Trigger warning: Nazis
Another decade-old old AH.com scenario for you. The thread this was in was titled "Question for Aedh Rua" at: www.alternatehistory.net/discu…
. The POD is Winston Churchill dying in a car crash, leading to a world where the axis wins the second world war, leading to a truly frightening cold war.
I've been wanting to either getting Aedh Rua or one of the other greats of the community like B_Munro to do a continuation/expansion for literally over a decade so I've decided to finally tackle it on my own.
HOW WE GOT HERE
Winston Churchill's death while the subject of a headline or two didn't seem important at the time. The first visible change was Halifax's becoming prime minister instead, with diplomatic implications that would shake the world.
The second world war, also known as the "Eurasian War" was a clear axis victory without Churchill's leadership -- the soviets were forced far to the east and Japan for a time controlled all of China successfully. The war didn't so much end as shift into a low, grinding partisan phase in the east as Germany built up it's "atlantic wall" to make the prospect of British retaliation nearly impossible in the years 1945-54. The reprecussions of Halifax's craven diplomatic surrender had only just begun.
Starting in the 1950s, America realized that there was a real risk of fascist global dominance and responded to Germany's challenge by rather more extreme militarization and domestic spying than in our world. Besides this authoritarianism, America forged alliances with a UK that rejected Halifaxian appeasement and the USSR. Thus, the first phase of the continuing cold war began. There were clear successes for both side like America's military campaigns in Latin America to remove fascist-sympathizing governments from power along with Germany's temporarily obtaining the alleigance of the middle east on the side of the Axis.
Following the nuking of Kuwait, the cold war shifted into a new phase as disruptions to oil supplies caused trouble in both Axis and United Nations. Oil supply disruptions even went so far as to cause a couple of minor nuclear "oops" between the big powers. Bioweapons were even used by both Japan and the 'neutral' south Africans to retain control. Japan's war in China ended with a humiliating retreat behind the yalu as the puppet government of Manchura imploded in 1978. The powers grew their already massive arsenals to truly world-wrecking levels and began the first steps in space -- towards the end of this period the United States would try it's first ill-fated attempt at a lunar colony in the mid 1980s.
One notable shift of the 1970s was that there was a diplomatic thaw between the US and USSR/China and Japan as Japan left the axis following it's loss of China. This, when combined with the (so far) partial convergence of latin america to developed standards of living along with America's pattern of forcing the economy on a "accumulate massive amounts of cpaital, use it for growth, use the growth for a MASSIVE military" made the cold war more clearly even instead of being Germany as #1 as it was into the 60s.
The years 1990 to 1996 were known as "The thaw" as Germany did both economic reforms as well as a limited degree of political liberalization -- academic censorship was reduced, access to western journals opened up and most importantly, trade terms were improved with Germany's puppet states in west and south europe. For a few brief, magical years it seemed like the global situation was going to improve. Perhaps the cold war would be slowed down drastically...
Unfortunately this dream wasn't to be realized; A side effect of the openness to western publications and reduction in censorship was massive protests. There were a few tense years following the reversal of reforms but something gave out in the end: Beginning with riots among the slaves in SS Burgundy in march of 2002, Germany's puppet states in western and Southern Europe along with the slave-colonies of the East went into full-on rebellion that even managed to spread into the Reich itself. This revolt took a whole decade to fully suppress -- even as of 2012 there are still guerillas in the backwoods of Western and Southern Europe. There were mass firebombings of cities in France, and the world came close to a nuclear exchange as President Biden and Fuhrer Stark almost come to physical blows during a summit over the european 'troubles' and Stark's threatening to use nuclear weapons in the rebels. The reich's response ended up being full suppression, along with doing some long-needed economic reforms in both Germany, along with creating an actual economic union in Europe instead of just running things like the warsaw pact. Also, certain aspects of the backlash such as academic censorship being reimposed and requirements to not do research that contradicted "National Socialist science" being restored were quietly reversed by a leadership that realized it needed to keep up with the United States technologically, ideology be damned. After all, if the Reich is a burning cinder it didn't matter whether the scientific establishment was pure on the matter of racial science.
Germany's being threatening headed off an incipient Anglo/Sino-Soviet split. The leadership in both Alma-Ata and Beijing is secretly grateful for the "scary zeroes" forcing the wartime alliance to be kept up despite american concerns re: human rights, spying. In gratitude, they decided to tone down the technology-stealing and spying from the US for a decade or two.
