MUTUAL ASSURED DESTRUCTION (M.A.D.)
Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) is a concept related to the Cold War and the nuclear arms race of the Cold War. When World War II ended in Europe by May of 1945 with the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allied Powers, but the war did not officially end in the Pacific Theatre until the atomic bombing of Japan in August of 1945. The United States had developed its atomic weaponry through its secretive program called the Manhattan Project. With the atomic bombing of Japan, the United States had begun the era of nuclear weapons and the nuclear arms race.
At the outset of the Cold War, the United States was the only nation in the world to contain atomic weapons, such as those used against Japan in 1945. As such, the Soviet Union was not able to militaristically challenge the United States and worked to develop their own atomic weapons. However, on August 29th, 1949, the Soviet Union performed a test of their first atomic bomb codenamed ‘First Lighting’.
Throughout the remaining years of the Cold War, each superpower worked to develop an ever larger arsenal of atomic weapons including bombs and missiles. For example, the United States had created over 30,000 weapons while the Soviet Union had created 40,000. Having established such large stockpiles of weapons, the two countries had essentially created the means of totally destroying each other and the rest of the planet. As such, historians refer to the nuclear arms race of the Cold War as an example of Mutual Assured Destruction since it was clear to both the United States and the Soviet Union that if either attacked the other, then it would ultimately lead to total destruction for both.