixon, then Ford came to further
agreements with Brezhnev.
• President Carter and Brezhnev came to
an even more comprehensive treaty in
1979, in Vienna, SALT 2.
• to achieve nuclear parity
• Didn’t work because:
1. Soviets invaded Afghanistan – President Carter
put SALT 2 on hold
2. NATO added cruise missiles to it’s arsenal
3. Reagan took office and called the USSR and ‘evil
empire’ and the vowed the USA would always be
stronger, refused to sign the treaty and renewed
the arms race.
1975 – Helsinki Accords
• Most significant accomplishment of detente.
• August – USA, USSR, France and UK with 31
other nations met and agreed to the following:
o Acceptance of Europe’s bordered including a
divided Germany
o Respect Human Rights
o Allow easier immigration
• Saw a renewed arms race after the
collapse of SALT 2
• Focused on Number and size of
weapons as well as new technology.
• America was the leader in new
guidance systems and attack missiles
completely controlled by computers.
• The Cruise Missile
• USSR and USA had them
• A pilotless, small airplane
with nuclear firepower
• Follows an on-board
computer program to get
to its target
• Flies at low altitude to
make it invisible to radar.
• Smart Weapons
– Targeted and controlled
by computers.
– Seen in the Gulf War –
pilots are not needed on
– Technology used in
tanks as well
– USA the leader in this
• There were attempt to
control the arms race in the
• 1982 was the Strategic
Arms Reduction Talks
(START) the terms
favoured the Americans so
the Soviets would not
agree to it.
• not signed until 1991
• At the same time
Reagan ordered the
manufacture of
‘enhanced radiation’
bombs (neutron bomb)
which would kill with
radiation rather than
explosive blast.
• Gorbachev comes in to
power in the USSR.
• He wanted better
relations with the West
and Reagan was in the
last 5 years of his
presidency and wanted
to look good.
• 1985, November Geneva
– Both agreed nuclear
war was not
• 1986, October,
– Gorbachev wants to
dramatic decease in
arsenal and Reagan to
kill the SDI
– Reagan refused
• 1987, December,
– Agree to destroy all
ground based nuclear
– Changed the direction of
the Cold War
• 1988, May, Moscow
– Focused on human
• 1988, December, New
– Gorbachev promises the
UN to reduce number of
troops and equipment
– Afghanistan at an end
– This relied heavily on
Gorbachev’s domestic
• End :)

Nuclear Arms Race and Star Wars

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