After the "Scary Zeroes", the world's future as always remains uncertain but the status quo remains in place -- faced with their backs against the wall, the leadership of the Reich displayed an amazing ability for self-reinvention. Follownig the near-continuous period of crisis between the Democracies and the Axis or the Axis and Soviets, the fact that it's calmed down to 'merely' bitter cold war of the sort seen in the 1970s or 1980s is seen by many as an improvement. Yes, nuclear and biochemical arsenals continue to grow but at least the rate has slowed down dramatically.
At least America's moonbase is now self-sufficient and there's a martian colony ready for if the worst happens back on earth. After all, the explosion in the post-reform East came quite close to taking the world down in the process. What will happen next time there's an explosion in the Reich?
THE BIG TWO
THE AXIS: These states are varying flavors of fascist, or in the case of their allies may range from juntas to even extremely right-wing democracies such as South Africa or Sweden -- even these democracies tend to be "one party wins and it isn't the liberal one" variety, though.
The Reich retains it's empire, but these days lags the "free world" by an embarassingly large margin which, given German military objectivs is an extreme policy. Even MEXICO enjoys a higher standard of living in than the Reich even with the return to (slow) economic growth within the last 5 years thanks to economic reforms like "actually creating a free trade zone instead of using the EU as a way to milk countries". Besides economic issues and the guerilla problem, the Reich has other issues issues with the fact that there are extremely few nazi true believers in even the Partei these days. An attempt to reverse this kind of cynicism by putting everyone back in uniform and singing nostalgic old marching songs was tried in the 2000s and didn't exactly work out too well in reversing cynicism. That said, even factoring in the late-soviet levels of cynicism the government grudgingly retains the support of the people in a "it beats being killed by guerillas" way. With extreme re-regimentation not working out, some more pragmatic leadership types are slowly touting "German Socialism" as the ideological slogan while using it as a cloak to do massive economic restructuring and FINALLY drop any state endorsement of weird "race science" and bans on "jewish physics". The regime's level of censorship while harsh isn't 100% as extreme as it was pre-opening given the assistance to research efforts that comes with allowing even partial openness but the iron walls remain in place.
Decades of extreme censorship have reduced German arts and culture to hackneyed schlock and propaganda. There is much atrocious brutalitist architecture in Berlin, renamed from Germania back in the 1990s and Speer's massive dome still exists.
The army and Partei rule, with the SS being eased out of real power for being simply too unpleasant and holding back Reich science with their insistance on believing truly kooky theories like the vril theory or the moon of ice one. Since the mid-2000s, Germany's leader has been a Chancellor since the last fuhrer was a brutal embarassment even by Nazi standards and the fact that he came very close to causing the end of the world following the explosion in the east really did not help.
The eastern reichsprotektorates are back to the "slave camps in a war zone" mode of the 1950s with massive guerilla activity once again -- despite massive efforts to retain order following the revolts of the 2000s the issues that led to the explosion remain clearly unsolved. The global fear that someday, an explosion in the Reich's eastern colonies may lead to the end of the world remains in place since after all the revolt of the 2000s came close enough to fulfilling the nightmare. The factories, mines and plantations now barely manage to pay for upkeep of Germany's military presence in the East since local factory-owners and plantation masters noticed that "slowly starving to death" doesn't produce slaves able to actually do enough work to make ends meet. The local nazi POV is "Yes, they're filthy untermensch but it's not like the "secured communities" or the resort dachas will pay for themselves". Despite the incentives to move east that the settlement program has had in place sicne the 1990s, migration eastwards remains slow.
Crimea with it's pleasant weather and relatively isolated geography making it easy to secure from rebels is Germany's model colony in the east.
Even as far as parts of a badly-run empire go the SS's fief of Burgundy is unusually badly run which given the level of corruption and brutality in the Reich counts as an achievement. Think a blonde version of North Korea with weekly human sacrifices to Wotan added on top of it. The sheer level of abusiveness that the SS ruling caste of that area has managed to create quite possibly the worst guerilla problem of the entire empire within Europe.
