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Nuclear weapons and the escalation of the Cold War, 1945-1962

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Tiziana Corda

on 8 October 2013

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Transcript of Nuclear weapons and the escalation of the Cold War, 1945-1962

“I think the people with the strongest nerves will be the winners.”
- N. Khrushchev, 1958

I am present and strong;
General de Gaulle’s request for a triumvirate

1st French atomic bomb tested in the Sahara
American and British cooperation;
The post-war research:

1958 and the Atomic Energy Act: “the great prize”

Nuclear weapons and the escalation of the
Cold War, 1945-1962

WWII: begin of nuclear age
The atomic bomb and the origins of the Cold War
Nuclear weapons and the Korean War
US - USSR nuclear stockpile
The nuclear-arms race
The fear of a new 39-41;
I am present and strong.

The nuclear-arms race in Europe
WWII: begin of world age
The arms race
War of nerves
The Cuban missiles crisis
Failure of negotiations
1945 UN Charter
NSC 30: Policy on Atomic Warfare
national security

atomic air offensive vs USSR

Strategic Air Command
JCS report: Offtackle emergency war plan
Soviet Project
Council of Foreign Ministers
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
1945: Special Committee
National Governments
first Soviet test
" tenacity and steadfastness"
- Joseph Stalin
B-29 bombers on Berlin
Sept 1945
July 1948
of the
* with no idea
of 'big war'
50 °C
40 °C
US bomb
Nov 30, 1950
Nov 1, '49 2nd bomb
Dec 28, '49 3rd bomb
Jan 30, 1950

Chinese intervention
US and UN forces
North Korea forces
No tabu on the use of an atomic bomb to bring the Korean War to an end
" The US should contemplate
the use of an atomic bomb"
- D.D. Eisenhower
" The Soviet bloc is
superior to the West"
- J.F. Dulles
July 27, 1953
threat of 'big war'
Stalin's death
Status of the bomb
as another weapon
as a class on its own
The hydrogen bomb and nuclear deterrence
Hydrogen bomb
antinuclear movements
in US, Europe and Asia
Geneva Summit
“Nearly everyone knew that war was unacceptable and that coexistence was elementary”
- N. Khrushchev

New Look security policy
nuclear deterrence
Image of a future war
mix of targets
each side aimed to win
reciprocal fear of a surprise attack
"over the long pull"
- D.D. Eisenhower
"peaceful coexistence"
- N. Khrushchev
Britain and France
The British course
first British atomic bomb tested
first British H-bomb tested
The British reasons
The early peaceful use and the steps towards the bomb:

The French course
“France should have the bomb”
the secret committee
The French reasons
Gaillard and de Gaulle order to make and test the bomb
the plutonium production begins
American nuclear policy
Soviet nuclear policy
“Global conflict under modern conditions could mean the destruction of civilization. The Soviet rulers, themselves, are well aware of this fact.”
- D.D. Eisenhower
“Only a madman can go to the length of unleashing another world war over the preservation of the privileges of the occupationists in West Berlin.”
- N. Khrushchev
1954: French Indochina crisis.
1955–59: Jinmen (Quemoy) and Mazu (Matsu) islands crisis
1956: The Suez crisis.
1958–61 : West Berlin crises

May 1962
October 1962
October 1962
October 1962
Preparatory events
January, 1, 1959 The Cuban Revolution
Fidel Castro interrupts diplomatic and economic relations with the US and aligns itself with Moscow;
February 3rd 1962 US imposes embargo on the island

Us displays of missiles in Turkey targeting the URSS
Decided in October 28th 1959 and placed June, 1st 1961

The Berlin crisis, a Soviet setback
June 4, 1961 — November 9, 1961 US and Soviet forces engaged in a stand-off as the Soviets began construction of the Berlin Wall

Kennedy- Khruschev meeting in Vienna
June 3rd 1961, the Soviet leader develops a low opinion of the American President

May 1962
May 29, 1962
After deliberations within the Soviet government, Khrushchev dispatched a delegation to discuss the placement of nuclear missiles in the country. Castro accepted the missile deployment the day after meeting the delegation.

The beginning
October 14, 1962
A U2 aircraft flying over western Cuba took pictures of the Soviet missile sites for the first time.

