Cold War Detente

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Origins of Detente

  • Cost and fear of the arms race
    • Realtive nuclear parity at this point
    • Power of the military industrial complex and fear of MAD following Cuba
    • The Soviet economy especially couldn't afford the money due to stagnation
  • Social discontent in the USA
    • Lost it's moral vibrancy due to Vietnam and Civil Rights movement
    • European desires for greater economic relations and reduced tensions with the USSR
    • Nixon wanted to get out of Vietnam due to high costs causing inflation and protests
  • Economic stagnation
    • Brezhnev Doctrine created low living standards, achoholism and apathy
    • Too many resources in arms and in supporting developing world allies
    • Too much emphasis on heavy industry, falling behind on technology
    • Wanted to buy cheap grain and access to technology from the West
  • Sino Soviet split
    • Ping-pong diplomacy between USA and China meant USSR feared they would support China if there was a war
    • Scared of isolation so motivated to be friendly with the USA
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Moscow Summit 1972

  • SALT 1 Treaty agreeing to:
    • ABM Treaty allowing each only 2 ABMS because they undermined MAD
      • The USA more technological advanced which made nuclear war possible
      • But didn't take into account future missles and neither side willing to give up all missiles
    • The Interim Treaty placing limits on ICBMs and submarine launched missiles
      • Allowed the USSR a 3:2 advantage in exchange for the US stationing short range missiles in Europe
      • Designed to last 5 years, permanent treaty to be drawn up in 1977 (SALT 2)
  • Basic Principles Agreement
    • Designed to govern superpower relations
    • Agreed to respect each other as equals, peaceful co-existance, disarmament, and increase trade
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Oil Price Shock

  • 1973 OPEC crisis, refused to supply oil to Israel's allies in response to Yom Kippur War
  • Led to quadrupling of internation oil prices
  • Created an oil shortage in the West, USA economic growth relied on cheap oil, led to feelings that the USA was in decline and losing against communism
  • Benefitted the USSR because it was an oil-exporting state and money could be used to buy US grain and technology- therefore reversing the USSR economic decline
  • Western economies quickly recovered 1974-8 due to:
    • Creation of G7 in 1975 allowing Western governments to co-operate on economic issues, restored confience in finacial markets
    • Techical innovation as Western companies began to develop more fuel-efficent engines so they could import less oil
  • Influence on the right-wing as it showed the USA's vunerability, led to criticisms of detente and desires for a more assertive USA foreign policy
  • USA also became concerned about Soviet expansion in the Middle East
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  • Policy by West German leader Willy Brandt to improve East/West relations
  • Underlying objective of the reunification of Germany
  • Brandt felt contact with the Eastern bloc was the best way to stabilise relations
  • Treaty of Moscow 1970 and Treaty of Moscow 1972- accepted the existing borders between East and West Germany
  • Basic Treaty 1972 meant the FRG and GDR formally recognised each other, reduced conflict and gave West Berliners border access
  • The FRG and GDR became members of the UN in 1973
  • Eastern bloc welcomed this because it would help improve trade and give them access to Western technology
  • Developed national pride in each Germany and began to develop differently
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Helsinki Accords 1975

  • Conference of 33 countries focused on security and co-operation
  • Basket 1: USSR gained acceptance of frontiers in Europe as established settlements, Europe recognising the Soviet bloc
  • Basket 2: Trade and technology exchanges
  • Basket 3: Respect of human rights, criticised because it was very unlikely that the communist countries were going to adhere to this and it was unenforcable
  • Right-wingers also criticsed the USA for being too compromising
  • However did undermine the legimacy of communism:
    • Superiority of Western technology undermined claims that communism was a better system than capitalism
    • Western business people could travel to the East and the citizens learnt about freedom and democracy meaning they questioned the oppressive nature of communism
    • Campaigner Sakharov formed Moscow Helsinki Group to monitor and publish human rights abuses- inspired helsinki Watch Committees
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Successes of Detente

  • SALT 2 was not achieved
    • Concerns about the deployment of SS20 missiles and the USSR overtaking the USA
    • Concerns that US arms reduction would leave Germany undefended
    • Watergate Scandal weakened the USA's authority at the Vlasivostok Summit 1974, although the Vlasivostok Agreement did set up a basis for further negoiations
      • Agreed to equal limits of missile launchers and strategic bombers
  • Normalisation of superpower relations achieved to some extent due to Basic Principles and Helsinki but neither was comprehensive or enforcable
  • Apollo-Soyuz space link up in 1975
  • USSR increased imports from the Wes by 96% 1974-5
  • US defense spending dropped from $406 billion to $284 billion in 1976
  • But economic growth was still slow in the West and Soviet economy began to shrink
  • Jackson-Vanik Agreement of 1974 placed restrictions on US-Soviet trade
  • Did nothing to stop superpower compeition in the 3rd World
    • USSR supporting left-wing regime in Angola and Ethopia
    • Nicaragua (in the US sphere of influence) became communist in 1979
    • Arguments that the USA's relaxed policies allowed the USSR to expand
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  • USA political leaders becoming increasingly critical of Soviet human rights abuses
  • Carter elected president in November 1976, he was a poltical outsider, had strong attitudes for human rights
  • Pulled between Brzezinsi (National Security Advisor) who wanted to show American strength and Vance (Sectretary of State) who wanted detente negotiations
  • Carter proposed greater arms cuts- seemed unrealistic to the Soviets, he also invested in Trident in 1978 and built 23 new missile silos- seemed contradictory and distrustful
  • SALT 2 signed at Vienna June 1979, restricted each superpower to 2250 missile launchers
  • Soviet troops invaded Afgahistan in December 1979 to support left-wing government under Muhammad Taraki for fear that religious extremism would ecourage rebellion in the USSR
  • Was defensive, but the US saw it as a Soviet plan to control the oil rich Central Asia
  • Carter reacted by increasing defense spending by 5% and banning grain/ technology imports to the USSR, he also boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics
  • Sent US military aid to the Mujahedin, the Islamic group fighting the Soviets
  • Soviets tied up in an unwinnable war that drained their resources and created widespread criticism and led to growing support for Islam (Muslim population went from 11.6% to 16.5%)
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End of Detente

  • Suspicion in the USA of Soviet expanision in the third world which was proved by the invasion of Afghanistan
  • Brezhnev's health declining by the late 1970s and the Watergate Scandal tarnished the US government- Ford and Carter were in a weak position
    • Neither side were willing to take decisions to sustain the policy
  • 1970s US polticians saw detente as useless as the USSR refused to abide by agreements e.g. Basket 3
  • By 1976 Western economies were showing signs of revival but the Soviet's was still in decline so the USA no longer needed detente
    • West due to technological innovation and G7
    • USSR due to inneffiency of  communist economic planning and bad harvest of 1970s which forced them to reply on large Western imports of grain, this led to a Soviet balance of payment deficit and a rise in interest rates (USSR taking out Western loans)
  • Thatcher elected PM in 1979 and Reagan elected president in 1980- neo-conservatives
    • Belived capitalism was superior to communism and saw the USSR as an 'evil empire'
    • West no longer prepared to compromise with the USSR therefore Detente had ended
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