The Technological Arms Race

  • Lawrence Freedman


Not everyone previously convinced of the inevitability of nuclear stalemate was ready, because of Sputnik, to adopt the opposite view. Many of those who had warned throughout the mid-1950s of the dangerous illusion of perpetual Western nuclear superiority saw the evident growth of Soviet nuclear capabilities as doing no more than confirming expectations. The folly of a strategy of massive retaliation was even more evident. Proponents of limited war felt their case to be strengthened. ‘[T]he first effect of the Sputnik on American policy has been to emphasize the thermo-nuclear stalemate and to strengthen the case for supplementing or replacing massive retaliation by limited atom war — and for giving tactical atomic weapons to America’s allies’, wrote British MP Denis Healey.1


Ballistic Missile Missile Attack Surprise Attack Nuclear Strategy Offensive Capability 
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  1. 1.
    Denis Healey, ‘The Sputnik and western defence’, International Affairs, XXXIV: 2 (April 1954), p. 147.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    John Foster Dulles, ‘Challenge and response in US policy’, Foreign Affairs, XXXVI: 1 (October 1957).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Cited in Samuel P. Huntington, The Common Defense: Strategic Programs in National Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), p. 101.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Henry Kissinger, ‘Arms control, inspection and surprise attack’, Foreign Affairs, XXXVIII: 3 (April 1960), p. 557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 12.
    See J. David Singer, Deterrence, Arms Control and Disarmament: Towards a Synthesis in National Security Policy (Ohio State University Press; 1962).Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Thomas Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960).Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, p. 495. (He considered this a possibility for 1969).Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Bernard Brodie, ‘The Development of Nuclear Strategy’, International Security II:4(Spring 1978), p. 68. Brodie, though sympathetic to Wohlstetter’s motives, adds that he ‘could never accept… that the balance of terror… ever has been or ever could be delicate’.Google Scholar
  9. 22.
    Oskar Morgenstern, The Question of National Defense (New York: Random House, 1959), p. 74.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The International Institute for Strategic Studies 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Freedman

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