“Nuclear weapons made the world a safer place during the Cold War.”
The answer to the above phrase is Yes and No. Yes because although most of the antagonist conventional forces in the European region had numerical superiority they could not attack countries that had nuclear weapons. Due to the destructive aspect of nuclear weapons, states that did not have such weapons did not want to provoke countries that had nuclear weapons for fear of possible reprisal involving nuclear weapons. Accordingly, countries that possessed nuclear weapons refrained from triggering conventional military engagements with other countries that had nuclear weapons because they feared that such hostilities could escalate to a nuclear level. As such, nuclear weapons were used by countries such as the United States to compensate for their small number of conventional forces as compared with their adversaries (Duiker, 2014, p. 650).Nuclear weapons therefore acted as an effective deterrence that enhanced global stability. To date, a few proponents of proliferation of nuclear weapons argue that the spread of such weapons would lead to increased security.
No. Nuclear weapons did not make the world safer because the weapons posed great threat leading to increasingly dangerous international engagements. Increased proliferation of nuclear weapons meant that there was a high risk of the weapons falling in the hands of a tyrant. Such scenario would have been a disaster if the tyrant would use the weapons to enhance autocratic policies domestically and in the international front. An attack using a nuclear weapon would have inflicted mass casualties. Nuclear weapons not only presented an opportunity to threaten and coerce, but the weapons were also a threat to countries and populaces the world over. For instance, the Cuban Missile Crisis provided a tense confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union over the latter’s placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. The Crisis was the closest moment when the Cold War almost developed into a nuclear war. Accordingly, the organizations that handled nuclear weapons in various counties risked the possible occurrences of disastrous accidents involving such weapons.
In short, whether or not the presence of nuclear weapons made the world a safer place during the Cold War is a matter of construction.
Duiker, W. J., & Spielvogel, J. J. (2014).The Essential World History, Volume II (7thed.).
Boston, MA. Wadsworth.
Krauss, L. M. (2010). The Doomsday Clock Still Ticks, Scientific American.