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The same access to formerly secret information from the Cold War era also revealed the extent to which Soviet infiltration of the highest level of American military projects had served to further exhaust the American economy by necessitating continual development of strategic and tactical weapon systems to counter escalating technological improvements in Soviet military systems. The first successful test of a Soviet nuclear weapon in 1949 was directly attributable to Soviet infiltration of the top secret Manhattan Project; American pilots flew combat missions against Soviet Mig fighters developed with information stolen from American weapon designs through espionage; and that dynamic persisted virtually throughout the Cold War (Langewiesche 2007).
The financial strain of continuous nuclear deterrence and the perpetual modernization and updating of sophisticated strategic weapon systems was among the principle causes of the eventual collapse of the former Soviet Union. By 1989, the protracted war in Afghanistan had all but bankrupted Russia and the deprivations associated with military spending inspired much of the public support for changes in Soviet geopolitics and in the internal social inadequacies under prevailing national politics in Russia. In that regard, the final battle in the U.S. Cold War against the Soviet Union in the American support of the Afghani Mujahedin finally achieved victory represented by elimination of the perceived threat of a "hot" war between the superpowers.
Global Terrorism and the 21st Century Relevance of the Cold War Era:
The most significant contemporary aspect of the Cold War era is the potential proliferation of nuclear materials maintained in the former satellite countries of the former Soviet Union. Since 1990, the U.S. has spearheaded the international efforts to identify and secure all the fissile material produced for Soviet nuclear weapons. To date, approximately half of all the nuclear materials removed from dismantled Soviet thermonuclear weapons - both highly enriched uranium and plutonium - have been removed and re-engineered for use in civilian nuclear reactors in the U.S. (Langewiesche 2007).
However, the other side of that coin is profoundly troubling: numerous facilities both in Russia and in other Soviet satellite republics house substantial amounts of fissile materials under completely inadequate security, in several instances, unguarded altogether and secured by nothing more than (literally) a padlocked chain (Larsen 2004). Since 2001, Osama bin Laden has repeatedly issued public statements of his full intention to perpetrate an "American Hiroshima" consisting of coordinated nuclear detonations in as many as seven major American cities, including New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. With sufficient monetary resources to fund the procurement of sufficient quantities of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium to assemble the weapons to achieve his goal, about all that stands in the way of such an unparalleled American catastrophe is the availability of the fissile material itself (Larsen 2004).
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, numerous instances of attempted theft and smuggling of highly enriched uranium have been prevented by proactive intervention of Interpol, Russian security forces, and U.S. authorities. However, the impoverishment of the Russian population directly attributable to the deprivations resulting from Soviet military expenditures throughout the Cold War have created an economic climate sufficiently conducive to the continuing economic incentive for smuggling nuclear material into the global black market. In fact, it may very well be only be a matter of time before enough weapons-grade nuclear material of Soviet origin eventually finds its way to bin Laden and other entities sympathetic to Muslim extremism (Larsen 2004).
Should terrorists manage to smuggle enough fissile material into the U.S. To detonate nuclear weapons on American soil, the irony would be that the proverbial pigeons of the Cold War would have finally come home to roost. In that case, a small group of individuals would have achieved the catastrophe that trillions of dollars (and rubles) were spent on preventing through proxy wars and espionage conducted by the last of the global superpowers for nearly half a century since the end of World War II. REFERENCES
Allison, G. (2004) Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe.
New York: Henry Holt & Co.
Langewiesche, W. (2007) the Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor. New York: Farrar, Straus, and…[continue]
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