During the cold war
, the United States
and the Soviet Union
were on the brink of nuclear destruction
. Both nation's nuclear stockpiles were more than capable of destroying the world several times over, let alone the enemy. Both sides were developing weapons systems that were capable of unbelieveable destruction.
Towards the beginning of the cold war, during the 1950's, the Eisenhower administration took on a project called, "Skybolt." Skybolt is a defense system that is capable of delivering a nuclear assault anywhere in the world, specifically around the Soviet Union. The technology was centered around firing missiles from B-52's that were armed and ready to go.
This technology was shown in the movie Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick. As can be assumed, keeping a system like this going was extrodinarily expensive. The development of this system not only led to an escallation of the cold war, but also developed a rift between the US and Britain.
As Britain was in a dilema over whether to become closer to the increasingly powerful US or closer to their influential European neighbors, it chose the former. The US agreed, much to the dismay of the rest of Europe, to co-develop Skybolt with Britain, and to arm Britain with an independent nuclear deterrent. However, Europe was annoyed that they themselves were dependent on the US for nuclear protection.
The rift between the nations occurred when the US unilaterally decided to scrap the entire Skybolt project due to the cost. The US rather decided to develop the Polaris nuclear deterrent, which was dependent on nuclear subs to deliver the nuclear assault. Britain was not at the time to be a part of this deal. However, after several years, the British were exclusively given this technology as a nuclear deterrent. This infuriated the rest of Europe, specifically the French under Charles DeGaulle. As a result of this special relationship, DeGaulle decided to withdraw French troops from NATO's integrated command structure.
In today's post cold war world order, it seems as if a new arms race is on the horizon. The US plans on building a National Missile Defense system, and the Russians plan to retaliate by increasing their own nuclear stockpile. The Chinese are a little anxious to see what will happen, considering their own increasing nuclear capabilities. The Europeans are just plain annoyed that the US and Russians are planning another arms race, again with the Europeans in the middle. However, in today's age, systems like Skybolt and Polaris are outdated. The might of nations today is a very disturbing thought.