Jaderné zbraně a studená válka
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Nuclear Weapons and the Cold War in Europe
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The atomic bomb did not prevent the Iron Curtain from descending over Europe. And when it was in place, nuclear weapons strengthened rather than weakened it. They became an integral part of the balance of military power in Europe, reinforcing the division of the continent. Nor, fi nally, did nuclear weapons bring the Cold War to an end. Reduction of the nuclear danger was a crucial factor in ending the Cold War, making it possible to bring the Cold War to a peaceful end. But it was not nuclear weapons that caused the end of the Cold War. What, then, was the role of nuclear weapons in the Cold War in Europe? This article suggests that nuclear weapons were important in several different ways. First, during the years of the American monopoly they served as a guarantee of Western security. They made it easier for the United States to commit itself to the defence of Western Europe. Second, nuclear weapons became an integral part of the balance of military power in Europe. The presence of thousands of such weapons on the continent helped to deter each side from using military force to seek advantage at the expense of the other. Third, political leaders on both sides understood that a nuclear war in Europe would be so destructive as to be incapable of serving any conceivable political purpose, and they knew that the leaders on the other side understood that too. That served as a crucial restraint. But it did not prevent strenuous tests of political will. Fourth, each side drew up plans for using nuclear weapons in war, but the evolution of military strategy on both sides shows a movement away from reliance on nuclear weapons, though planning for nuclear war was never abandoned. Fifth, the dismantling of the Cold War security system in Europe and the construction of a new system was an extremely important task in a period when rapid transformations were taking place both within states and in the balance of power on the continent. It was done in a way that gives nuclear weapons a much smaller role in international security. In that respect, as in so many others, the post-Cold War Europe is far superior to the order that prevailed during the Cold War.
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