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The Work Of A Nation. The Center of Intelligence.

That some form of agreement over missile numbers would have to be found was obvious.

1950s Jets

The greater the stockpiles of weapons, the more horrifying the potential consequences of escalating confrontations became. Even the development of small-yield, tactical, or battlefield nuclear weapons did little to suggest that even a limited nuclear engagement would be less than catastrophic. In the s the United States Army undertook military exercises, such as operations Sage Brush and Carte Blanche, to see if such weapons could be used to defend West Germany from Soviet invasion.

The conclusion reached was that they might — but only after West Germany had virtually ceased to exist. As early as the mid s it was generally accepted that in a nuclear war the concept of a victory was ludicrous. There developed a widespread pessimism that in a post-nuclear war world, suffering destruction, chaos, nuclear fallout, famine and disease, the survivors would envy the dead. Some steps to ease tensions had been taken. Badly shaken by their nearness to disaster during the Cuba Missile Crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev had installed a hotline in reality a teletype line connecting the Whitehouse and the Kremlin, so that both leaders could act quickly to diffuse crises.

They also agreed on a Partial Test Ban Treaty, moving test detonations of nuclear weapons underground, which did something to reduce atmospheric radioactive contamination from such tests. Furthermore they agreed not to station nuclear missiles in space or on the seabed, which neither had the technology to do anyway.

Also, to prevent those countries that did not already possess nuclear weapons gaining them, in the Non Proliferation Treaty was signed. By this, nations who either lacked the technology or the desire to own them, agreed not to build nuclear weapons and to allow international inspection of their nuclear facilities — providing, that is, that the nuclear powers undertook to completely disarm at the earliest opportunity.

Other nations who had or hoped to gain the technology, and had the will, such as North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, either refused to sign or subsequently withdrew from it. All soon gained nuclear weapons that threatened to begin regional arms races. But a solid agreement between the two main Cold War protagonists limiting the stockpiles of nuclear weapons proved very difficult to find. This would allow the verification that both were adhering to a future arms control agreement.

The Soviets promptly rejected the idea. They did not possess the aircraft to over-fly US bases, and saw it as an American attempt to legitimise spying. To the Americans, strict verification of Soviet compliance remained fundamental to any agreement. Herein lay a basic problem. Both sides were convinced of their own moral superiority.

It was the other side who could not be trusted, and they reacted with astonished outrage when their own good intentions were questioned.

But simply building ever more weapons was futile, costly and dangerous. Also during the s a new technological development arose that threatened whatever stability MAD offered. This defensive system was designed to intercept and destroy ICBMs in flight. Despite being in its infancy and having very limited reliability, it might tempt a reckless leader to gamble on surviving retaliation and launch a surprise attack. Deterrence would only work if it was mutual, and if both sides were sure the other could not survive a nuclear exchange.

Yet ABM would require sophisticated radar systems and its missiles would have to be deployed in huge numbers to defend a nation, and it promised to be impossibly expensive. It would also result in a new surge in constructing missiles in order to have the ability to swamp the enemy ABM system. The American position was that both sides should agree to abandon ABM systems, so that both would remain defenceless and deterrence would continue to be mutual.

This was not easy for the Soviet negotiators to accept. They felt they had a duty to defend their citizens, and that defensive weapons were moral, while offensive weapons were immoral.

It was further agreed there would be no new land-based ICBMs beyond agreed numbers and no new missile submarines beyond those under construction. Superficially this might have seemed a considerable step forward, but the agreement was reached as newer technology was being deployed. With the introduction of Multiple Independentlytargeted Re-entry Vehicles MIRV , a single missile could carry several warheads and attack several separate targets — up to 12 in the case of some American missiles.

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In fact SALT I allowed for a major expansion of nuclear weapons, and the signing of SALT II in , which was ultimately to lead to a limit of 2, delivery systems missiles, aircraft and submarines , did little to alter this. Even then the US Congress refused to ratify the latter Treaty, arguing that the Soviet Union had gained too much advantage in the agreement. Both sides, however, indicated they would adhere to the terms, as long as the other did. Even then, the development of cruise missile technology, which produced cheap, easily transportable and concealable weapons, opened new problems for verification measures.

The question addressed by peace campaigners, of how much deterrence was needed, was addressed by government and military institutions on both sides. An American study considered how many megaton thermonuclear weapons would be needed to utterly destroy the Soviet Union.


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It found that after or so detonations there would be nothing left worth attacking. Unquestionably the Soviets performed a similar study and reached a very similar conclusion. Of course the situation was a little more complicated. Some missiles would be destroyed in a surprise attack. Others would be intercepted or simply miss their targets. Others would fail to launch or be undergoing routine servicing. A degree of redundancy was needed, say four-fold.

