Large nuclear weapons significantly changed the landscape of the Cold War in a few key ways. On the most basic level, the advent of nuclear warheads meant that weapons could cause a lot more damage than prior weapons technology. In 1945 the Trinity yielded approximately 0.2 megatons of TNT equivalent. By 1954, the U.S. tested a device that was 1,200 times bigger than the 1945 bomb. Nuclear warheads were becoming bigger and better; it was a result of an arms race -- one unintentionally started by America in the post-war era to paradoxically create more stability.
Of course, the nuclear bomb was a creation of America, by American physicists - the Soviets merely followed suit. It was an arms race, as was the nature of the Cold War both the Soviets and America were in competition with one another over their doctrine and influence on the world stage. Initially, FDR sees an atomic bomb as a means to project power in the post-war era and feared Nazi’s would acquire a bomb. Thus, Einstein and other prominent scientists invented a very destructive weapon, capable of ridding an entire city off the face of the earth. With the advent of the a-bomb, nuclear proliferation took off.
In 1949, just four years after the United States tested their atomic bomb; the USSR tests their own bomb. America estimated that it would take the Soviets between 10-15 years to develop the equivalent weapons technology, but underestimated their ability to steal nuclear research from the British and build up an arsenal so rapidly.
In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev rose as the leader of the Soviet Union, and this change in leadership meant a change in Soviet strategy, which ultimately shaped the U.S’ strategy. Khrushchev wanted to out-produce the west in terms of industrial output, consumer goods, space exploration, and missiles. The arms and space race did have positive aspects; it developed technologies, which expanded economic growth. Both countries were perpetually in competition with one another over their ideologies and technologies.
America’s strategy was a response to Khrushchev’s commitment to grow arms. America raced to build bigger, better bombs. Their initial prediction that building an atomic bomb in the aftermath of WWII would bring about stability was proven very wrong. America’s bombs moved from fission bombs to fusion bombs, or a super bomb. And the Soviet’s followed suit quickly thereafter: by 1961 the Tsar Bomba, the Russian super bomb, yielded approximately 50 megatons of TNT equivalent. Advancements in technology went hand in hand with a rise in military spending. By 1952, military spending had doubled from 1950 in the United States, and continued...