Germany's african colonies are studies in brutality. The lucky areas are run like King Leopold's congo, even down to the chopping off of hands. Forced labor, one-child policies, mass sterilization, execution of entire villages for someone spitting on a German soldier, putting pacification drugs in the water and other harsh policies are in place. The african colonies are no longer a source of guerillas against Reich rule for the most part due to simple despair among the population along with pacification drugs that actually work part of the time without creating extreme rage as a side effect -- this last side effect combined with the human tendency to come up with elaborately violent religious mythos has made what guerillas in Africa remain to cause trouble become truly frightening death cultists. Recent years have seen the beginnings of a settlement program to encourage movement into (relatively) ealthier highland regions like ruanda-urundi, parts of Tangynika or even Katanga with results including an even lower rate of success than the ostland -- some more cynical germans suggest just resettling the slavs of the East in Africa and having them lord over the africans, but slave-labor combines in the east refuse to endorse this proposal since they need the forced labor to make a profit -- compromise suggestions of allowing other European Union member states to recruit the slavs as immigrants(provided they never come back) have been approved -- there are a few million in both France and French Algeria along with some in the Italian empire.
The healthier and pleasantly mild highland climate of Ruanda-Urundi has made it the one area where large-scale settlement has actually worked. The local African were relocated to the Congo despite the objections of settlers who wanted slave labor. here are lots of little swiss-style chateaus with palm trees and golf courses. There are a few similar chateaus in Ostafrika, but the fact that there are more africans, plus colonial lobbies to keep slave labor in place means that as yet Ostafrika remains african-only.
Germany's biological warfare program is centered in the Congo in large part due to Africa's being such a rich environment for tropical diseases with a high amount of military potential, along with there being millions of Africans who can be used for bioweapons test. New strains of anthrax, ebola and even bioengineered, airborne HIV wait in labs or missile silos for news of the next big war to be deployed.
The european Union is part warsaw pact and part OTL European Union. At least these days there's actually an open economic zone which helps with growth. The German troops in every country doesn't win the EU much love from the locals and there are many resistance movements of both nationalist and left flavors against it, but on average the European Union is a (small) net gain for the Reich and no longer a drag. Unfortunately, even the added productivity isn't much of a help for keeping up with a free world that's roaring ahead economically.
As Germany's long-time partner, italy has traditionally enjoyed a degree of latitude re: domestic policy along with obvious things like being allowed it's own nuclear arsenal. This tolerance for moderation has led to Italy's having higher standards of living than Germany itself, along with a renaissance in science. Rome is still grumbly re: Berlin's forcing the reimposition of totalitarian policy following the end of the freeze, and duce Cavour is slowly easing off on the recession.
Italy's colonial empire tends towards "unpleasant", "unpleasant with ongoing massacres to make examples of relatives" and "no natives" but compared to either Germany's Eastern protektorates or Africa this is the world of light. Yes, the natives are drafted into forced labor, but at least aren't actively executed en masse and only troublemakers are sterilized. That said, Italy's rule is autocratic, catholicism and learning italian are both strongly encouraged. Libya is pretty much Italy's sunbelt these days, like French Algeria there are a few million slavs from the East both there and in Ethiopia.
Italian Mauritania is the European Union's radioactives and toxic waste disposal area.
The European bits of Italy's Empire such as Greece, Albania and Cyprus range from "on par with italy" to "autocratic but at least legalistic" in terms of level of repression. Catholicism and picking up the Italian language are strongly, but without going as far as they do with the "cultural suppression" campaigns in the middle eastern or African bits of the empire.
France is as usual prone to terrorism and a permanent headache for Berlin -- the last Fuhrer, Stark was outed after he started openly talking about usage of nuclear weapons on France's rebels. In his darker moods, Chancellor Morgenstern sometimes briefly wonders if he should have delayed the coup until *after* his predecessor nuked France but then quickly comes to senses, since the french are white. Even with Festung Europa making the shipment of supplies to France much harder, the resistance continues it's six-decade long struggle, despite complications like the persistant leftist/nationalist splits.
Without minority issues to worry about, even with pressure from Berlin the fascist government in Denmark is rather mild compared to the Reich. This traditional moderation has meant that Danish academies or students produce a surprisingly large chunk of the Axis's original research or significant improvements -- in fact it was Danish ideas that led in part to the opening of intellectual freedom back in the 1990s.
Like Denmark, Norway is a mild fascist regime that uses tribute in the form of oil profits to placate berlin,in order to keep the status quo of "being fascist on paper while being at worst a one-party state" going.
The state of French Algeria is a rather brutal apartheid state. However, the fact that adoption of catholicism and the french language are paths to the citizen class act as safety valves. There are now a few million French Algerians of slavic descent who express their gratefulness by being significantly more brutal towards the arabs than the french algerians of actual French ancestry.
