I've long had a fascination with the Cold War, but I'm glad I was only around for about three years of it.
US and our allies outnumbered the soviet union nearly 10 to 1. The US and allied GDP had even a greater advantage in terms of wealth/GDP.
The soviet union was much poorer and weaker than the US alone. Throw in western europe and the soviets were ridiculously outmatched.
Nevermind that the soviet union had nearly lost an entire generation a few years prior (ww2), in what conceivable way would the soviet union be able to invade west germany?
I was assigned to a unit in HQ US Air Forces Europe from 1981 to 1984. It was a fairly common view that the Russians + Warsaw Pact allies would be at the Rhine in 3 days at which point the conflict would go nuclear. The latter development was the subject of exercises like Able Archer.
It was a general ballpark number.
Population of british commonwealth, population of western europe + turkey, US, SK, Japan, etc would come out to be near 10X the population of the soviet union. And that's not including china, who switched sides in 60s.
If you want to see the GDP figures, you could also do it for these countries/regions.
> It was a fairly common view that the Russians + Warsaw Pact allies
I specifically said the soviet union. Not Russia ( which was the largest part of the soviet union ) and certainly not warsaw pact "allies". Would you really call warsaw pact nations "allies" considering that the soviet union had to invade and crush the czechs, hungarians, poles, etc? In any conflict with NATO, I have a sneaking suspicion that the warsaw pact nations would join NATO's side. But even if you include warsaw pact, it would still be close to 10X.
It was a common view that the soviet union wouldn't collapse also. And it was in our interest to build up the enemy as stronger than they were. It's called propaganda. The "stronger" the enemy, the bigger the military budgets.
If the soviets launched a sneak attack, they would gain an initial advantage, but they were never going to hold onto west germany. In any conventional war, the soviets would have lost. The soviets knew this and that's why they switch from a massive conventional military to a massive nuclear military ( which bankrupted them and had a hand in their collapse ).
If you were a grunt in the military, I'm sure you just simply brainwashed with whatever nonsense you were told. But if you look at the objective data ( demographics, GDP, etc ), the soviets had no chance against the US, let alone US and vast array of our allies.
"In mid-1961, the only plan the Pentagon actually had for a large conflict with Soviet forces, left over from Eisenhower, was an all-out nuclear attack on the Soviet Union... NATO planning simply wasn't designed- by the nature of the alliance, and by the realities of the situation- for offensive operations into the Warsaw Pact territory... There was, after all, just one way to hold on to West Berlin [in the event of a blockade]... to threaten to carry out our actual Berlin planning... best described by a skeptical Pentagon colleague: 'We send in a series of increasingly larger probes. If they're all stopped, we fire a [nuclear] warning shot. If that doesn't work, we blow up the world.' "
"any conflict pitting US forces against more than several battalions of Soviet troops anywhere in the world- Iran, Korea, the Middle East, Indochina- would lead to instant US strategic attacks on every city and command center in the Soviet Union and China... no alternative plans existed
for a war involving Soviet forces on a level beyond a division or two except for the general war plan. And that lack was by the directive of President Eisenhower, who had decreed that there should be no plans for "limited war" with the Soviet Union, whether nuclear or conventional, under any circumstances, anywhere in the world. This reflected Eisenhower's military judgement that no war between any significant forces of the United States and the Soviet Union could remain limited more than momentarily. Therefore if such a conflict were pending, the United STates should immediately go to an all-out nuclear first strike rather than allow the Soviets to do so... he was convinced that preparation to fight even a limited number of Soviet divisions on the ground, with or without the use of tactical nuclear weapons, would compel an increase in defense spending that would... [cause a ] 'national bankruptcy'.
both American and NATO intelligence had produced enormously inflated estimates of Soviet ground strength. For example, they ignored that a Russian division was less than half the size of an American division. Moreover, the supposed number of Soviet divisions was grotesquely overstated. Most of the oft-quoted figure of "175 Soviet divisions" referred to units that existed only on paper, subject to wartime mobilization, or to units that were grossly undermanned and under-equipped, and many that consisted of nothing more than a headquarters staff. Still, matching even the twenty crack Soviet armored divisions deployed in East Germany would legitimize large budgetary Army requests. These, if granted, would come at the direct cost of Air Force and Navy budgets."
And indeed it might actually have worked, but would have been a bit of a Pyrric victory, as it would also have destroyed Europe:
"In 1960-61 it was in reality quite possible... that not a single nuclear warhead would land on US territory after such an American first strike... But our Western European allies in NATO would be quickly annihilated twice over: first from the mobile Soviet medium-range missiles and tactical bombers targeted on them... and second from the close-in fallout from our own nuclear strikes on Soviet bloc territory."
Nukes at a platoon level could escalate a war very quickly.
summary: Remote commanders had autonomy due to concerns that centralized control could be subverted. Also, no reliable "call off the dogs" mechanism. Centralization of control of nuclear weapons came much later than the public believes.
