Western Kremlinologists have debated the impact of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the Soviet Union. Stalin made numerous statements belittling the importance of the atomic bomb, and some Western analysts have taken the public statements at face value. Others have probed Stalin’s actions, paid less attention to his rhetoric, and come forward with different interpretations.
David Holloway is one of the West’s best analysts of Soviet atomic and nuclear weapons programs. In this chapter, condensed and excerpted from his book on the Soviet Union and the arms race, he examines the origins of Soviet work on atomic and thermonuclear weapons. Placing these efforts in the context of scientific, technological, and diplomatic developments, he is interested in examining the extent to which initiatives and breakthroughs by one power had a significant impact on the adversary’s weapons development. Also of concern is the extent to which weapons development has its own internal dynamic based on scientific knowledge, technological imperatives, and the organizational self-interest of an influential new bureaucracy.
In the course of this chapter Holloway explores the factors that contributed to the success of the Soviet program. He alludes to the contributions of German scientists, US lend-lease, and the information gleaned from British and American spies. But he also shows great respect for the knowledge and capabilities of Russian scientists.
In view of the many factors bearing on Soviet policy, readers should discuss precisely how the use of atomic weapons against Japan (and subsequent US initiatives) influenced developments inside the Soviet Union. In assessing the motives and wisdom of Soviet actions they should recall some of the points made by Sherwin in the preceding article. Did the Kremlin have reason to fear US possession of an atomic