The low countries of Wallonia, Flanders and the Netherlands along with the Reich's vassals in the Balkans are mostly boring fascist regimes. Think grey, dreary authoritarianism as the atmosphere.
Spain's economy is on par with Germany's following decades of Falangist economic policy, and the ruling Falange is as a result popular enough that there is less need for corruption or brutality. These facts are all embarassing to Berlin -- the Danes having higher standards of living but the un-aryan LATIN spanish?
Portugal is characterized as being "The most boring fascist state", but it's unwillingness to request assistance from Berlin in handling it's African problem raises eyebrows -- it's bad enough that the Portuguese refuse to ask for assistance but they actually do racial mixing with the natives? Chancellor Morgenstern has quietly taken intervention in Portugal's affairs off the table since the Reich needs a good generation or so to recover from the "crazy years". As long as portugal doesn't do anything really unusual like allow Africans to move to portugal itself, the regime should be safe from German intervention.
Pakistan is a creaky military junta facing both left-wing and islamic rebellion, but isn't quite a near-failed state since the political formula the government uses of "Aryanism" is a bit more coherent than OTL's "warlord-prone democracy alternating with military rule". They have even more nukes than OTL.
Turkey is similar to OTL Turkey under military rule, if a bit more capitalist and secular than OTL. The generals in charge grumble and wish Turkey
There are a few west/central african states that lean to the Reich because of either French intervention or due to being too awful for the UN to consider tolerance of the states as members -- military dictatorships are one thing but state-sponsored cannibalism is another.
Jean-Bedel Bokassa II's empire of Chad-Ubangi is the worst place on the planet. Only half the population of the area before Bokassa I took over survives. It's so degenerate, that if it wasn't for Bokassa II's using the country for secret bank accounts for Reich officials the Reich would have intervened in the name of human decency, and been only partially hypocritical!
The Republic of South Africa is a reich-leaning neutral and in this world's rather more lenient standards for liberty one of the less evil places. Yes, they're an apartheid state with both a one-child policy for africans along with pacification drugs in the water, but they're not actively running concentration camps and the white people get to vote. This fact is lost on the black majority, which has at last count 19 anti-white terror groups in operation despite South Africa's willingness to do things like sell villages to German labor combines every so often.
The Swiss are thought of as the Reich's banker since they provide no-questions asked storage of funds for Partei or Army leadership.
Sweden at least keeps both the forms and much of the substance of democracy but one party keeps winning and it isn't the Social Democrats.
Finland is much like Sweden, except it's rule by "alternating right-wing parties" and not dominant-party rule. Nokia makes surveillance bugs for the Reich instead of cellphones, and is one of the bigger companies within the European bloc.
THE UNITED NATIONS: Militarized and semiathuritarian democracies. Elections do matter somewhat in practice, but the militaries or security service along with more influential bureaucratic departments enjoy a rather large say. The main difference from OTL's 'liberal democracies' in practice is that the people known to be visibly influential behind the scenes are the security service or army rather than the universities and media -- a few dozen quiet 'suicides' and disappearences in the 1950s severed the government-academia links in the US and UK.
The United States of America leads the United Nations, and has an economy twice the size of the Reich if you look at OSS numbers and four or five times the size of the Reich if you go with data based on resource usage/what's built. Even so, this is a more austere America with the growth being aimed towards 1) a military-industrial complex far larger than anything seen in OTL 2) reinvestment in the economy to encourage more growth(R&D or infrastructure) rather than consumer goods or raising the standard of living. America is a much more militarized, authoritarian and regimented society than ours, and with reason since it's faced off against Germany for more than half of a century. As a result of this, American society has been distorted massively; there are government cameras everywhere, both sexes are conscripted, there is extensive censorship, there are open secret police, cable or satellite TV are nonexistent for "security" reasons, people can be drafted at any time for labor or military reasons albeit this is rare nowadays and the people live with visible restrictions on freedom of thought. America's overall atmosphere of one of a mix of patriotism, plus fear of the enemy. It's a very pseudo-1950s type place even if nowadays the moralism isn't at 50s extremes -- the races and sexes are equal and not shown sleeping in seperate beds.
Domestic politics is frozen in a variant of the "vital center" of OTL, with the consensus being kept in place thanks to real fear. Democrats are the party of labor, while the GOP is the party of capital. With the various threats that America has to keep everyone on board plus the secret police, there has been neither a "new left" or a "christian right" allowed to emerge.
