Nuclear weapons survived the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union, but their role in the post-Cold War and twenty-first century worlds will be markedly different from the twentieth century experience. The Cold War, despite some dangerous episodes in U.S.-Soviet relations, was for the most part conducted under two important restraints. The first restraint was the strategic nuclear bipolarity that dominated the international system. The United States (plus NATO) and the Soviet Union dominated the development of military-strategic thinking related to the use of nuclear weapons for deterrence. They also led the way in developing and deploying nuclear technology for military purposes. As a result, the U.S. and the Soviet Union cast shadows over other powers, including other nuclear weapons states, that inhibited nuclear adventurism and irresponsible nuclear saber rattling. Other nuclear weapons states and nuclear aspiring countries knew that, if push came to shove, the United States and the Soviet Union had "escalation dominance" within their respective regions and spheres of influence. The Suez crisis of 1956 drove home this point, about nuclear-strategic bipolarity as a reality of the Cold War international system.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Social Sciences