The Cold War Years 1946-1991

By this logic, neither side needed to go beyond the expense and inherent risks of producing more than warheads. But by the United States could deliver nearly 20, and the Soviet Union well over 11, Why did such an irrational state of affairs come about? From the s there was a considerable amount of research studying this question, and a number of factors have been suggested that might explain this degree of overkill. One is the competition between and within the armed services of a state.

Any major arms programme carries with it prestige and resources and also secures careers for the service responsible for it. With nuclear weapons obviously intended as the mainstay of American defence strategy for decades, if not generations to come, all services campaigned to win a role in their deployment.

Peeking Behind the Iron Curtain

The United States Army, for its part, clamoured for battlefield nuclear weapons so as not to be excluded. Also within the army, for example, different sections demanded either nuclear artillery shells or ground launched cruise missiles. All services lobbied government for a larger slice of the pie.

But this does not necessarily explain why the size of the pie kept growing. Governments were not obliged to concede every demand made upon them by their own military. A similar argument can be used when addressing the issue of bureaucratic politics, where a similar process of competition for the resources, prestige and careers made available by the arms race existed between government agencies and departments.

Another possible factor explaining the nuclear build-up lies within the nature of the political and social systems involved. The fears and uncertainties of a nation can be exploited. Governments, it has been suggested, used the arms race to fuel fears of a foreign threat to enhance patriotism, national unity and their own authority.

The arms race could be seen as a cynical exercise in social control. Both Soviet and American observers often accused their Cold War opponents of such squalid motives.

World's worst planes: The aircraft that failed

But it remains a conspiracy theory based on intuition rather than fact, and should be treated with considerable caution. A similar degree of caution should be used when ascribing the arms race to the military-industrial complex. This assumes that the arms manufacturers have a common interest in fostering a climate of fear to increase sales to the military. They are assumed to foster moral panics of the kind that followed the launch of Sputnik , so that the public will clamour for military expansion.

In the United States most major weapons systems are produced by about eight large corporations. Between them they represent a huge investment in productive capacity and expertise. They are seen as vital and irreplaceable national assets, and cannot be allowed to go bankrupt. If in trouble, the US government will always be tempted to bail them out with hefty orders.

Also, within research laboratories, the development of new weapons had become the norm, and the arms race had developed a measure of organisational momentum.

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They represent great investments that make it difficult to justify halting. But how does this work in the Soviet Union, where the profitability of arms manufacturers was no great issue? Electoral politics can, perhaps, supply another explanation. It was a simple message, easily grasped by the electorate, accompanied by a simple solution — spend more money on defence.

At a lower level, congressmen of constituencies where warships, for instance, are constructed will constantly stress the Soviet naval threat. The more warships built, the more local jobs, and the more votes that might be won. This is perhaps a more convincing argument. But how could it be applied to the Soviet Union? As an explanation it is at best only partial. Also, it is simply logical to respond to the actions of a potential enemy to negate any possible advantage they might gain.

Furthermore there was always the tantalizing possibility that research might find the ultimate weapon, or the impenetrable defence. As the arms race progressed the chances of this happening became increasingly unlikely. It read, 'As England, in spite of the hopelessness of her military position, has so far shown herself unwilling to come to any compromise, I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary to carry out, an invasion of England The Germans, surprised by the speed of their military success in Europe, had no detailed plans for an invasion of Britain with the man made responsible for the venture, General Franz Halder, now having to start from scratch.

But this absence of a plan did not prevent Hitler from announcing on 16 July that an invasion force would be ready to sail by 15 August. The operation was given the codeword Sealion. The political rather than the military nature of the invasion plan at this time is suggested by the extraordinary timing that Hitler imposed. Planning an invasion and assembling a fleet and appropriate forces in a month was clearly a practical impossibility but timing was an essential part of the game of bluff that Hitler was playing.

When the British realised what was coming their way their will to resist would crumble. From mid July the Luftwaffe stepped up the military pressure by attacking the channel ports and shipping to establish command of the Straits of Dover, while German heavy guns were installed around Calais to bombard the Dover area where the first shells started to fall during the second week of August.

By the end of July the Royal Navy had to pull all its larger warships out of the channel because of the threat from German aircraft. All seemed to be going to plan; perhaps this mounting military pressure and the prospect of invasion would break British spirits and make Operation Sealion unnecessary? But by the end of July neither the threat of imminent invasion nor offers by Germany of 'honourable' peace had done the trick.

It appeared that Germany would actually have to execute one of the most difficult military operations imaginable: an invasion, launched across at least 20 miles of water, culminating in a landing on a fortified and desperately defended coast line. It was immediately clear that this could not even be attempted until the Royal Navy - still one of the most formidable fighting forces in the world - had been either destroyed or diverted and after the Royal Air Force had been eliminated. The first reaction of Hitler and the German high command, when it appeared that a real rather than a bluff invasion would have to be organised, was to change the schedule.