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Some ambivalence about missile defences was expressed in the first edition of Sokolovskii’s Military Strategy. As we have already seen, this book was very definite that missile defences, together with other forms of strategic defence, would play an important role in any future nuclear war. The first edition of the book, however, contained some statements which cast doubt on whether missile defences were technically capable of performing their assigned task. For although the book’s authors did state that ‘in our country the problem of eliminating rockets in flight has been successfully solved’, 42 they also asserted that ‘the methods and means of nuclear attack unquestionably predominate over the methods and means of protection against them’.

Another Soviet technological breakthrough with military applications could further enhance the international standing of the USSR and could be a valuable instrument in Moscow’s relationship with Washington. The years between 1957 and 1962 were filled with confrontations between the Soviet Union and the United States in 36 The Russian Nuclear Shield from Stalin to Yeltsin which Khrushchev attempted to use the Soviets’ reputed missile successes to gain political concessions from the West, or at least to prevent the Western alliance from making political gains out of Washington’s genuine lead in the technological race.

14 Khrushchev increasingly began to look for ways to reduce the defence burden and to direct more resources into agriculture and consumer goods. The declining growth of the Soviet economy after 1956 and the competing demands of the defence and civilian sectors created pressures on Khrushchev which were felt by every subsequent Soviet leadership. Khrushchev therefore began to make use of arguments remarkably similar to those he had disparaged when they had come from Malenkov. From the late 1950s onwards, the importance of improving the standard of living in the USSR was a constant theme in Khrushchev’s speeches, as was the link between reducing defence spending and increasing economic prosperity.

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Assessing Human Reliability in Nuclear Powerplants (csni83-75)


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