On various "moral" or "social" issues, America is around a generation behind; there is quite a bit of sex going on if kept quieter than OTL and homosexuality is in the early stages of acceptance. However, the media is rather more restrained than OTL and a good chunk of what the youth wear in our worl would get them arrested on indecency charges. Like in OTL, hardline drug policies are in the process of failing but this world's response is to start very slowly moving some drug offenses to being medicalized or simply reducing sentences.
America has had national school uniforms since the 1960s as part of the authoritarian trend of the past half-century.
The harsher postwar economy, later reopening of immigration means that even with a quite pro-natalist government, America's population is only 268 million people. This is distributed rather differently than OTL with there being much more in the old rustbelt and much less in both the west or southern regions of the country -- the rustbelt is doing just fine and isn't rusted out.
America's economic policy is much more statist than OTL, but this is not a redistributive form of statism. Think more OTL postwar Japan in many ways for this type of command capitalism. It works as America's lunar base, recently-founded mars colony, massive military and high rates of growth all show. Yes, it doesn't produce good rates of standard of living growth but it enabled America to first keep up, then start roaring past it's enemies.
America has 55 states with Iceland, Jefferson, Antilles, Puerto Rico and Guyana. All of the new territories are rather more americanized than OTL. There has been a program of subsidizing settlement in Iceland in order to boost America's position in the region.
Alaska and Hawaii are both more heavily settled for cold war reasons.
In foreign policy terms, America's leadership knows it's #1 in practice and has in recent years focused efforts to create a ring around the Reich to weaken it's position with recruitment of allies in the middle east, Asia or Africa. These aid packages and trade deals have helped both boost America's position internationally, as well as create more economic growth at home thanks to there being a bigger market overseas to trade with along with better access to minerals.
The United Kingdom remains America's longtime partner and bulwark against fascism. America may have been distorted by it's experience of long, desperate competition with the Reich but the United Kingdom has been even more impacted -- for the level of regimentation and government control in the UK take what was mentioned about the United States above and raise it by a notch or two. Britain is an austere, well-disciplined nation with deep shelters in every village. Britain puts it's money into national defense and capital reinvestment, rather than raising it's standards of living to a greater degree than even the United States -- in order to ensure there's no pesky issues of strikes both trade unions and the labor party itself have been banned for a long time on grounds of "un-necessary disputes" -- this may not be the case forever as the United Nations becomes more visibly powerful than the reich there are voices arguing that maybe Britain is secure enough to at least allow trade unions again. The fact that the nazis are right accross the channel has muted complaints about this. To think of the harshness of the UK compared to the US think McCarthyism for America and then for the UK's case raise it by several notches.
Besides a few bits and pieces like Belize or Guyana, Britain retains ties with much of it's former empire in the form of a stronger Commonwealth. Like Britain, the Commonwealth's member states all spend more on their military than OTL. Governance ranges from democratic in Ireland or Australia or corrupt one-party state in Palestine or Nigeria or Malaya.
Starting in the 1940s, in response to Nazi attempts to gain influence the United States forced Latin America into a complex series of economic and political agreements. Think a mix of NAFTA, COMECON and the European Union. There are resentful elements in the region, but the rises in standards of living thanks to US intervention have reduced the number of guerillas. Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Uruguay and Venezuela are all fully developed nations. There is a second tier of nations quite close to developed status, if not there yet in the form of Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Even the disaster zones of Central America and the carib do better than OTL.
Without communism, even in this austere world Cuba is a (relative) partying place.
The Philippines is low-end first world and America's "shield in the far east". There is also an active Filipino statehood party there. Now that relations with Japan have improved to the point where trade happens, the Philippines is experiencing a second boom.
THE REST OF THE WORLD
If it were a single nation, the Sino-soviet alliance would rank with the "big two", but as of now the two nations individually are too weak to equal the big two. While there are tensions over the increasing dominance of Beijing over Samarkand the comintern manages to endure sicne the menace of the fascists remains, just waiting to strike at the right time.
China has made an impressive recovery from radioactive and war-torn nation that had just kicked out the Japanese to now becoming more or less the senior partner in the Sino-Soviet alliance. The economy is growing at a good pace, industry is rising and a Communist Party that's dodged Mao's "quirks" enjoys much more loyalty from the population than ours -- the fact that traditional chinese culture wasn't attacked probably helps alot with the loyalty. There are 1.2 billion well-disciplined and angry Chinese with a government that tries, not always successfully to redirect nationalist sentiment to oppose the fascists rather than the Japanese.
