The Space Race and the Arms Race

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How did the U.S. and Soviet Union compete for world domination? How were the arms race, space race, and espionage involved?

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The Soviet Union and the United States were allies during World War II. However, in the war's aftermath, these two nations began a struggle for world domination that became known as the Cold War. As the Soviets expanded into Eastern Europe, the Americans adopted a policy of containment. In other words, the United States wanted to prevent the Soviet Union from further expansion. At the same time, both nations adopted several strategies aimed at achieving superiority in a number of areas.

One strategy that the two countries pursued was an arms buildup focused on the development of a stockpile of nuclear weaponry. This became an arms race in which the United States and the Soviet Union were both intent on getting the upper hand in terms of effectiveness and sheer numbers. The threat of annihilation and so-called nuclear deterrent created an atmosphere of fear during the Cold War.

Another arena of competition in the Cold War era was the space race. The ramifications of attaining superiority in space included intelligence-gathering abilities and the possibility of long-range nuclear strikes. The Soviets achieved a major milestone with the successful launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to achieve and maintain orbit around the Earth. The Soviets also were the first to put a man in space. Under President Eisenhower, the United States created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, to attempt to catch up, and eventually, the United States became the first country to land a man on the moon in 1969.

Espionage between the two countries was another real fear during the Cold War. One manifestation of this fear in the United States was the House Un-American Activities Committee, which attempted to locate and root out entertainers, government employees, and other Americans engaged in so-called subversive activities. Overseas, the struggle manifested in conflict between Soviet-backed and U.S. backed allies in Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and other countries. The Cold War did not really end until the late 1980s with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

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