The Arms Race was inevitable in the Cold War as it was a period without violence however it had the momentum and competitiveness of any other war. Nevertheless, the cause of the Arms Race is almost impossible to isolate. Many factors such as the growth of international tension, personal & national considerations on both sides as well as domestic factors all contributed to the cause of the race. Arguable, the obvious triggering factor for the Arms race was the growth in tension between the East and West and personal & national considerations being the most significant cause.
During the late 1940’s, tension between the Eastern and Western superpowers was rapidly increasing. There was a long series of events adding to the already high tensions between the USA and USSR. A point of extreme tension during the Cold War, took place in 1948. The Soviet Berlin Blockade, the first major crisis of the war, dramatically increased tension between the rivals as it highlighted failure to answer the ‘German question’ in the 1945 conferences. This tension grew in 1949 as China fell to communism.
In the eyes of the West, this was evidence to support their ‘domino theory’ and began to fear a growth in the communist sphere of influence. This tension was furthered in 1949 when the soviets developed the first atomic bomb. As well as causing tension between the countries, this directly threatened America’s prestige and status. Following this, the Korean war of 1950 was an explicit embodiment of the strong tensions between America and the Soviet Union.
By the early 1950’s tension between the East an West was at a peak.Both sides craved success and were willing to compete with each other in any form possible in order to avoid violence. This was the triggering cause of the Arms Race. Neither leader of America or the Soviet Union wanted to appear weak in the eyes of their people or their enemy.
For both the East and West, a prestigious status was vital in achieving success (expanding their ideology). This was made clear in 1956 as Khrushchev adopted a boastful attitude in London.He intentionally threatened Churchill’s wife on a visit to London by informing her that Soviet missiles could easily reach Britain. This caused huge worry in the country as Britain had not yet developed their arms to the standard of the USSR which could potentially cause a huge amount of damage to the country. John Lewis Gaddis however, flawed Khrushchev’s strategic boasting, “the Soviet Union’s achievements in military technology overshadowed its failures in politics, economics and ideology”.Gaddis suggests that Khrushchev was in fact disguising the “failures” of his country with their only success of military developments. Similarly to Khrushchev when Eisenhower came to power in 1953, as part of his ‘new look’ policy, he found it difficult to reduce military spending due to continuing public fears of Soviet supremacy. Also, Kennedy’s youth and lack of experience made him feel especially vulnerable to Soviet manipulation.
He therefore significantly increased military spending by $50 billion by 1962.This was the highest it had been since 1950 as a result of the Korean War. Personal & National considerations were the most significant factor causing the Arms Race as it was fueled by pride and desperation for power and influence over the world. Although not the most significant factor causing the Arms Race, Domestic factors were also somewhat significant in causing the race.
In the US, the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) was a powerful bloc that wielded enormous control of US politics at the time.The arms industry in America employed over 30 million US civilians. This evidence proves that the Arms Race employed a vast number of people which may have been a reason why the USA continued their involvement in the Arms Race. A similar situation took part in the Soviet Union as the Soviet army emphasized the threat of the USA and so could exert their influence in politics and encourage an increase in military expenditure. Domestic factors affected the choices made in both America and the Soviet Union, which played a significant role in causing the Arms Race.Triggered by the in fast-paced increase in international tension, the Arms Race was essentially caused by Personal & National considerations.
Khrushchev in particular was a crucial factor in supporting this argument as deceitfully boasted in order to strengthen his own position. The American leaders Eisenhower and Kennedy felt a similar desire. Even though this was not the sole event, the Arms Race was arguably a non-violent battle fed by competitiveness as this would allow the successful superpower to impose a political ideology and dominate the world’s political belief. This was an initial aim for both the West and East.