The Union of socialist Soviet republics remains together, with "the fascists will kill us all" working as a much more effective incentive for loyalty than anything seen in OTL. The fact that Molotov succeeded Stalin in 1947 and set the tone for leadership with his economic pragmatism and attempts to keep stalin-level authoritarianism going. The USSR didn't stay stalinist till now, or even intothe 1970s but it's a bit nastier than OTL Brezhnev era -- dissidents tend to be shot if they're too visible instead of being put in mental hospitals. Another source of social solidarity comes from the government's promotion of a common "soviet" nationalism, with extensive usage of eurasianist theories in an attempt to create a bond between the.
There are a few other communist states, like Indochina, Myanmar and Afghanistan but overall the movement is an also-ran and merely a third bloc in a world dominated by the fascists and the democracies.
Like the communists, Japan is an also-ran. Unlike the communists, Japan's status as a second tier power comes as a decline after being kicked off of most of the east asian mainland 1967-80. The old militarists have lost influence and Japan's government is ruled by a complex mix of bureaucratic interests, the military, parliament and the ziabatsu -- think more "nationalist corrupt oligarchy" rather than the small-f fascism of even 20 years ago. Japan's standard of livign is militarized low-end first world(the limited opening of trade with the communists, plus the US's trading with Japan has helped). Japan's population is 325 million people, with the Koreans, loyalist Chinese and loyalist viets all being turned into japanese with varying levels of success. On the upside, Japan's birthrates are higher and there's been no "lost decade".
India is poor, neutral and self-righteously pacifist. These facts may all change as prime minister Singh has become a regular visitor to Washington D.C. -- the prospect of being able to hit the Axis from the east too from a direct ally appeals to the US, while American backing against the pro-nazi pakistani government appeals to India..
Compared to even OTL 1970s, statist economic theory is even more predominant around the world's intellectual environment. The initial crop of converts to objectivism or austrian economics all died paupers' deaths without even OTL's level of recognition. The idea that you need a strong state to be able to 1) Force the economic growth curve through investment in R&D and 2) force investments into the 'right' areas. Economic theory ranges from a pragmatic and technocratic 'war communism' in the USSR or China, Fascist corporatism in the Reich and allies and "Command Capitalism" in the US and the american sphere. Thankfully, this has had the positive side effect of avoiding certain OTL delusions about trade liberalization or letting the financial sector direct everything becoming influential.
In many ways this world's technology base is schizophrenic with paranoid governments restricting many areas' civilian applications but doing massive R&D investments. This is why there are things like America's just-founded martian colony but there is no civilian internet or cellphone technology. Civilian spinoffs of military research are slow to come, even if they do come given security concerns and even private industry is similarly controlled.
Military technology is a full generation ahead due to desperate competition between the US, Reich and in recent years lesser players' investment too. The fact that the world situation has been in cold war mode for decades means most of this investment is in ways to inflict truly massive amounts of damage or in big civil defense programs -- both the Axis and United Nations have lots of deep shelters under cities, programs for converting forests into calories and synfuel to food programs in place for THE DAY.
The United States has room for tens of millions of people and growing along with room for an industrial base inside underground SubUrbs in both the Rockies and appalachians. Germany's leadership has heard rumors of this and Chancellor Morganstern is openly worrying about a "mineshaft gap".
There are 120,000 nuclear weapons in circulation. Germany and the United States both have around a third of that each. A clear majority of the remainder are owned by either the joint Sino-Soviet nuclear program or the Empire of Japan. Even India has 1,000 nukes. The experiences of the few nuclear "Oops" that have happened like the nuking of both Iraq and Kuwait have given this world's strategic planners rather more insight on thermonuclear war. Unfortunately, the belief that it's winnable is in large part why they have nearly twice the number of nukes even when compared to the number seen in OTL's cold war era peak. On the upside, this more paranoid world isn't trusting enough to do things like use automatic systems to control nukes so it lacks that particular failure mode.
Nuclear weapons aren't the only areas of WMD that have benefitted from decades of massive funding -- the biochemical arsenals of both the US and Axis are extremely large, both powers have Kinetic kill weapons in orbit and are racing to either expand or create orbital laser networks. Like nuclear weapons, the utility and or risks of using biochemical weapons is far better-known in a world where the axis has been willing to use them to suppress colonial rebellion.
Aerospace has benefitted from the long period of desperate cold war-related investment on both sides. There are several thousand people living in orbit, another two thousand on the moon and 500 people living on mars.