The Escalation of the Cold War, 1949-1955: The Arms Race

The Escalation of the Cold War, 1949-1955: The Arms Race

The Arms Race

GCSE History Revision - The Arms RaceAlthough the Cold War wasn’t actually a direct armed conflict between its main opposing forces, the thought that it would lead to this was always at the forefront of their leaders’ minds. Both the USA and the Soviet Union were eager to make sure that they had bigger and better weapons and in larger quantities than their enemy.

Now, you’ll remember that the USA had successfully made and used an atomic bomb in August 1945. The USA thought that this technology would give them a massive advantage over the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, they hadn’t been aware that their team of scientists who had developed the technology included communists such as Klaus Fuchs, who then went and passed key information about it to Stalin. Oops.


The Race Begins in Earnest

GCSE History Revision - Cold War Nuclear Weapon StockpileAlthough Stalin was angry that the Americans had managed to develop such a terrifying weapon, with his stolen secrets and his own team of scientists, by August 1949 the Soviet Union had developed its own atomic bomb, which the Americans found out about after their radiation measuring machines detected the test explosion.

The Americans responded the only way they knew how: by building lots more atomic bombs, and spending money on developing even better weapons, such as the hydrogen bomb, the first of which was ready by 1952. The Soviet Union responded in kind. It was like the arms race before World War One, only the weapons were much, much more dangerous. By the 1950s both the USA and the Soviet Union had pretty big stockpiles of nuclear weapons – enough to obliterate one another and everyone else into the bargain – raising the stakes of the Cold War even higher.