Move and Counter-move: The Development of a Nuclear Arsenal

  • Samuel R. WilliamsonJr.
  • Steven L. Rearden
Part of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Series on Diplomatic and Economic History book series (WOOROO)


By the beginning of 1949, an American defense strategy that relied increasingly on the retaliatory power of nuclear weapons had acquired clear and distinct outlines. What was also emerging was a closer, more dynamic competition with the Soviet Union that would, with time, sharply escalate tensions and give nuclear weapons an even more prominent role in East-West relations. The unexpected Soviet explosion of a nuclear device in late August 1949 dramatically altered the framework of the Soviet-American relationship. Not only did it end the American monopoly months, if not years, ahead of most predictions, giving the competition a new sense of urgency and reality; it also accelerated the US decision to develop a thermonuclear device, thereby further solidifying the American commitment to a nuclear strategy. Moreover, the Soviet surprise set in motion the bureaucratic process that would lead to the most thorough postwar examination of US objectives and policy—NSC 68—yet undertaken.


Nuclear Weapon Special Committee Atomic Strategy Defense Budget National Security Council 
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Copyright information

© Samuel R. Williamson, Jr. and Steven L. Rearden 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel R. WilliamsonJr.
    • 1
  • Steven L. Rearden
    • 2
  1. 1.SewaneeUSA
  2. 2.USA

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