During the Cold War we maintained a powerful force of nuclear weapons with more than 10,000 strategic nuclear warheads deployed in a so-called triad: intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and bombers armed with nuclear bombs and air-launched cruise missiles. Even with conservative estimates of expected attrition to this force, it was powerful enough to destroy the Soviet Union many times over. So it was considered to be an assured deterrent to a nuclear attack on the U.S.
But maintaining this powerful deterrence force had its own set of dangers. There was a continuing threat of a nuclear war erupting by miscalculation (as nearly occurred in the Cuban Missile Crisis), or by accident (we had three false alarms that I am aware of, and I don't know how many might have occurred in the Soviet Union). Any such nuclear war, however it started, could have brought about the end of our civilization.
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