Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union participated in every

  • kind of arms race imaginable, but none were as deadly or high stakes as their nuclear

  • arms race.

  • Developing bigger and better bombs, while putting them on systems that could deliver

  • them before the enemy could detect or shoot them down was the name of the game.

  • Both sides were consistently trying to one-up the other for that one in a million chance

  • that either side would actually turn to nuclear arms to settle their differences.

  • While nuclear war was consistently threatened and always had worldwide ramifications, it

  • never happened.

  • However, that never stopped both sides from preparing for it.

  • In the United States, the US military set about creating a robust three-tiered system

  • of employing nuclear arms from the land, sea, and air.

  • Land-based ballistic missiles would be fired from hardened and remote missile silos unlikely

  • to be attacked.

  • Air-based bombs could be dropped from high altitude bombers, and sea-based missiles could

  • be fired from nuclear-powered submarines.

  • The US also had a robust information and intelligence campaign.

  • While politicians were busy ramping up anti-Soviet rhetoric, the military was fast at work building

  • a great intelligence picture so that the US would never get blindsided in the event that

  • nuclear war was about to happen.

  • But beyond these measures, the US focused its energy on other projects.

  • After all, it was difficult to get funding for more ambitious projects with the space

  • race and competing politics than were already budgeted for.

  • Additionally, the US was focused on a deterrence policy while the Soviets actively invested

  • in an offensive nuclear capability.

  • These two different strategic postures are why the Soviets were entirely more prepared

  • for nuclear war than the United States.

  • Do not be fooled.

  • The US was still a very capable power, and any nuclear conflict would result in both

  • powers' mutual destruction.

  • However, the Soviet Union, on the other hand, did not have the problems of getting through

  • the bureaucratic red tape that American military leaders had to navigate.

  • Rather, the Soviet Union was arguably more prepared for nuclear war both out of simple

  • pragmatism but also as a way to demonstrate to their people that they were better than

  • the United States.

  • There were several scenarios in which the Soviets would use nuclear weapons.

  • The first, and most preferred for them, was doing what is called a preemptive strike.

  • A preemptive strike is when a nation attacks another before hostilities begin because the

  • attacking nation believes an attack is already imminent.

  • To put it simply, the nation to be attacked strikes first to regain the advantage.

  • The way that this scenario would play out would be that the Soviets would have a list

  • of preselected targets within Europe, Asia, or the United States that they wanted to strike.

  • These would typically be command and control centers for the US and NATO allies, large

  • military bases, major population centers, and important industrial complexes.

  • By taking out the military's brains and their ability to wage war, this would put the balance

  • of power squarely in the Soviets' favor if war actually started.

  • Additionally, the Soviets also had a plan to destroy land-based ballistic missiles in

  • their silos.

  • The Soviets developed a wide range of intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to destroy US

  • weapons in their silos.

  • These could be launched to prevent counter fire from being wrought back onto the Soviet

  • Union itself.

  • Another way the Soviets could employ nuclear weapons is in conjunction with a massive,

  • combined-arms offensive.

  • This kind of nuclear attack would be more focused on military objectives.

  • Again, command and control centers would be prime targets but also troop concentrations

  • and hardpoints facing their military would also be destroyed.

  • The Soviets also planned to utilize nuclear weapons in conjunction with their military

  • in two ways.

  • The first way could be part of a preemptive strike, as mentioned earlier, whereby nuclear

  • missiles would be sent in before a land invasion commenced.

  • The second scenario would be far scarier.

  • In the chance that Soviet forces were involved in a major land war and were losing, nuclear

  • weapons would be used to help turn the tide of the conflict.

  • While military targets would surely be selected, there would be a greater chance of them being

  • used against civilian targets to shatter the US and their allies' will.

  • The last scenario that the Soviets would employ their nuclear weapons would be in defense

  • of their country.

  • To give them warning of missile attacks, their entire country was ringed with an advanced

  • system of supporting RADARs of various frequencies.

  • Because of the wide range of RADARs employed, the Soviets would detect a variety of threats

  • at great distances long before they even reached Soviet airspace.

  • Even intercontinental ballistic missiles could be detected early by the Soviet military due

  • to advanced satellite technology at the time.

  • In this scenario, too, the Soviets would be ready.

  • Their nuclear forces were well prepared for any of these situations.

  • In the case of an impending attack on the motherland, they would move to prepositioned

  • fortified bunkers to continue the war.

  • Important aspects of their economy, like the defense industry, also had preparations to

  • be moved underground.

  • If that were not enough, their missile silos were also hardened to be impervious to US

  • counter fire, and at the worst-case scenario, their submarines would still be patrolling

  • with orders to expend all ordinance.

  • To deliver their nuclear weapons, the Soviets created arguably the most robust nuclear triad

  • in the world.

  • For their land-based missiles, by the mid-1980s, the Soviets were well on their way to making

  • a fifth-generation ICBM.

  • These ICBMs were emplaced in the world's hardest silos that would withstand every kind of US

  • ICBM.

  • In addition, their communications and control elements were also in these silos, as well

  • as secondary elements placed in off-road trucks that could move easily and be impossible to

  • knock out for a nuclear missile.

  • The Soviets also prepared their land-based forces not just for an immediate counter-attack

  • but also for a protracted nuclear war.

  • Inside these hardened silos, they also placed spare missile parts, propellants, and warheads

  • to manufacture more missiles underground.

  • These silos could also be restocked and rearmed.