US reaction
October 16 - October 22
The President and his administration discuss the different possible actions to respond the Soviet challenge taking into consideration different kinds of military operations.
The peak
October 23
Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson lays the matter before the U.N. Security Council. The ships of the naval quarantine fleet move into place around Cuba.
Soviet submarines threaten the quarantine by moving into the Caribbean area.

October 24-25
Intense correspondece between Kennedy and Khrushcev.
The Sovietleader reacts strongly to the declaration of the quarantine defining it “a threat and and ultimatum to intimidate us”
President Kennedy answered again urging him to change the course of events.
Discussions in the halls of the UN between US and URSS ambassadors Adlai Stevenson and Valerin Zorin.
September 15, 1962
Poltava, reportedly first ship to carry Soviet missiles docks in Cuba. 50,000 Soviet troops arrived on the island armed with ballistic medium and intermediate range missiles (MRBM), fighter aircrafts, light bombers, naval vessels, and Submarines, as well as strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
October 15, 1962
Analysis from the National Photographic Interpretation Center confirmed the existence of Soviet missile sites in Cuba. The photographic analysis also reveals that the Soviets were placing intermediate-range IL-28 bombers in Cuba, capable of carrying nuclear bombs to the U.S.

October 22
Kennedy wrote to Khrushchev prior addressing the American public on live tv:
"I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would In this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor”
At 7.00 pm the President speaks on TV revealing the evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba and announces the establishment of a naval quarantine around the island until the Soviet Union agrees to dismantle the missile sites.
The Resolution
October 26
A long, rambling letter from Khrushchev to Kennedy makes clear the Soviet leader has decided to step back offering the removal of the missiles in exchange for lifting the quarantine and a pledge that the U.S. will not invade Cuba.
“ Mr. President, we and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied to tight that even who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot […] and you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose”.
- N. Khrushchev
October 28
Agreements are perfected: the Soviet Union will withdraw the missiles from Cuba under United Nations supervision in exchange for an American pledge not to invade Cuba. In an additional secret understanding, the United States agrees to eventually remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey. Radio Moscow announces that the Soviet Union has accepted the proposed solution and releases the text of Khrushchev letter.

How weapons shaped the history of the last 50 years of the 20° century
The nuclear threat
and its political use
Cause or effect
of the Cold War?
The role of
nuclear weapons
The importance of the
Cuban missiles crisis
The origins of the nuclear arms race can be traced to the political rivalry between the wartime allies, the United States and the Soviet Union.
They devoted considerable resources to building up their nuclear stockpiles and aquiring the bombers, submarines, missiles and guns to deliver the nuclear weapons to target.
By the 1950s, nuclear threats were permanently embodied in the forces that each side deployed against the other: each side feared that the other was seeking the capacity to launch a surprise attack and each stressed the importance of preempting such an attack if it appeared to be imminent.
Nuclear threats were both a product of the Cold War and a factor contributing to the the great tension of those years.
Over time, the weapons laboratories, the defense industry, and the armed forces became increasingly influential in the formulation of policy, firstly in the United States and a few years later in the Soviet Union.

Nuclear weapons also helped to keep the Cold War «cold» : by the mid-1960s , a situation had been created in which each side could inflict massive death and destruction on the other.
As a consequence, a set of conventions and understandings emerged between the two sides to help them to manage their nuclear relationships.
The idea that general nuclear war was in some profound way unacceptable became common knowledge among the political leaders of the nuclear powers. That constituted the basic premise of the Cold War and shaped the nuclear politics of the following years.
Political leaders were willing to make nuclear threats, but they understood the difference between threath and action.
Khrushcev in particular exploited the fear of nuclear war to wage a dangerous and unsuccessful war of nerves, but he was limited in what he could threaten by the common knowledge that nuclear war was unacceptable.
Both sides were aware of the other’s intention to avoid nuclear war but this was nevertheless a very dangerous period, because of the risks of miscalculation or unauthorized acts which could lead to an uncontrollable spiral towards war.
The Cuban missile crisis was a turning point in the Cold War. It drove home the lesson that crises are dangerous and should therefore be avoided.
The first steps towards arms control had been taken in the late 1950s and early 1960s in talks on surprise attack and negotiations on a comprehensive test ban, but no significant agreement was concluded before the Cuban missiles crisis.
That crisis gave a new impetus to efforts to make the nuclear relationships more stable and to reduce the risk of war.
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