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Lasting Effects of the Cold War

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Ronald Reagan once said,“We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth,” but that was in 1985 and there is no sign of the complete destruction of nuclear weapons ( This is exemplified in the ongoing War on Terror in Iraq and Syria. For quite some time, Americans have been debating whether or not to use nuclear force as a deterrent on ISIS and other terrorist organizations. This is all due to the large competitional aspect that was created by the spread of Communism, and those who were attempting to stop it. The competitional side of the Cold War is what pushed both sides to advance further, faster. This has resulted in a world that has the impending means to destroy itself, but not the understanding of how to stop it. The Arms Race in the Cold War left a powerful lasting effect on the world. In 1950, the first military actions of the Cold War began. The Northern, Soviet backed, half of Korea invaded the more Western backed Southern half. This is an important event because it pushed the countries involved to think more militarily.

This was the first conflict that arose from the Cold War in terms of actual fighting. This was the first of only a few, making them all rather impactful compared to wars in which battle is commonplace. This one attack spawned a whole war of its own called the Korean war, which is still going on today, however it is in a ceasefire (Millett). The same scenario ensued concerning Vietnam, causing the Vietnam War (Spector). While smaller communist states invaded their southern halves, the two giants in the Cold War, never had a direct battle. Of course these two giants are the USA and the USSR. While they had a few encounters, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1968, none of them ever caused a physical battle. This is a very important part of the puzzle, because had they fought, it would have resulted in an entirely different Earth. This would have been because of the nuclear advancements both of these countries were making on a daily basis. Scientists working hard, day in and day out, to be a part of the dominant country. The advancements were plentiful.

Of course, those who did the research earned their discoveries, but there were also those who did not, who only knew of the power that the weapons held, not how it was obtained, or how to “control” it per se. While that might seem rather dramatic, it is true. These weapons can kill millions of people if placed correctly, which is rather unnecessary. The nuclear tension puts millions of people at risk of death, who are not responsible, at the push of a button. This now happens with many conflicts throughout the world, should a country feel as if there is near to being in a war with another, they many times, threaten nuclear war, which should not be the answer. In the Cold War, there is a long list of achievements that came out of the secondary competition, The Arms Race, from improved atomic bombs, to better weapons in the field, and the world was changed drastically. First, in 1945, the United States detonated their first atomic bomb, in essence threatening nuclear superiority, and overall power. The USSR followed shortly after in 1949 detonating their first atomic bomb. In 1952, America proceeded to test their first Hydrogen Bomb, an improvement of their last nuclear bombs. But in 1957, the USSR took a step ahead of the United States.

They launched the first ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) which was the first in the world. Shortly after in 1959, America launched their first ICBM, and this is significant because it shows the gap that grew between the U.S. and the USSR as far as technological advancements in weaponry went. About two years later in 1961, the Soviets detonated their largest bomb, the Tsar Bomba, to intimidate the United States. Soon after, in 1962, there was the first encounter with a direct threat of nuclear war, the Cuban Missile Crisis ( In a way, this event foreshadowed what the rest of history, up until currently, would look like when it concerned war of any kind, which is rather terrifying. There have been many rules and regulations put into place to restrict the use, and manufacturing, of nuclear weapons. However, these rules have been broken a number of times, such as when there were multiple presses to halt the production of nuclear weapons in Korea, yet they were and still are manufactured. While getting every country to put down all of their nuclear weapons would be immensely difficult, it is imperative to the furtherment of our world. Countries cannot grow, advance, or come close to flourish, if at every turn they are met with a threat of destruction in moments, which deters every possible forward movement of any society for fear of annihilation.

Whilst this might sound rather extreme, in a way there is a large amount of truth to be found in that statement. For example, the United States and North Korea have been in a nuclear struggle for quite some time. While this specific conflict is slowly coming to an end, it is one of quite a few that have halted the betterment of the world as a whole. Twenty-eight years have passed since the official end of the Cold War, which was signified by the dissolving of the Soviet Union into its separate republics ( However, very little has changed over the course of those many years; a few more restrictions on nuclear weapons here, some outdated weapons were destroyed there, and a couple conflicts along the way. Toward the end of the Cold War, there were talks of nuclear disarmament, which is what is still being worked on today, and these talks went by the names SALT and START, standing for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Britannica) and Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (Freedman) respectively. Neither of these propositions had the goal of world disarmament, where they should have.

