Both the USA and the USSR developed their large arsenals because history teaches them that war is a possibility and probably a necessity. Both were afraid that if either one had the chance of destroying the other, that it could happen. They either made a large arsenal to strike first or hit back hard after an attack. Either way it would be disastrous for both countries with millions of people dead not by a long war, diseases, or famine but by a few phone calls and some presses on 2, – dollar launch buttons.
The USSR was a Communist country, guided by strict rules that guided their past and future. The Russians where convinced that they could win a nuclear war. There would be large destruction, but the conventional war, after the nuclear destruction, could be won. From Napoleon to Hitler their large unwelcome land is there biggest asset that has shaped their history for years and guided their choices in the development and deployment of nuclear weapons.
In the USA they had MAD or mutually assured destruction. The Americans had their weapons spread-out so that it was impossible to destroy all the nuclear weapons in a first strike ensuring that they could strike back with enough power to destroy the enemy. After WW2 America was probably the strongest country in the world but this is not a role that they necessary wanted. Because of their distance from Europe and other hotspots in the world, they often chose to distance themselves from whatever was going on in the world. They reluctantly joined the first world war in the last few months, and they would probably have done the same in WW2 if it wasn’t for Pearl harbor. The USA before WW2 had an army with a size comparable to that of a small country, they had no real fear of being attacked. But with the advent of long range bombers, rockets, and nuclear bombs a devastating surprise attack suddenly became real
Was there ever a real choice or was the development and deployment of nuclear weapons unavoidable once their power was theorized.
Is it possible to not use a bigger stick, once available, to bash in the head of your enemy?
History shows that it isn’t. If you have a bigger stick you can force your enemies not to use similar sticks, but someone is going to pick it up and use it if they can.
There is no clear reason why it is coming so easy for mankind to destroy each other and our surrounding. I don’t know of any animals that would kill excessively more pray than they can eat or poison large parts of their surrounding for years to come.
Is it the power of our imagination combined with our “lizard brain” that we came to understand that just destroying the one that is steeling your meal can be augmented by destroying also their family, or kind to prevent it from happening in the future?
In hindsight it was probably better for our hunter-gatherer forefathers to stick to their way of living for a couple of million years longer before starting sowing crops and taming animals. Maybe their limbic system would have shriveled enough by than to be just a little echo in its empty tomb.