Causes of Detente version 2

Explanation of the factors leading to Detente. Produced by my Y13 class.

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Needs of the USSR 1

  • National security interests were the overall factor which pushed the USSR towards Détente. If the threat to the USSR was lessened then it would mean that they would not have to divert as much resources and money towards keeping up with the USA in the arms race, and so could then spend more on improving social policies, improving the lives of USSR citizens, making them thus feel more confident with Communism. If the USSR didn’t have the threat of National security then it means that there would be fewer tensions and so they would be more open for negotiations with the West, which could be advantageous to them. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 showed to the USSR how close they were in having a Nuclear War with the USA, and they would have wanted to prevent this in any way possible.
    • The USSR would be able to get access to much needed Western technology and grain supplies. This could then be used to improve the USSR’s economy and technological advances. This would also create jobs for the population within the Soviet Union, which would again help the Soviet economy.
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Needs of the USSR 2

  • Détente would make the USA look weak, and would mean that the USA would not be able to develop new technology for the Nuclear Arms race, as the USSR feared they would not be able to keep up. It was also becoming a huge financial burden on their economy. The West would then look less pleasing to the population of the Soviet Union, and so they would be less likely to try and escape from the Communist regime. There would also be less of a national security risk if the USA was of the same nuclear power as the USSR, therefore causing fewer tensions and more agreements.
    • Détente would further the interests of the Soviet Union, but not involve the USSR giving up Cold War conflict, or gains in Eastern Europe and the Third World. The USSR would still appear powerful as they had reached Détente without having to give up their sphere of influence, which is what the USA didn’t agree with from the beginning.
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Needs of the USSR 3

  • The Sino-Soviet split meant that the USSR feared a conflict with China, and so Détente would mean that the USA would not get involved. Rapprochement meant that the USSR was threatened by the new friendships between the USA and China, and this forced them to change their thinking in international relations. Through this, the USA was able to force concessions from the Soviet Union.
  • The USSR’s Politburo needed to direct resources away from the military and towards domestic and social policies. If the living standards improved in the USSR then less of the population would feel unhappy with Communism and thus would not leave or demonstrate for reforms.
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Needs of the USA

-For America, Détente was a way of coming to terms with the fact that its power on the world stage was limited.

- The USA’s power and the how it was perceived internationally was tainted by events in Vietnam. After the Vietnam War, public opinion in the USA began to change, and the failure to secure a victory in led to a re-evaluation of the USA’s foreign influence and policies.

-Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon were forced to reassess the USA’s foreign intervention as it now proved unpopular with the public and had caused economic struggles such as inflation and a large budget deficit.

-The growing independence and autonomy from the USA in Europe, such as France’s withdrawal from NATO in 1966 meant that Détente would be the best method for the USA to secure their influence in this sector of the western world.

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Needs of the USA 2

-Where previously, the policy of Détente would have been perceived as being “soft” on communism, especially in the USA’s hard-line anticommunist atmosphere, Nixon and Kissinger were able to pursue such policies due to their well known anti communist credentials and reputations.

-The pursuit of continued trade and arms agreements was seen as restraining the USSR so Détente was not initially seen as a backing down against the communists and thus they carried much right wing support within the Senate.

-The Rapprochement with China which occurred during this period was seen to have weakened the communist bloc as they were disunited in their forces.

- Economic and social projects within the USA had been undermined and neglected by the Senate who had directed much of their resources towards the military industrial complex and further military projects.

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Needs of the USA 3

-Détente would allow for this much needed social spending as defence would not be such an imperative to the country’s needs. Rioting in 1968 highlighted the need to divert spending away from arms and towards domestic schemes.

-Not only was America facing economic problems domestically, the surfacing of Western Europe as an industrial power created economic competition and so diverting funds towards the economy would prevent the USA falling behind.

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Fear of War 1

  • Cuban Missile Crisis highlighted danger of confrontation and brought around brinkmanship – to see how far the superpowers could push each other towards nuclear war. This was key in showing how dangerous a Nuclear War would have been and made them realise that each of them had to back off, otherwise consequences would be devastating.
  • Development in more efficient missiles increased fear for example the development of the Hydrogen bomb in 1952 by the USA. However the USSR and USA were constantly in competition with bombs this can be shown by the USSR developing the Lithium bomb 9 months later.
  • Competition was also seen in delivery systems with development progressing from simple aircraft bombers to Inter-Continental bombers through to submarines and space satellites; with the USA initiating the first move. They had the first bomber with inter-continental range named the B52, yet this was slow and vulnerable and the USSR bettered this with the creation of the TU20 Bear.
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Fear of War 2

  • Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 1963 – Was signed by the USSR, USA and Britain, which banned the testing of nuclear weapons above ground and underwater. It was a measure to limit nuclear destruction after the Cuban Missile Crisis. This was the first time cooperation was seen.
  • By 1969 the USSR matched the capability of the USA for MAD (Mutually assured destruction) The fact that both superpowers were capable of destroying the other balanced out the power and acted as a deterrent – pushed for Détente as an attempt to secure a peaceful future.
  • The economic problems that already existed would have been worsened if mutual destruction occurred as neither power would be able to regain strength for the economy and public as money would be spent on nuclear weapons in order to remain ahead in the war.
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Europe and Ostpolitik

  • Instability in 1968 on either side of the Iron Curtain posed a danger to East and West Europe. In France there were student protests and a general strike which threatened the government and in Czechoslovakia the Soviet invasion revealed the continuing tension in Eastern Europe.
  • Willy Brandt, West German Chancellor, took the lead in promoting links across the divide. He believed that the problems in Europe could be solved by a stabilisation of relations. His ‘Eastern policy’ known as ‘Ostpolitik’ opened channels between East and West and led the way for other links e.g. France’s links with Romania.
  • This can be said to have caused Détente because it demonstrated to the superpowers that their ‘spheres of influences’ were not as dedicated to high tension and were actually seeking links across the Iron Curtain. This would have encouraged them to take a similar approach.
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Individuals 1

Henry Kissinger

  • Kissinger was Nixon’s National Security Adviser after 1969 and became Secutary of State in 1973. He was a staunch anti-Communist which helped him gain support for Détente within the USA.
  • Kissinger was an expert on foreign affairs and had studied European Diplomacy. He favoured a practical approach known as ‘Realpolitik’
  • Realpolitik involved down playing ideological differences and seizing opportunities available to secure national interests. With regards to the Cold War this led to Rapprochement with China and an end to the war in Vietnam.
  • It enabled Détente to develop as it meant the USA was willing work with the USSR if it was in their interests, this can be seen in trading grain which actually gave them the upper hand. (This could also be linked to the end of Détente, when it didn’t suit the USA Détente was ended)
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Individuals 2

Richard Nixon

  • President of the USA 1969-1974. He also served as Vice President from 1953 – 1961 when he gained experience in Foreign policy.
  • He was a staunch anti-communist which also helped him gain support in America. He presented trade and arms agreements were presented as methods of restraining the USSR.
  • Nixon was able to peruse Détente due to the demoralisation of the powerful right after the Vietnam War.
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Economic Realities 1

Oil Crisis, 1973:

  • Initially weakened both the USA and USSR; they both had oil demands that could not be satisfied by domestic supplies.
  • A meeting of the OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies) raised oil prices by 79%, throwing the US onto the defensive.
  • OPEC cut supplies to countries supporting Israel, (including the US) à widespread panic buying à increase in prices.
  • US Actions enabled the West to benefit from general rise in the price of oil and surplus dollars. This strengthened Western Capitalism.

Ø In the immediate term, economic strains caused by the oil crisis and the MIC increased the pressure towards achieving Détente with the USSR. The enormous cost of US military spending seemed unsustainable given the situation produced by the oil crisis. It allowed the US to respond to internal calls for social reforms, and would allow them a continued influence in markets, reducing European competition.

Ø However, the impact in of the Oil Crisis in the cause of Détente can be seen as limited as it was ultimately a good thing for Western markets.

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Economic Realities 2

Soviet Economic Problems of the 1970s:

  • Much of the resources of the USSR were diverted into the Military-industrial sector. (30 million people employed).
  • Vast sums of money supported Communist allies à nearly ¾ of the hard currency went on aid to Communist nations or rebels.
  • Rigid planning made the economy inflexible, therefore was easily disrupted by the oil crisis.
  • Soviet technology was behind that of the West, despite the 9th “5 year plan”.
  • The over-emphasis on heavy industry meant consumer goods were always in short supply. This had a negative affect on attempts to raise living standards.
  • Agriculture was inefficient, e.g. Grain, which relied on $15 billion imports, some from the US.

Ø The Economic situation made Détente an attractive option to Soviet leaders. Agreements could be reached on strains produced by the arms race so that resources could be released for sectors that were more likely to improve living standards; e.g. grain and new technologies

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