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The Arms Race And How It Changed The United States Of America

1780 words - 8 pages

“The Evil Empire” — that is what, at the height of the arms race, United States President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union (Rudolph 1). Unsurprisingly, the Soviet Union was similarly upset at the United States. This anger is what fueled the arms race. During the Cold War, due to fears of nuclear attack, the US and Soviet Union designed and deployed thousands of nuclear warheads, each hoping to deter the other from nuclear launch with threat of counter attack (O’Neal 1). This massive arms buildup, however, had many negative effects on the US. To recognize the impact that the arms race continues to have on today, it is crucial to understand not only its causes, but also its immediate impacts on the US economy, society, foreign policy, environment, and technological development, as well as its long-term impact on US international security, policy, power, and arms sales.
To realize the impact of the arms race today, it is important to first understand the causes of the arms race. The Cold war began shortly after WWII, lasting from 1945-1991 (Rudolph 1). It began when the wartime alliance of the United States and Soviet Union fell apart due the absence of the mutual dependence that created the need for cooperation (Snead 1). One of the main goals or policies during the Cold War dictated that the US do anything possible to “contain” the spread of communism. (Rudolph 1). The US desired to contain communism due to fears over the Soviet Union and consequently communism in general becoming powerful enough to challenge democracy, possibly overthrowing it. The containment policy started with the Truman Doctrine in 1947. At this point, the world divided, with most countries siding with either the Soviet Union or the US (Snead 2). The Cold War defined foreign policy of the US throughout its span. Therefore, the containment policy seemed to be failing when the Soviet Union began to gain influence in Eastern Europe (Snead 4). With tensions building and the increasing possibility of another world war, the US and Soviet Union began preparing for the seemingly inevitable nuclear war. This preparation took the form of an arms race. The arms race was a “competitive acquisition of weapons by the Soviet Union and the United States.” (Boilard 1). The strategy behind the arms race was to amass more nuclear weapons than the opponent, thus enabling them to win any future nuclear war. It was assumed that if nuclear war happened, then the country with the most nuclear weapons would destroy more of the other country, consequently winning the war (Boilard 1). Under this strategy, the Soviet Union built about 45,000 nuclear warheads, and obtained enough radioactive materials to triple that. The Soviet Union also placed tactical missile sites in many countries from Cuba to Kazakhstan, hoping to be able to perform a fast strike from close range if necessary (O’Neal 1). Likewise, the US placed missiles in Europe and started the Strategic Defense...

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