Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arms Race Essay

Arms Race Essay

Arms Race Contribution to the Decline of the Soviet Union
1. Abstract
Arms race as the separate notion appeared at the end of the 19th at the beginning of the 20th century. It refers to the rivalry and competition in the most science-driven and technologically complicated field of economy- in the military industry. Superiority in this field had always been the key goal of the countries and armies which were aspiring geo-political goals. Arms race includes development of new systems and implementation of innovations. It appears to be the race of battleships, weapon systems, airplanes, nuclear weapon and spaceships.

In the 20th century arms race between the USSR and the USA played one of the dominant roles in the fall of the USSR. The beginning of the arms race was primarily connected with nuclear weapon. As it is known, at the end of the World War II United Stated appeared to be the only nuclear country in the world. USA obtained strategic dominance over the world during the war with Japan blowing atomic bombs upon it, and this lead to the fact that American military forces began to plan preventive attack on the USSR. But this nuclear dominance was only for four years. In 1949 USSR made first check outs of its first atomic bomb. It was the real shock for the Western world as well as new important mark in the Cold War. Later on USSR developed not only nuclear but also hydrogen weapon.


There were several distinctive features of arms race that are necessary to be mentioned. First, common arms race involves huge amount of financial resources. Second, apart from creation of different arms type, arms race presumes creation of particular economic, production and technological chains which demand high level of economy and management at the governmental level development, demand highly professional supporting working staff, which in its term involves high claims to the education level and fundamental science in the country, and finally are not easily reoriented to the other type of the production. So, when the country does not correspond to any of mentioned demands or lacks some essential resources, it simply can not only lose the race, but also experience inevitable and as history shows inconvertible changes in its state system. This was exactly what happened with USSR in the arms race with USA.

2. Fall of USSR and the Arms Race
The nuclear potential of USSR and USA became so high that any military actions or starting the open war could lead to the destruction of the world. It is important to note that those potential needed to be stored somewhere, as well as it demanded substantial financial resources which would never be paid back. When one country invented or developed some type of weapon, other was using all financial and labor force to obtain the same or even better. Even though this race later on was “ex gratia” stopped by signing of a series of treaties, it greatly broke the economy of the USSR. The first treaty was SALT I. The SALT I agreements also proved valuable for another reason. During the negotiations, virtually all of the data on the Soviet strategic weapons used for the talks were provided by U.S. intelligence. Scouring through the data, a stern but brilliant military officer named Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov was able to determine how the Americans were getting their satellite intelligence. With the approval of the Soviet Council of Ministers, he worked feverishly with the secretive Scientific and Technical Committee of the General Staff to develop a comprehensive strategic deception program to hide from Washington the true size of the Soviet arsenal(Schweizer, 2002). The second- Treaty II. Carter took several steps to signal his anger at the Soviet move. He postponed Senate ratification of the SALT II treaty and placed a partial embargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union. He also tightened the U.S. ban on exports of military–related technology to the Soviet Union. The defense budget was boosted by 5 percent and he announced the Carter Doctrine, declaring that the United States was prepared to resist any further Soviet encroachments in the Middle East — by force if necessary (Schweizer, 2002).

In order to answer the question whether the arms race contributed to the decline of the Soviet Union it is necessary to understand the reasons which led to fall of the Soviet Empire and its structure.

In the USSR constitutions united republics were endued with government sovereignty and with an exclusive right to exit the body of Soviet Union. But these were mainly declarative and decorative constitutional dispositions which were later on used by regional separatists for the aims of their own. Autonomy republics were less privileged then union republics. Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was the main and actually the only source of union budget. And so, other republics were deflating financial, material, technical and labor resources from it for development of national outskirts, which were far behind in economic and social development.

Arms race was one of the peculiarities of the Cold war for world domination. Even though it led to many scientific discoveries in many technological and military fields, extensive participation of USSR in it led to non-efficient internal policies towards democratic republics.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 some 70 years after its grimly riveting and highly expectant Marxist-Leninist beginning ranks alongside World War I as the two most singularly pivotal events of the Twentieth Century. In a sense, both are conjoined, with the War providing the decisive finishing blow to what remained of both the totteringly indecisive Romanov dynasty and centuries of turgid, slow-to-change Russian autocracy. Lenin and Trotsky's ability in October 1917 to "pick the Revolution up off the street," if not guaranteed, certainly was facilitated by the disaster on the Eastern Front (Lovell). In understanding why USA succeeded in destruction of USSR, it is essential to remember that in the 20th century USSR experienced two World Wars, and each time after the end it should reconstruct its potential after huge people, economic and territorial losses while USA experienced minimum losses of all countries participants after two wars. And even though during the World War II United States had the greatest direct military expenses, its national wealth for the period had increased for more then 20%.

Arms race was destructive for USSR also for the reason that its economy was less effective then that of USA, which succeeded in more efficient use of new achievements of scientific and technological revolution.

It is obvious that USSR succeeded to endue this military and political opposition with such a mighty opponent during more then 40 years only grateful to over militarization of the economy and low, compared to the standards of the developed industrial countries, level of well-being of the population. Arm race lead to the total deformation of the USSR economy, in which military industrial complex was about 80% of the total industrial production. Civil fields of economy and agriculture were just an appendix to the enormous military complex. In the early 70-s this situation promoted general economic underdevelopment of the USSR that led to qualitative decline of soviet military and technological potential as well as to weakening of international positions of the country.

As I already mentioned, economic underdevelopment had also negative influence upon internal social and economic development of USSR and its allies.

Then perestroika began, during which USSR government decided to involve traditional methods of rising economy effectiveness (“strategy of speed-up”) and realized that its entrance to the world technical and economical level is impossible without its integration into the world economy, which demanded, in its turn, not only radical changes in forms of management, but also a radical change of all government and political state of the country. Perestroika was impossible without economy and social and political life demilitarization, without refusal of the huge military expenses, which were directed to the support of the global opposition with USA. Politics of new thinking which was tried to be implemented by Soviet government was an attempt to sustain Soviet Empire. But it never happened because of USSR fall.

3. Conclusion
In the conclusion I would like to summarize that arms race between USSR and USA influenced dramatically upon economies and political situation in both countries. And if in case with the USA that influence promoted its development, then in USSR step-by-step it contributed to its decline and fall. According to the definition, arms race can be passive, active and aggressive. Throughout the Cold War, American presidents had been reactive, responding to Soviet probes and provocations around the world. Reagan wanted to be less reactive and more aggressive, taking the initiative away from Moscow (Schweizer, 1994). At this example we were able to follow all stages of it and final superiority of USA. USA used arms race as the transitional step and as the geopolitical mean of getting power and dominance.
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