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The open nature to still allow these weapons of mass destruction in the world left room for a lot of freedom as far as creating these weapons goes. Most apparently, monitoring every countries’ advancements and arms closets is not possible either. However, by now the world knew there needed to be a change in the way things were headed, so these talks did do a good bit for the fight against nuclear arms, but many argue that they did not do enough. SALT achieved limitations on all different kinds of missiles,“The treaty set an overall limit of about 2,400 of all such weapons systems for each side” (Britannica). As well as later on in 1982, START acquired reductions on warheads and delivery vehicles. “Both the United States and Russia would be permitted a total of 7,950 warheads on a maximum of 1,900 delivery vehicles (missiles and bombers)” (Freedman). Since these talks, there has been very little occur as far as limitation changes, and next to no talk of total disarmament. While it is understandable, the reasons to be nuclearly disarmed heavily outnumber the reasons why all countries should keep their weapons of mass destruction. First, the imminent doom of the world should worry every citizen on earth, but many argue that there should be no worry of such banter. However, this is far from the truth; when one missile is launched, many more will follow in each direction.

This would leave large parts of the world rendered useless due to nuclear contamination and the obliteration of natural life in the affected areas. Secondly, all of the resources that are poured into the production of these weapons would be much better applied to other areas of science. Most apparently, due to the use of the segregating word “nuclear” in both fields, these resources would be much better used in the upgrading and expanding of the nuclear power industry. Should all of these resources be poured into that industry rather than the production of destructive weapons, scientists could entirely change the way nuclear energy is perceived by the public. Third, and finally, these weapons only signify how much the idea of destruction matters to each country on earth. This in a way shows how corrupt the world has become compared to the way it should be. While there will never be a perfect earth, violence and destruction should not be the answer to the problems.

While the idea of total disarmament sounds great, obviously it would be hard to make work. First, each country would need to follow the exact same rules and regulations concerning nuclear weapons and how the are controlled. One power would be required to police the entire world and ensure the safety of all countries. World peace is not possible, plain and simple. However, the lack of peace should not be equated to who has the most nuclear weaponry wins the war. “The United Nations has sought to eliminate such weapons ever since its establishment” (United Nations). The United Nations has been at the forefront of all disarmament talks, always attempting to make it happen, but every time, there is someone who doesn’t agree with the terms and conditions that are put into place, therefore they must be changed to accommodate one, proceeding to fail another. Some throughout the world believe that entire disarmament must be forced due to the constant desire to be the better country.

Which all comes back to the idea of the Arms “Race”, a competitional fight to get ahead of the others. This has since pushed all of the countries involved to continue advancing, regardless of the “end” of the Cold War. Advancements are still made daily, or at least attempted. Which only proceeds to show every countries’ desire to be on top.Humans, as a whole are mentally competition based, and when someone holds a high amount of power over others, the underdogs always attempt to gain back that control. It is psychological, and almost every person has this ideology. Whether it is more prominent in work, athletics, scholarly studies, etc. each person has this mentality within them (competition). The control given to leaders allows them to take their competition to the next level, making the world all the more dangerous.In North Korea, these weapons are flaunted to the public as a way to build up patriotism amongst the people, but it also is used as a means to instill fear to the surrounding countries. Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, has had many increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapon tests since 2006 and is believed to have a chemical and biological weapons closet, regardless of being apart of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and the outlaw of the use of those weapons in warfare (North Korea).

This shows what lengths different leaders will go to to get ahead and find a foothold above others, which in some cases can be good, but in this case and many others, it is not.Overall, the Arms Race has changed the world in many different ways, of course that includes the weapons being made, and the way war as a whole is handled, but the Arms Race left a lasting competition in the idea of weaponry, that has pushed all countries to advance further. While, in some ways this is a good thing, in many ways this is not a positive aspect of the Cold War’s effect. The world has changed drastically, and the rules have not. There are many outdated rules and regulations which do not do enough for the safety of the world where they should. The countries of the world need to look to provide a safer planet for the future and ensure tomorrow for the citizens of the world.

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Lasting Effects of the Cold War. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Lasting Effects of the Cold War.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022,
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