Since August 6, 1945 when the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the world feared the power of these mighty weapons. It was not until August 29, 1949 that the Soviet Union detonated their first nuclear weapon, sparking fear of a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Russia.
When Russia detonated their atomic bomb, the world leaders knew an arms race would begin and they did everything in their power to prevent it. Scientists demanded President Truman hold a conference with the governments of Great Britain and Russia to ensure an arms race would not begin while not hindering the scientific freedom to further research atomic energy (Blair, Terrors of Atomic War Hang Over Diplomacy, New York Times, 1945). At this conference, safeguards were put into place before the knowledge of harnessing nuclear energy would be released to the United Nations. Although these safeguards were implemented, everyone knew no number of safeguards will guarantee that aggressive countries will not produce atomic weapons secretly. Herbert Hoover proposed a way to limit the amount of uranium available was to take all known mines and turn control of these mines over to the UN to regulate and ration the uranium (Blair, Terror of Atomic War Hang Over Diplomacy, 1945). Despite this conference, it did little to quell the general publics fear of nuclear holocaust. Dr. Harold C. Urey of Columbia University said that an atomic weapons race will force a dictatorship government to form in the US to enable it to act quickly against nuclear threats. “If everyone has them, it will be necessary for the United States to move quickly in a manner not now possible under our form of government. This means that we would have to concentrate power in one or a few individuals, and that would mean dictatorship.” (Blair, 1945). The prospect of nuclear war with Russia loomed over the heads of all American citizens, causing the people to fear communists even more than before. This fear led to one of the greatest “witch-hunts” of all time, that being Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy’s hunt for members of the Communist party within the United States government.
On the other side of the fight for nuclear superiority, the Soviet Union came out blaming the United States and capitalism for their need to increase their atomic weaponry. Stating in Bolshevik, the influential communist magazine, “Monopoly capitalism exists, and therefore so do the sources and forces giving birth to new imperialist aggression, new conflict and world wars.” Bolshevik also predicted an intensification in class struggle in the United States as well as all other capitalist countries that would lead to an economic crisis. They also believe the Americans were creating an Anglo-American bloc that would undermine all international cooperation and inevitably begin the arms race in which Russia would have no choice but to partake in. (Middleton, West Breeds War, Soviet Press Says, New York Times, 1946).
All this threat of nuclear war inevitably led to nothing other than mass hysteria. Although it did force the international community to open their eyes to the fact that nuclear war is a grave threat to man-kind and moved toward preventing such atrocities. These preventative measures did little to stop an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union and the world still came very close to nuclear war several times during the Cold War.
Blair, Felix. Terrors of Atomic War Hang Over Diplomacy. New York Times (New York City, NY), Nov 18, 1945. pg. 65.
Middleton, Drew. West Breeds War, Soviet Press Says. New York Times (New York City, NY), Aug 1, 1946. pg. 12.