First Strikes and the Window-of- Vulnerability Panic
Nothing has created so much fear so regularly as the threat of a Soviet first strike. That fear has been a mainstay of totalitarian omnipotence and, by implication, of the arms race itself. The elements of totalitarian omnipotence--world domination, ruthlessness, expediency, and striking when the capacity is sufficient--embody the beliefs necessary to render credible the threat of the Soviets' using their strategic arsenal, either directly or as a means of blackmail. Essentially, the Soviets care only about their ultimate historical destiny: large cities and millions of people can be sacrificed for it. The Soviets are prudent, however, and will not take risks unless the correlation of forces is clearly in their favor. Although American vigilance and nuclear superiority have held them at bay, they are biding their time and planning, waiting for their historic opportunity.
Windows of opportunity that included the possibility of nuclear blackmail or an actual first strike were opened, ostensibly, during the Korean War, in the race for the H-bomb, and in the missile gap that