When the United States dropped their atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (bombs named Fat Man and Little Boy respectively) to end the Second World War, they displayed to the world the destructive power of nuclear weapons. The United States also used this event as a sort of intimidation tactic; since the United States was the only country with this technology, they had a monopoly on nuclear weapons. Both of these points were put into play in the Berlin Airlift, which made Josef Stalin kind of jealous, but only until 1949; the Rosenbergs had passed information about the atomic bombs in the United States to the Soviet Union, leading the Soviet Union to test its first atomic bomb, RDS-1, in 1949.

This worried the United States, for the Soviet Union now had the same weapons that the US had, not only killing the US-held monopoly, but it was an international threat. Increasing their research and funding, US scientists developed a new kind of Nuclear Weapon in 1953: the hydrogen bomb (or H-bomb), code-named Ivy Mike. This new weapon was 225 times more powerful than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. This made Stalin very nervous, for the United States once again had superiority in the nuclear arms field, but not for long.

On April 12, 1953, RDS-6s was tested in the Soviet Union, their first hydrogen bomb (also called a fusion bomb); it was nine and a half times more powerful than the blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Although far from being as powerful as the American version, the Soviet hydrogen bomb presented a major threat to the United States, for both it and the Soviet Union now had the "same" destructive capability with nuclear weapons. The only way to beat the Soviets would be to have more nuclear weapons than them. This started the true brinkmanship of the arms race, at times nearly leading to nuclear war, such as in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This event increased the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.

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