A Study of the Nuclear Capabilities of Russia and America During the Cold War

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The Cold War, 1946-1989, is known mainly for the separation of the world into eastern and western blocs, forming two sides of competition for resources, economic development, know-hows and most importantly, dominance of military and weaponry. Both USA and the Soviet Union created programs that were concerned with the creation, manufacturing and designing of those weapons. In both countries a lot of money was issued so that the lead of the race can be taken, along with many other factors. In the beginning of the war the Americans had unquestionable lead over the Soviets, which made their program more successful, however eventually the positions turn and it becomes difficult to say who was more powerful overall.

The Cold War began right after the end of a very serious event that required a lot of resources. As from 1945 the US had a very strong naval forces that gave them an advantage before the Soviets with their unquestionable dominance in the Pacific and the Atlantic.

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In the air forces the US, supported by the UK had a better defense system even though their weapons were with almost the same power. The early nuclear weapons affected the world balance in several ways as the US developed many offensive and defensive strategies, including the blockade of Soviet armor which was situated in air and we called artillery shields.

From 1945 to 2013 the estimated number of produced nuclear weaponry is 66,500 and they developed approximately 100 kinds. All US warheads were developed in two laboratories, Los Alamos or Lawrence Livermore.

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All military types developed a type of nuclear weapons: air force has 52 types, the navy- 35, the army- 26 and the marines- 15. Many of the subprograms were combined to develop more than two “ideas of the day” so that they can invent a new type of bomb, for example the Mark 7. Furthermore, the great weapons went through a lot of modifications like the B-61 bomb that has 11, soon to be 12. Due to the huge amount of weapons that were being produced, the technology developed and reduced the weight of the missiles which made the deliveries easy and needed for almost every conceivable military mission.

The first delivery was a plane dropping a bomb, the B-29 carrying a single Little Boy or Fat men type of bomb. There were 40 types of aircraft used specifically for transporting nuclear weapons. 11 varieties of air force bombers, a dozen types of air force fighters, 13 types of navy corps fighters, three types of helicopters, and three maritime patrol aircraft. Even though the Americans created something as good as the atomic bomb, they possessed something equally good like the missile and specifically the ballistic missile.

They foresaw that those can be put into one big atomic bomb that can be targeted either in the space or as a very distant target. Eventually they would have a wide range of shapes, sizes and different types for the different need of an offensive, air to surface missiles like the Hound Dog, SRAM, Walleye and Bullpup and air to air missiles like the Genie and the Falcon and the sea- based Regulus. By the late 1950s and the early 1960s and due to the improvements in the Nuclear program the US had the wide variety of ICBMS, SLBMs, IRBMs and short range missiles. Including all the powerful bombs like LIttle John, Honest John, MX, Poseidon, and were later followed by ground launched cruise missiles. By 1971 the required numbers of atomic weapons was 151 000 warheads, 106 000 for battlefield use, 25 000 for air defence and the rest was to be sent to allies. Concluding the reason of those large numbers wa that everything was made in the name of the protection against the Soviets, otherwise the US would fall into the “window of vulnerability”.

Again the economic shifts and many changes were factors for the Soviet Union, which was sensitive due to the non- fixed oil prices. From 1945 and then, USSR had the strongest land based military. After the US withdrew its troops they basically became the ultimate power, especially in Europe, holding numerical advantage specifically in tanks. As the Americans advanced their program they didn’t allow the Soviets to release their ground weapons’ full potential. Even though at the beginning the Soviets fell behind on the nuclear competition they have started developing their part of the race and in 1949 the first atomic bomb was successfully tested. The 1950s development of the weapons was in favor of the Soviets as they were moving ahead in both production and missile technology.

By 1953 the Soviets have caught up with the Americans but later they fell behind again as they lacked IRBM’s and SLBM’s and they were overwhelmed with the American technological dominance. However in October 1957 USSR launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite, and achieved unquestionable superiority over the Western Bloc. This was their huge advantage as the American nation was shook as they never realized how dangerous the communists can be because of the propaganda.

Even though the technology and power remained in America’s favor the public believed that there is a missile gap between them and the Soviets which was in favor of the Eastern Bloc. As that was discovered to be a false alarm by Eisenhower their leverage was gone. By 1968 the USSR developed the defensive missile systems called ABM. Again the Americans were first in developing of MIRV and the Soviets caught up in 1975. However the fact that the USSR was almost always behind the US when it comes do development and inventions by the end of the Cold War they managed to outnumber the west in most categories after the 1970s, which made them a more difficult opponent that it was expected from the Americans.

As the two powers were possessing a lot of strong weapons an attempt for keeping peace were made in 1968 which was called “Détente”. Its purpose was to strengthen the relationship between the US and China as well as to calm release some of the pressure between the East and the West. As the crisis in Berlin and Cuba occurred and the big risk of nuclear war both of the super powers decided that they were in need of reduction of the tension. The fact that by 1969 the Soviet Union had caught up with the US numbers of weapons and even became a threat in some categories made the parley possible.

The Détente was initiated by President Nixon because he needed to end the Vietnam War and upgrade the country’s foreign policy. The Soviets needed to end the constant arms race because their economy was struggling and the standard of living was lowering. Another reason is the foreign policy of the country specifically with China and the connection with the West. After all those military crises the limitation treaty was signed called SALT I in 1972. It allowed only 100 missiles on each site, overall allowed two ABMs, which ensured the emphasis on MAD and the stop of a war. It also limited the number of ICBMs and SLBMs and laid down rules of testing and conduction of nuclear weapons.

However, the treaty did not mention the MIRV which made it incomplete, which required SALT II and the ban of testing and more limitations on the weaponry. However after all the agreements the relations between the two Blocs tightened again and collapsed due to the irrational actions of the Soviet Union and specifically the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

This led to the second Cold War and the ambition of Reagan to destroy the “evil empire” that was the USSR. When the death of Brezhnev in 1982 was followed by chaos and lack of any initiative or good leadership only added tension to the most intense period of the second cold war. The climax of that time frame was the Soviet shooting down a Korean airliner while claiming that they were US spies, resulting in 269 casualties and the statement of Reagan that it was “callous and brutal attitude to human life”. Eventually the strained relationship between the Soviets and the Americans was changed significantly with the appointment of Gorbachev in 1985.

The Cold War was based on the competition between the two blocs and was focused on the advance military, weaponry and economical functions of the state. As both of the superpowers established nuclear programs that were supposed to take care of the national security and protection against the enemy, neither of the sides used any of its atomic or hydrogen weapons due to the damage that would have been done and for the sake of the humanity.

The Americans started developing their weapons and were always first in the discoveries, developments and conduction of them. However the Soviet Union caught up fast and in the second half of the war began to outnumber the Western Bloc and became an even bigger threat. Thus we can conclude that the US had the faster of the two programs but the Soviet Union managed to produce more and managed to reach space first which eventually leaves them equally powerful and proved them as the two main powers of the world.

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A Study of the Nuclear Capabilities of Russia and America During the Cold War. (2023, Feb 18). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/a-study-of-the-nuclear-capabilities-of-russia-and-america-during-the-cold-war-essay

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