How important were nuclear weapons in determining the development of the Cold War in the years 1949-63?
On August 29th, 1949, the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb, at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. This event ended America's monopoly of atomic weaponry and a new era began in which the Arms Race was central. On one side the Arms Race worsened US-USSR relations by encouraging brinkmanship from both sides, which could have potentially resulted in the most devastating war in human history. However others argue that the rapid development of nuclear weapons actually promoted cooperation between the two Superpowers as the fear of a direct conflict resulted in the acceptance of each other’s sphere of influence. Other than the Arms Race, some other factors were also crucial in determining the development of the Cold War in this period. The spread of communism in the far-east for the first time resulted in tangible confrontation between East and West meaning that the Cold War was about to turn into a truly existing war. The death of Stalin and the personality of Khrushchev influenced superpower relations. Therefore this analysis will attempt to examine the relative significance of these varying factors and prove that the Arms Race was the most important factor in preventing direct US-Soviet confrontation.
Of course, the mass production of nuclear weaponry increased tensions between East and West and therefore speeded up the development of the Cold War on a short scale. The development of Sputnik in 1957 did not just simply mean the beginning of the Space Race but also meant that the USSR was now capable of delivering nuclear warheads inter-continentally (ICBM) as this artificial satellite reduced the so-called 'warning time' (the time between detection of the missile launch and the impact of the missile) from 30 minutes to 3 minutes. The CIA's Gaither Report of 1957 clearly suggests that the US leadership now genuinely feared a Soviet attack