Britain, Germany, and Western Nuclear Strategy

Britain, Germany, and Western Nuclear Strategy

Britain, Germany, and Western Nuclear Strategy

Britain, Germany, and Western Nuclear Strategy

Synopsis

This comprehensive account of post-war British and German policies towards nuclear weapons shows how these interacted in the context of alliance strategy. The author gives a detailed account of major episodes in the evolution of the alliance and its doctrine, such as the MLF debate, the origins of flexible response, and theatre modernization programmes, and demonstrates how British and German interests impinged upon these episodes. In all this, one of the lesser-known nuclear relationships within the alliance comes vividly into focus.

Excerpt

When nuclear weapons first entered the arsenals of the major powers, it was by no means clear to what extent they would transform the nature of warfare and the entire strategic environment. The evolution of thought about the strategic role of nuclear weapons followed a similar pattern in those states which acquired substantial nuclear arsenals or their allies who depended on them for their protection. In the first stage, the fact that nuclear weapons caused a major qualitative shift in the nature of warfare was not recognized. Nuclear weapons were simply perceived as a more powerful form of artillery, to be integrated into existing modes of weapons deployments and used in conjunction with conventional weapons. The second phase became known, in Soviet parlance, as the 'revolution in military affairs'. As both the Soviet Union and the United States began to accumulate a large number of fusion warheads with an explosive power in the megaton range, and delivery vehicles to detonate them on each other's territory, it became clear that the possession of nuclear weapons and the capability of their delivery was the central factor of military power in the modern world. Strategic nuclear weapons, both as a result of their enormous explosive power and the collateral effects (such as radioactive fallout), were capable of annihilating large conventional armies and of destroying the industrial capacity and the large majority of the population of entire nations. It came to be recognized that the damage they could inflict on the adversary would be unacceptable on the basis of any rational calculation. As both the United States and the Soviet Union were perceived to possess arsenals sufficient for one to destroy the other, a state of mutual deterrence, or, as it later was called, 'mutual assured destruction' was deemed to exist.

The recognition that a nuclear war must be avoided at all costs resulted in a number of tacit rules that came to govern . . .

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