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David Holloway on: Fear on Both Sides of the Iron Curtain
David Holloway Q: There was tremendous fear on both sides of the Iron Curtain. There is this sense in the U.S. that as soon as the Soviet Union had enough bombs, then that would be the last day of the United States. And the Soviets felt much the same way.

DH: This is one of the most, to my mind, one of the most interesting, and one of the trickiest issues in nuclear history...why people felt the sense of danger and what danger exactly do they feel. For example, you see on the American side the statements from those arguing for a crash program to develop thermonuclear weapons, that it will be a disaster if the Soviet Union gets this first. It's never spelled out what is the nature of the disaster. Does it mean that the Soviet Union will attack the United States even though the U.S. has far more atomic bombs? And on the Soviet side, what exactly is the fear? I think it's not just a fear that [the Soviet Union] would be so weak militarily, but [the US] will bring, fly over [the USSR] and drop bombs...

I think there was another fear. There was the kind of fear, symbolic fear, that you know, if [the U.S.] show they're ahead, if they move ahead, then that will have all kinds of dire political consequences because people will think [the Soviet Union is] losing, we'll think we are losing. We will be demoralized. And so it becomes a kind of a -- not very specific dread of falling behind in the race, or on the American side, of being overtaken by the Soviet Union. So I think that's important. You can't reduce it to just the numbers of weapons and what the actual balance of force was on either side. Somehow these weapons symbolized something much greater, not only, I think power, economic power, and technological power, but also in a perverse way, the health and viability of a particular social system, its capacity to mobilize resources to do something as great at this.

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