Mutually Assured Destruction?

The Soviet Union, after Stalin’s death in 1953, successfully detonated their first hydrogen bomb.  While the first detonation took place the year of 1954, work on the weapon began years before the first Soviet atomic bomb was even detonated.  Stalin put the testing of weapons and the acceleration of the Soviet Arms Race as a major priority in his time of rule, showing his determination to keep up with the advancing times.  However, unlike the first Soviet atomic bomb which relied heavily on stolen information from the United States, the hydrogen bomb that was detonated in 1954 is of original Soviet design.


However, along with the creation of this new style of weapon, political fallout and popular unrest came with it.  Many people, such as Georgii Malenkov the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, felt that the new weapon would invite in another world war.  If another world war were to occur with the level of destruction capable by the new weapons that each side was capable of deploying, the term mutually assured destruction is given new meaning.  Pretty much, the use of nuclear fission based weapons against each other would surely bring about an end to both sides, effectively killing each other off.

(I apologize for the use of simple URLs, but for whatever reason I could not get the pictures themselves to copy into the blog post).

The first picture in the link above shows many people protesting the advent of these newly established weapons.  While they do a feat of incredible success in the weapons development and arms race standpoint, many people felt that these weapons would lead to nothing good, as a matter of fact for any nation.  The second link shows a form of political cartoon showing an individual protesting the new weapons with a mushroom cloud rising in the background.  As mentioned before, while these weapons may help stabilize the arms race and balance out power, they are utterly relentless when used for combat.  May people did not feel safe with their inception, both civilians and political appointees.  Song were also written and became centerpieces for propaganda against the use of nuclear weapons, such as “May There Always Be Sunshine,” composed by Lev Oshanin.  Many other songs were written along with this one, all against the use and deployment of the destructive weapons.

The political fallout faced by the new weapon system was something that was kept quiet.  Khrushchev and other party leaders would in fact not even acknowledge the situation in public, even though there was a great amount of disagreement among their usage.  As mentioned before, while the weapons were able to balance the power throughout the world so to speak, the weapons themselves shouldn’t be used, and many people felt that way.  MAD (mutually assured destruction) would have a serious effect to everyone who uses the new weapons, as the destruction wouldn’t be limited.  In effect, the propaganda and all the anti-nuclear stances wish to avoid the possibility of MAD.  While their creation was impressive, the use of the nuclear weapons is still disputed today.



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7 Responses to Mutually Assured Destruction?

  1. While the term, ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ was used as early back as the 1860s, the end of World War II and decades of the Cold War that followed popularized this term. I included in my post the song, “May There Always Be Sunshine”, as well as your first picture, but you go into much more detail about the anti-nuclear movement. The nuclear arms race created almost a stability-instability paradox in which although these weapons were of superior strength and destructive-capability, they were so powerful that their existence made people feel less safe. In the end, MAD is almost a good thing, because states know that the use of such weapons will not only sacrifice their existence (if used against another state possessing WMD), but also much of the world.

    Courtney Howell says:

    Your points on the anti-nuclear movement are especially interesting when you take the future disaster at Chernobyl into consideration. I encourage you to continue your lines of thought and post about that in the upcoming weeks!

    Amanda Rettberg says:

    Nice Post! It is crazy to think what these two countries did to try to one up each other during the cold war. I can understand the fear that it put in many citizens of both countries during this time and why many protested it because these bombs that they were creating have the potential to destroy and kill so much.

  2. Mutually Assured Destruction also needs to be seen as a product of World War Two, as the use of two atomic bombs by the United States against Japan provided clear evidence of the tremendous human costs of this new weapon. The photograph of the anti-nuclear protest in the Soviet Union is interesting because it does not identify soviet or US weapons, as all the signs refer to war, peace, or atomic power. In fact, the Soviet Union staged protests as a way to mobilize popular sentiment against NATO and the United States, and never allowed protesters to criticize Soviet weapons policies.

    Iain Alexandridis says:

    It is interesting to see the long lasting implications of the nuclear arms race. Although many countries have access to nukes, the US and Russia have the most out of any other country by a lot. To think that each country believed that they would be safer as long as they had more nuclear weapons than the other is a scary idea.

    Michael Vlcek says:

    Very interesting post. The arms race between the United States and Soviet Union certainly threatened the world, yet also at the same time arguably created peace through the mutually assured destruction principle. It’s very interesting that even though the Soviet leadership wanted to keep pace with the West in terms of nuclear technology, many of its people disliked these powerful weapons. It’s very interesting to see the public perception by many, the same people who lived through and somewhat tolerated Stalin’s acts of atrocity and the Soviet Union’s interventionist policies in the Eastern Bloc, found the idea of using nuclear weapons as a step too far.

    Alex Hamilton says:

    There has always been a lot of talk about WMDs for how little they’ve been used. The United States and the Soviet Union worked so hard to amass stockpiles, but they never used the weapons against each other. However, I understand that they work as deterrents to war. It’s hard to think of how scared people were of mutually assured destruction because a nuclear war is so far from our minds today.

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