Failure of Detente&Collapse of Communism


Detente 1970's

Detente was a phrase used to describe the easing of tensions between the USA and the USSR. It was an extension of Khrushchev peaceful co-existence. After the Cuban missile crisis, both sides became aware of MAD and this helped to ease tensions.

Reasons for Detente- Brezhnez was keen to extend Khrushchev's peaceful co-existence and he also wanted to persuade the West to accept soviet control over Eastern Europe. The USA failure in Vietnam dented its confidence and produced a peace campaign demanding an end to US aggression abroad. The Soviets spent 20% on arms by the mid 1970's and had caught up with the US in the arms race therefore it made sense to cut back on military spending in a time when living standards were low. The iron curtain countries all had very poor industrial efficiency and needed to trade with the West. Rising inflations due to expenditure on the arms race and the war in Vietnam was crippling the US economy.

How successful was Detente- Relations between East and West Germany improved as there were signed agreements to recognise eachothers boundaries which relieved tensions. SALT (strategic arms limitation talks) began an agreement in 1972, ran for 5 years, limited the number of ICBM's and ABM's both superpower could hold, each was allowed spy satellites. SALT II in 1979 never came into effect. SPACE - a cooperation in July 1975  where three US astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts docked their Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft together in orbit around Earth - this was a very visible sign on Detente.

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Helsinki Conference 1975

In August 1975, 35 countries, including the USA and USSR, signed the Helsinki agreement:

The West recognised Eastern Europe and acknowledged the Soviet influence in that area - West recognised East Germany.

Soviets agreed to buy US grain and export oil to the West.

All countries agreed to improve human rights especially freedom rights.

There was also a 21 day notice for the military to manoeuvre away from fronters.

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SALT I 1972

Agreements in SALT I in 1972:

The USA agreed that they are only allowed 1000 ICBM's and 650 submarine missiles.

However they go over and possess 1054 ICBM's and 656 submarine missiles.

The USSR agreed that they are only allowed 1600 ICBM's and 700 submarine missiles.

They only go over on the submarine missiles and possess 720 but they had less ICBM's than the limit.

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Afghanistan 1978

In 1978 there was a communist coup takeover in Afghanistan lead by Amin. The USSR worried whether they were enemies with the major Muslim group in Afghanistan, the Mujahdeen, and feared there would be an Islamic state created. 30 million Muslims lived within the borders of the USSR, an Islamic nation could spread to the USSR. Afghanistan was also a route through to the Indian Ocean - an Islamic state would not allow access to these parts. 

On December 25th 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan, Amin was captured and exectued and replaced with Karmal. A brutal guerrilla war was fought between the USSR and that Mujahdeen that lasted until 1989. 

By February 1989, Gorbachev took Russia out of the fiasco when he realised that Russia could not win the war and the cost of maintaing such a vast force in Afghanistan was crippling the USSR's economy. The causes of the USSR's defeat involved that the guerrilla tactics were too difficult for the USSR as the soldiers were religiously dedicated, the cost of the war was too high - $8 billion a year, and Afghanistan is such a hard country to control because it is remote and mainly mountain terrain. 

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Afghanistan 1978 (2)

The USA helped the Mujahdeen because it kept the USSR fighting in Afghanistan, the war weaken the USSR so it was good for the USA if it lasted long, the USA could afford to keep giving money to the Mujahdeen to keep the war going for as long as possible - the USA gave $500 million to the Mujahdeen and even trained some of their soldiers. 

Afganistan ended Detente because the USA refused to sign the SALT II weapons treaty,  the USA refused to take part in the Moscow Olympics, the USA stopped trading grain and high tech equipment. President Carter stopped the export of 17 million tons of grain to the USSR

Damage to the USSR- the cost of human life and money was very high - 65,000 Soviet troops were killed/wounded, the Soviet army were exposed as weak, the USSR could not afford nor compete with the USA in the arms race and provide better living standards as well, the USSR was condemed around the world as an aggressor - this led to the collapse of communism.

Weakness of the USSR- Russians resorted to napalm and search and destroy missions against the Mujahdeen, Russian tanks were of little use in the mountains, young conscript soldiers were no match against men fuelled by their religious beliefs, Russian boots lasted no more than 10 days before falling apart in the harsh environment of the mountains.

Strength of the Mujahdeen guerrillas - by 1982, they controlled 75% of Afghanistan despite fighting the worlds second most best superpower.

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Solidarity in Poland

Causes- in the 1970's, Polands communist leader Gierek, borrows heavily from the West, in attempt the modernise Polish economy. He runs a national debt of over $20 billion by 1980. Poland becomes bankrupt and strikes occur due to high food prices and fuel shortages.

Lech Walesa creates SOLIDARITY, the first trade union in the Soviet Union, there was around 9 million members, solidarity wanted the right to strike and better standards of living. Nationwide strikes occur and fears that the USSR will invade, however despite the Brezhnez doctrine, the USSR are too occupied in Afghanistan to invade. Solidarity later becomes politicalised and talks about an anti-communist Poland. In addition an end to censorship and a right to broadcast catholic mass on the state run media occured.

The response was that 10,000's were arrested under the new Polish government run by Jaruzelski and solidarity was classed as an illegal organisation. Solidarity survived underground and was funded by Reagan, Pope John Paul II encouraged them to voice their discontent. In 1989, Walesa became the first non-communist leader in Eastern Europe.  

Solidarity was seen as a factor of the collapse of detente, it marked the beginning to the collapse of communism. 

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Reagan 1981

Ronald Reagan became the US president in 1981 - when criticisms of USSR's involvement in Afghanistan were at its highest. 

Reagans anti-communist stance helped him win the election - he called the Soviet Union an 'evil empire'. 

He increased defence spending from $178 billion to $367 billion. He developed new weapons such as the cruise missile, the neutron bomb and the MX missile.

In 1983, US scientists started the Stragetic Defence Intiative (SDI, also known as Star Wars) which was a satellite anti-missile system which created a huge shield in space so that it would be impossible for the Soviets missiles to reach the US. This eliminated the idea of MAD as the USA would always win.

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Gorbachev 1985

In 1985, Gorbachev and Reagan meet at Geneva to discuss arms reduction. In 1987, Gorbachev and Reagan signed the INF treaty (intermediate range nuclear forces) which actually destroyed some weapons.  SALT developed into START which was the stragetic arms reduction talks.

Perestrokia- means restricting, involved changing economic policies to allow more competition, free market economies were introduced that weren't controlled by the government, factories became more competitive - this was more capitalist than communism.

Glasnost- means openness, ended corruption, allowed more things to be open to debate.

Gorbachev saw the need to abandon the Brezhnez Doctrine by loosening Soviet control over satellite states. In 1991, communism seized to exist, the USSR became Russia. 

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Why did the Cold War end?


Afghanistan ruined the USSR's reputation, no money was spent on the people and there was lots of suffering. Gorbachev and Reagan signed the INF treaty and START. Gorbachevs policies of glasnost and perestrokia. The East was becoming more capitalist. Reagan weakned the USSR: increasing military spending, SDI, calls Russia an evil empire.

Was it a good thing?

The Cold war had lasted for 50 years, people in former communist countries now had the freedom to travel, express themselves and vote for leaders of their choice, the threat of a nuclear war had lifted, East and West Germany reunited as one in 1990, the downside was that some people were unemployed, former communist countries prices rose, healthcare was no longer free, house prices and rent went up. 

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