  • Additionally, land-based forces built protected port facilities that would allow even their

  • nuclear submarines safe passage home to rearm and go back out to sea.

  • The overall Russian ICBM force greatly outmatched its US counterparts.

  • For their two most advanced systems, the SS-18 and SS-19, they had more warheads and more

  • reentry vehicles than their most advanced US counterpart, the MINUTEMAN III.

  • These missiles could travel faster by having these capabilities, hit more targets, and

  • be more difficult to shoot down than American missiles.

  • However, these missiles were produced in limited numbers and represented the Soviet land force's

  • absolute best.

  • Of the around 1,400 silos the Soviets had, 818 were of this design.

  • The remaining 580 or so housed their older yet still very capable ICBMs.

  • Lastly, even at the end of the Cold War, the Soviets were still working to produce even

  • greater propellant to make their missiles fly faster than American ones.

  • They were also in the stages of creating the next generation of a mobile firing ICBM that

  • would have been impervious to US counter fire.

  • The submarine force is also a capable and deadly component of the Soviet nuclear triad

  • that could have been used in conjunction with their land-based counterparts or served as

  • a last resort should none of them be able to fire.

  • By 1985, the Soviet Union possessed the largest ballistic missile submarine force in the world.

  • Their 62 newer submarines carried almost one thousand ballistic missiles while their 13

  • older submarines carried a paltry 39 missiles.

  • While all of these older submarines were forward deployed and would probably only be used in

  • the case of a conventional conflict, their newer generation submarines were where the

  • Soviets really packed a punch.

  • The newest generation submarine employed by the Soviets at the time was called the TYPHOON

  • class submarine.

  • Displacing a massive 25,000 tons when surfaced and an incredible 48,000 tons when submerged,

  • it was substantially bigger than the largest US submarine of the day, the OHIO class, and

  • is even bigger than most modern-day American warships.

  • These massive underwater missile batteries each could carry 20 missiles, each that had

  • an 8,300-kilometer range.

  • These units could also operate in the frigid waters of the Arctic and had some of the most

  • advanced stealth technology onboard, making them incredibly difficult to detect.

  • If that were not all, these submarines could also be employed in Soviet waters to protect

  • against allied anti-submarine attacks.

  • Lastly, Soviet authorities had near-perfect communications with these ships almost anywhere

  • in the world by creating one of the planet's most advanced extra-long frequency communication

  • suites that would enable Soviet leadership to give the order to fire no matter what was

  • happening.

  • The third arm of the Soviet nuclear triad, their strategic bombers, were just as capable

  • as their other two.

  • While generally thought of as more of an offensive weapon, since they would be at a higher risk

  • of being tracked and more easily shot down, the Soviet strategic bomber command could

  • deliver nuclear ordinance almost anywhere in the world on more targets than the US could

  • ever dream of doing.

  • The Soviet bomber command was divided into five different air armies that coincided with

  • their geographic position within the country.

  • Amongst the five armies, each one had a combination of long-range BEAR and BACKFIRE bombers, medium-range

  • BLINDER and BADGER bombers, and short-range FENCER bombers.

  • All told, the strategic air fleet had almost 1,500 bombers, including about 250 of the

  • most advanced BACKFIRE bombers and about 500 supporting aircraft that carried about refueling,

  • support, reconnaissance, and electronic attack roles.

  • While these bombers could carry out nuclear strikes, it was just one of many missions

  • they were tasked with.

  • Because of this, though they could be effective, they would not be as effective as a land-based

  • attack or nuclear submarine whose sole purpose was nuclear strikes.

  • Nevertheless, these aircraft carried a nuclear-capable air to ground missile called the AS-15.

  • The AS-15 was quite similar to the US TOMAHAWK missile and had an effective range of about

  • 3,000 kilometers.

  • Though advanced, this system compared to the other Soviet technology was the least developed,

  • and by the end of the 1980s, the Soviets were still testing more advanced versions of this

  • missile.

  • Against the Soviet triad, the US had a force only a fraction of the size.

  • Though fielding about 1,000 MINUTEMAN missiles, these were outclassed by the SS-18 and SS-19

  • missiles that the Soviets had.

  • Though the US possessed a similar missile to this called the TITAN ICBM, the US arsenal

  • only had about two dozen of these lethal missiles that were to be used only in a worst-case

  • scenario.

  • To face the Soviet submarine fleet, the US only fielded about half the number of missiles.

  • While arguments abound for whether US or Soviet submarines were better, the fact that the

  • US would have been outgunned here is clear.

  • Lastly, the US only had about 300 strategic bombers in its fleet, with most of these being

  • the aging B-52 bombers.

  • Though equal to or if not better than the BACKFIRE, the B-52 that saw service throughout

  • the Korean and Vietnam war and is still in use today, would not be able to deliver near

  • the amount of ordinance that Soviet planes could.

  • On top of this, the greater number of strategic bombers, if employed en masse, might overwhelm

  • the US capability to detect all and shoot them down.

  • The United States and the Soviet Union had drastically different nuclear strategies.

  • The US wanted to keep a strong enough force to act as a deterrent to future aggression.

  • While still capable, this strategic posture would have ultimately lost out to the aggressive,

  • offensive nature of the Soviet strategy.

  • Though deadly for sure, if the Soviet Union were allowed to carry out its nuclear strategy

  • as planned, there is no telling what the world would look like today.

During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union participated in every

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 nuclear soviet missile submarine war soviet union

How Russia Could Have Won the Cold War by Using Nukes

  • 1 0
    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/13
Video vocabulary