What is the nuclear arms race?

1 Answer
Sep 17, 2016

It was and is a race between largely the USA and then USSR.


By the end of the 1940's both the USA and USSR had nuclear weapons. Moreover they dominated world politics. Their nuclear arsenals provided the centre point to strategic military thinking and policy for the next 40 years.

Each country was afraid that if the other gained a significant advantage in nuclear capability, they might be tempted to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike which would knock out the other's capability to retaliate.

Therefore both countries kept expanding their nuclear arsenals in a deadly race to make sure neither had a significant advantage. This led to tens of thousands of nuclear weapons being held by both super powers.

The growth of detente and success of talks such as SALT 1 and SALT 2 led to a reduction but both still had enough weapons to destroy the world many times over.

It took the collapse of the Soviet Union for their to be an end to this policy. Now the threat may come from any number of countries who have nuclear weapons in sensitive areas such as the Israelis in the Middle East or the Indians in Kashmir.

Also the growth of global terrorism has created yet another threat.

The number of weapons held by the USA and Russia is also far less than it was, however it is still an important issue in international security.