> The Mk-54 weighed about 51 lb (23 kg), with a yield equivalent to somewhere between 10 and 20 tons of TNT—close to the minimum practical size for a fission warhead [footnote:] the theoretical minimum critical mass for 233U is close to 16 kg.
Actually, the critical mass depends on how much you compress it (so surrounding the fissile core with more chemical explosives lets you use less plutonium), and how effective neutron reflectors you surround it with. A modern hydrogen bomb might use 3kg of plutonium in the fission primary core, but the weight of the whole assembly (including chemical explosives and so on) would be several hundred kgs.
Apparently a sphere of Californium-252 that's 6.9cm in diameter will do the trick.
Also, 6.9cm isn't that far from the 10cm needed with Plutonium...
German officials _insisted_ that tactical nuclear devices would have been deployed, even against American reservations at this time. They were right, in hindsight.
Massed 155mm conventional artillery was NATO's mainstay response, with ATGMs to pick-off high-value targets like command tanks.
Later MLRS and Assault Breaker were developed, again conventional solutions.
A few low-yield tac nukes make no difference in this scenario, because the radioactive remains of NATO would still have been raining megatons on any attempted Soviet advance.
There has always been a resistance against American nuclear weapons in Germany. It just didn't play a big role up until fairly recently.
Nuclear power can be used without making weapons.
And fear of "nuclear" technology isn't totally about rational arguments. It's not baseless either, because so many "impossible" accidents happened and its so hard to dispose of nuclear waste safely.
The deployment of small nuclear grenades, intended to detonate near or in our cities for such "minor" targets as tanks hasn't exactly helped that fear.
This is a reason to be wary of nuclear power in e.g. Iran. If you're worried that nuclear power in the United States or Europe will allow western countries to develop nuclear weapons, you're too late.
It should also be noted that (edit: some of) the first nuclear weapons were developed using uranium, which is naturally occurring and can be enriched using centrifuges or other technology without any nuclear reactor at all.
> And fear of "nuclear" technology isn't totally about rational arguments. It's not baseless either, because so many "impossible" accidents happened and its so hard to dispose of nuclear waste safely.
This is FUD. Nothing is ever "impossible" but we deal with things more dangerous than nuclear waste on a regular basis, with less care taken and more actual accidents. Meanwhile you have a nuclear plant with multiple safety measures, then something happens which overcomes half of them but not the other half and the story is how unsafe this is rather than how the multiple overlapping safety layers worked as intended.
The only majors disasters have been outside the United States in plants with lower safety requirements. The Chernobyl plant was designed unsafely and operated unsafely and even then the death toll was on the same order of magnitude as the collapse of a skyscraper or the sinking of a large ship, but nobody calls for an end to skyscrapers or ships, much less dams (which are much more dangerous), and that's before we even mention automobiles.
The waste problem is also entirely political. The major long half life component is plutonium, which can be reprocessed and used as reactor fuel in newer reactors, which actually permanently destroys it -- the only way to make sure it's never used for weapons. The shorter half life components have to be stored to cool off, but we're talking dozens of years rather than thousands there. Many of them also have commercial value in medical imaging and things like that.
Of course, all the experts keep saying nothing bad is going to happen with "our" technology in "our" country with "our" government regulating it. But in reality stuff did happen again and again, and with the potential damage even very low probabilities become scary.
I don't get why being a "political problem" negates the nuclear waste argument. For one thing, suitable sites are a lot less common than previously thought, and safety of sites used earlier has been overestimated rather badly. For another, the "political" problem of getting people to accept a nuclear waste dump in their vicinity is extremely real and not going to go away. Not from any attempt of rational persuasion anyway.
Again, it's not so much about rationality as about fear. But it's also about the fact that engineers tend to underestimate the risk in relying on Human operators, designers, regulators and the stability of a government. Nuclear power plants have a lifetime measured in decades. The weather will change, the demand will change, the technology will change. All good reasons not to commit to decades long problems (centuries, in the case of Tschernobyl and maybe even Fukushima, and decommissioning old power plants looks to be a lot more expensive than everyone thought).
> the nuclear waste argument
Can you see what you're doing here? You don't actually argue, you just pretend there is an argument and it's conclusive. If I tried to argue against that, I'd uselessly spend energy making points you don't care about, and you would claim victory.
Oh, that's not what you're doing? The what is the nuclkear waste argument?
> it's not so much about rationality as about fear
You need it to be about fear, because you don't have a rational argument.
Again, I'm not trying to have either debate. I'm just arguing against conflating them, at least within each single country. Once we're policing other countries about keeping off bombs, then, sure, forbidding their power plants might make sense.
Emotionally it doesn't make sense at all.
You mean like the CANDU reactors?