An important component of foreign policy after 1945 was the balance of terror. The United States has always been leading the nuclear armament, from the Manhattan World War II project that involved developing nuclear weapons to their use against Japan in the final phase of the war.
The first nuclear bombs were carried by long-range bombers. Only in the late 1950’s did it become practically possible to use long-range rockets as means of transport for the strategic nuclear weapons. In a few years, the superpowers developed rockets that could target the opponent’s territory with great accuracy. Both World War I and World War II were endurance tests, which were largely determined by the participants’ ability to mobilize their resources for war purposes. An atomic war, on the other hand, will be decided by the weapons immediately available at the outbreak of war. The superpower’s nuclear weapons, therefore, were always in high readiness until the late 80’s. The nuclear weapons stockpiles thus made the strategic assessments a central part of the superpower’s foreign policy in the post-World War II period.
1945-55. During this period, the United States was completely superior to nuclear weapons. But the Soviet Union had great conventional forces that were perceived as a threat to Europe. At this stage, US security policy consisted of three measures: economic reconstruction of Europe, military reconstruction of Europe, and the development of long-range nuclear weapons bombers to give credibility to the doctrine of massive retaliation: If the USSR attacked the United States or some of the US allies, North Americans would respond with full nuclear war. As the North American bombers had limited range, this deterrence depended on an extensive network of foreign bases.
1955-62. At this stage, the Soviet Union expanded its nuclear weapons stockpiles so that the nuclear threat became reciprocal and a beginning terrorist balance between the superpowers developed. With the Russians’ open threat to intervene in the Middle East during the Suez crisis (1956) and the successful launch of the Sputnik satellite (1957), this development led North Americans to place more emphasis on the development of nuclear missiles. At this stage, the doctrine of massive retaliation was heavily criticized because US nuclear weapons were developed at the expense of conventional forces: The doctrine only gave the United States the choice between total nuclear war or surrender, and was useless against limited warfare, it said.
At the end of this phase, President Kennedy put forward the doctrine of flexible response. It aimed, in part, to develop flexible intervention units, adapted to the entire scale of limited warfare, from conflicts between nations to guerrilla actions. In part, it aimed to fight (and win) a nuclear war by directing the attacks against the opponent’s weapons (counterforce strategy). The contingency was sharpened with bombers that were always on the wings and with the posting of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. When the Soviet Union tried to balance the relationship of strength by placing its own missiles with nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962, the world was brought to the brink of nuclear war (see Cuba crisis).
1962-72. After the Cuba crisis, the United States was apprehensive that the Russians had developed the ability to win a nuclear war by surprise attack. The United States then sought to diminish the Soviet leaders’ willingness to war – not their ability to strike. This strategy provided the Soviet Union with the knowledge that the United States could withstand a massive surprise attack and yet have enough nuclear weapons left to direct a devastating attack on the Soviet Union. This ability was called Second Strike Capability.
According to commit4fitness, the US nuclear defense consists of bombers, land-based intercontinental rockets (ICBMs) and submarine-based intercontinental rockets (SLMBs). This forms the strategic triad that is the basis of the United States’ resilience. Because even though one leg of the triad is wiped out, each of the other two has enough rockets to launch a devastating attack. The strategic triad was the ultimate means of sanction in the foreign policy of the two superpowers and the basis for the balance of terror.
1972-91. In the 1970’s, the USSR gained some of the US lead in strategic weapons. President Nixon’s security policy adviser, later Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, advocated a policy known as detente, or relaxation. The policy consisted, among other things, in agreements with the Soviet Union on the types of strategic weapons that could be allowed to be developed and how many were to be scrapped (see SALT). Kissinger’s central concept was linkage: the Soviet Union was to be spun into a network of advantageous trade and cooperation that the country would not be able to afford to break with time. But at the same time, the development of new strategic weapon systems continued, and the counterforce doctrine was re-launched in 1974.
For Kissinger and Nixon, the SALT agreements were elements of a larger building. President Jimmy Carter detached the SALT II agreement from its context and demolished large parts of Nixon-Kissinger’s foreign policy structure by boycotting important parts of trade with the Soviet Union in protest against the inmate in Afghanistan in December 1979. At the same time, Carter acknowledged the People’s Republic of China and escalated military spending.
Several elements of the Kennedy period doctrine were brought back again by Carter. By the early 1980’s, plans had been devised to develop new types of long-haul transport aircraft that could quickly transfer special forces – Rapid Deployment Forces, or RDF – to troubled corners of the world. The plan to also develop cargo vessels full of weapons – Maritime Preplacement Ships, or MPS – to be deployed in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and Persian Gulf showed that RDF was developed specifically with a view to defending the oil-rich areas of the Middle East.
The so-called Roll-back strategy towards the Soviet Union was reinforced during the 1980’s. As early as 79, NATO had adopted its double resolution, which involved the deployment of 572 Pershing II atomic missile missiles in Europe. At the same time, the United States increased its support for counter-revolutionary movements around the world to roll back the Soviet influence. In particular, the NATO double-decree triggered one of the strongest post-war peace movementsin Europe, but it was only when Gorbachov came to power in the Soviet Union that the superpower understood how to exploit this situation. By offensive disarmament in 1986-88, the Soviet succeeded in sabotaging the Roll-back strategy. The political costs of rejecting the Soviet manifestly genuine disarmament proposals were too high. In this way, the United States was forced to agree to a significant disarmament, with the Soviet Union openly giving the largest concessions.
Since 1991. The Soviet Union ceased to exist on December 31, 1991, and Russia’s defense spending in 1998 represented only 5% of Soviet spending. The threat from the “Empire of Evil,” as the United States president in the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan referred to his ideological opponent, had largely disappeared. It had different consequences for the United States. First, to ensure that the remaining Russian nuclear weapons and weapons plutonium did not fall into the “wrong” hands. Second, the need to develop another form of legitimization of NATO’s existence. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded in 1991 and the Soviet Union disappeared. In an attempt to legitimize US continued military dominance in Europe and the North Atlantic, the alliance turned on an aggressive containment of Russia through the conclusion of so-called Partnership for Peace deals with Russia’s peripheral states and subsequently accepts a number of these as actual NATO members – mhp. provoking Russia so vigorously that it could legitimize continued NATO existence. Third, the United States needed to develop a new enemy image, to replace the communist ghost that the superpower had used since World War II. The new enemy that the US now invented was Islam.
Religious fundamentalism has undoubtedly been on the rise since the current capitalist economic crisis broke through in the early 1970’s. In the United States, it is Christian fundamentalism in particular that has characterized the fundamentalist landscape. Right from militant abortion opponents who kill abortion doctors to Christian militias on the far right. In Israel, there have been primarily Jewish fundamentalists – such as Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 killed dozens of Palestinians at a mosque in Hebron to kill the country’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin committed by a fundamentalist Jew in November 95. In India, there has been primarily Hindu fundamentalism targeting the country’s Muslim and Christian minorities. Among the various forms of fundamentalism, the United States has selected the Muslim – personified throughout the Arab world. Interestingly, in the 1980’s, a number of the most extreme groups and individuals were trained and financed by the United States themselves, as the superpower needed them in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion forces.