Arms Control and Nuclear Weapons: U.S. Policies and the National Interest

By W. Gray Nichols; Milton L. Boykin | Go to book overview

5

Nuclear Weapons Policy of the USSR

Raymond L. Garthoff

Nuclear weapons policy, of course, is inseparable from defense policy, foreign policy, arms control policy, and the basic national security policy of any country. This is evident in the many facets that it has, and it is equally true of countries such as the Soviet Union with its ideology. While Marxism-Leninism is predicated on a conflict among contending classes, and since 1917 among contending states, it is not one in which the primary place is given to military power. Military power is recognized as one essential and element in international political life, but it is not seen as the driving force of history. So, to the extent that the Soviets are driven by ideological imperatives, this leads them to expect that the historical process, a progressive revolutionary change in society, is what is going to change the world.


THE EVOLUTION OF SOVIET NUCLEAR POLICY

The historical evolution of Soviet military policy has coincided with the nuclear age. The Soviet Union began its nuclear weapons development program in highest secrecy almost exactly at the same time as the United States in 1940. They interrupted it to meet more immediate wartime needs in 1941 and 1942, but by 1943 they were back with their own Manhattan project. One result was that the first Soviet atomic explosion occurred in 1949, only four years after ours, and well before it had been expected by the American government. The Soviets remained behind in the development of nuclear weapons for some time, however.

Initially, in the early postwar period, Stalin seemed to speak disparagingly about atomic weapons. This was not because he was uninformed, but because it made perfectly good sense to take that position at a time when the Soviet Union first had no nuclear weapons and then had relatively few. For domestic morale and political purposes, and for international political purposes, he did not want to lend more weight to a

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