Foreign Policy Blogs

US Cold War Satellites: Keep the Peace?

Thanks to Real Clear History, I found this fascinating story about how the United States used spy satellites to map Soviet Russia’s territory during the Cold War. It is from The Atlantic magazine and features an informative video that explains the 1950’s program in a very straightforward way for us political, not hard, science nerds. I highly recommend going to read the article, but here’s the 10 minute video right here:

I have for years thought that a study should be done on how spy satellites have impacted international relations. It seems to me that if one country can keep a close eye on an other’s strategic capabilities and movement and that side knows it is being watched, it would curtail warfare. Like the idea that if you put cameras in a 7-11 it will stop or at least deter robberies. That being said, I’m pretty sure 7-11’s still get robbed once in a while. Anyways, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal highlights this idea in of his 5 things that stick out about this particular spy satellite program:

2. Some historians, at least, believe that spy satellites helped keep the Cold War cool. By providing planners with some information about what was going on behind the iron curtain, they kept the fever dreams of our decisionmakers in check. “At the height of the Cold War, our ability to receive this kind of technical intelligence was incredible,” space historian Dwayne Day told the AP. “We needed to know what they were doing and where they were doing it, and in particular if they were preparing to invade Western Europe. Hexagon created a tremendous amount of stability because it meant American decision makers were not operating in the dark.”

Well, what did you think of the video? The spy satellite program itself? Or the theory that a watched enemy is a quite one?



Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO