History: Cold War - Detente

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Key Factors Causing Detente

  • Arms Race: USA and USSR experienced some degree of detente after Cuba. It triggered paranoia and public concern about the dangers of nuclear war. Over time, nuclear powers came under international pressure to reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
  • Test Ban Treaty, Hotline and removal of missiles in Turkey/Cuba suggested peace.
  • June 1963: Kennedy spoke of the need for 'world peace' at American University - talked of mutual tolerance and halting the arms race.
  • 1967: A mini summit was held between President Johnson and Soviet Premier, Kosygin at Glassboro, New Jersey where they discussed the arms race.
  • 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty signed by USA, USSR and UK to prevent spread of nuclear weapons - obligated the five acknowledged nuclear weapons states not to transfer nuclear weapons to any non-nuclear weapons state.
  • Johnson planned to visit Moscow in 1968 but cancelled trip after Soviet crushing of Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia.
  • By 1969 the arms race = MAD - it was now vital to avoid nuclear war.
  • Strategic Arms Limitations Talks were agreed on by the two superpowers in the summer of 1968, and full scale negotiations began in November 1969.
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Key Factors Causing Detente

  • Political events and ideological differences caused the USSR and China to drift apart.
  • The Ussuri River conflict threatened to plunge the two powers into a full scale nuclear war. Russia had more nuclear battle plans against China than against the US.
  • USA used both covert and diplomatic means, like Nixon's visit to China in 1972 leading to the Shanghai Communique, to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet split. This caused the USSR to fear an anti-Soviet alliance between them.
  • Detente was an attempt to diffuse this by establishing a working relationship with the USA.
  • Three months, after Nixon's visit, he attended the Moscow Summit, where the USSR agreed to sign SALT 1 and Basic Principles Agreement which normalised thier relationship.
  • However, negotations for SALT 1 did begin in 1968.
  • McMahon - "prior to the American president's China trip the Soviets had been dragging their feet in approving the SALT agreement; following Nixon's dramatic China foray, they acted with dispatch".
  • The Ford-Brezhnev meeting to discuss arms control in 1974 may have also been due to improved US-China relations.
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Key Factors Causing Detente

  • Domestic/Economic Factors: USA - Inflation reached 6% and unemployment rose more that 5% in the early 1970's. The collapse of Breton Woods currency system meant free floating currencies - making international trade less stable --> leading to economy difficulties.
  • The Vietnam War had cost $30 billion in 1969 alone.
  • Plans for social reform had been underminded by a lack of resources due to continued military spending. Johnson's 'new society' was sacrificed for increased armaments and urban riots of 1968 provided evidence that this war a matter of urgency.
  • Detente would alow resources to be released from the military buget to improve lives in the US.
  • In 1973, the OPEC Crisis hit the US hard from 1973-74. The Yom Kippur war of 1973 led OPEC to cut supplies to those countries supporting Israel (USA) and oil prices rose by 400% in 1974.
  • This crisis increased the pressure towards detente - although the crisis ultimately strengthened the USA as they created more efficient engines and tapped new sources of fuel. In 1974 tjere was a return to oil price stability as OPEC lifted the ban.
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Key Factors Causing Detente

  • Domestic/Economic Factors: USSR - The economy of the Soivet Union was roughly a sixth of the size of the USA.
  • Much of the resources of the USSR were diverted into propping up the military - industrial sector - 30 million out of the 100 million workers were employed in this industry.
  • Vast sums of money were used to support its communist allies - Vietnam received over $1 billion per year, Cuba $4 billion each year; Ethiopia and Angola received $4 billion worth of arms.
  • Agriculture was inefficient and USSR struggled to provide grain to feed its population - in 1970's the USSR relied on nearly $15 billion worth of imported grain (some came from US).
  • Annual growth rate for the economy fell from 7% in 1950's to 3% in 1970's.
  • There were increasing demands for consumer goods from the Russian population, which their economy could not fulfil. Detente allowed spending on armaments to be reduced and increased trade with the West - gaining much needed Western technology and grain supplies.
  • The Eighth Five Year Plan (1966-70) tried to address techonological weakness in the car industry by making deals with Fiat and Renault to import technology into the USSR.
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Key Factors Causing Detente

  • Strategic Factors: USA - Kissinger & Nixon: Realpolitik/Normalisation
  • Their arrival transformed the international situation. Nixon had a brilliant feel for foreign affairs. He had made a name for himself as as a communist baiter and a ruthless critic of all those who advocated a softer approach to Moscow. He could carry the right wing with him and developed a realistic apptoach to the Cold War, and wanted to focus on arms reduction.
  • Kissinger believed that the process of negotiation could normalise the relationship between the USA and USSR.They had to grapple with the impact of Vietnam war on American people. The war had caused high inflation, a large budget deficit and decline in support for foreign intervention. The war cost $30 billion in 1969 alone. Western Europe was starting to show greater independence from USA in the Vietnam War. Nixon's primary objective was to withdraw US troops from Vietnam with 'honor'. USA wanted the Russians to help them out of Vietnam, so they needed detente.
  • USSR: Nuclear parity - USSR needed this as they couldn't keep up with the USA indefinitely.
  • Eastern Europe: It would help them to stabilise their hold over E. Europe. Czech crisis and strikes in Poland were signs that they needed to strengthen their hold - if the West recognised thet Soviet Union's control over the Eastern Bloc, they might succeed.
  • Third World: Brezhnev was committed to extending influence in Third World e.g. Ethiopia and Angola - they needed to placatae the USA in order to achieve this.
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Key Factors Causing Detente

  • European Detente: In West Germany, the 1969 election of Willy Brandt as chancellor heralded a new apprach to the Cold War there. Ostpolitik had been announced by Brandt, who was more left wing than previous West German leaders, though far from communist - favoured rapprochement, or a re-establishing friendly relations, with communist East Germany and other Soviet bloc nations.
  • Brandt's foreign policy, Ostpolitik, was a more pratical and realistic approach to breaking down the divisions between the Soviet block and Western Europe. The most important policy, Brandt argued was to permit and encourage trade deals across the Berlin Wall with Eastern Germany. He believed these new trade links would encourage greater communication and cultural exchange, making Soviet bloc nations less defensive and more open to reform. Brandt's Ostopolitik was very unpopular with conservatives, both in West Germany and internationally, however it was generally successful and played an important role in reducing tensions.
  • 1970: Visits East Germany in March and May; Moscow Treaty - Non agression pact with USSR; visits to Poland and recognised Polish frontiers. 1971: Four Power Treat - Agreements on transit traffic, relaxation of order and postal controls in Berlin; 1972: Basic Treaty - GDR virtually recognised - but FRG reaffirms aim for unification.
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Key Features - Summits

  • Strengths: SALT 1 --> A degree of nuclear parity by reducing number of weapons on each side - reducing competition e.g. 2 ABM shields each (100 missiles for each shield); SALT 1 did show 'that arms limitation agreements could be negotiated' (Garthoff) - the highest point in the spirit of co-operation. Improved mutual understanding for some time.
  • Interim Agreement on Offensive Missiles placed limits on ICBMs and SLBMs - allowed S.Union 3:2 lead in ICBMs because US had lead in strategic bombers and MIRVs - therefore US maintained a marked superiority in total, deliverable warheads about 5,700 to 2,500.
  • Basic Principles Agreement achieved Normalisation - established 12 basic principles - a framework to work together - to co-exist, seek disarmament, to avoid confrontation and established a Joint Commercial Commission to to negotiate trade deals. A sharp spike in Soviet-American trade ($220 million in 1971 to $2.8 billion in 1978) was a product of detente. USSR increased imports from West by 96% 1974-75 and restricted by Jackson Vanik Amendment 1974.
  • 1970-72: Ospolitik 'proved more durable' (McMahon) - Non-Aggression Pact with USSR; relaxation of border and postal controls in Berlin; each German state recognised the legitimiacy of the other and pleadged to increase trade and travel between east and west. Led to Helsinki Accords.
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Key Features - Summits

  • Weaknesses: SALT 1 did not deal with new types of weapons (MIRVs). Failed to end arms race - both had ABMs, ICMBs, SLBMs - threatening world peace.
  • SALT 1 - temporary (to last 5 years). 'It did not dispel all suspicious or prevent later massive strategic misunderstandings.
  • Basic Principles Agreement - nothing new and just a statement of intent - 'excessively vague and ultimately unforceable' (McMahon) and failed to stop conflict in third world.
  • SALT 2 - US position undermined by Watergate scandal - slow and protracted - no breakthrough appeared imminent. SALT 2 discussed 'equal ceiling' of 2400 missiles and strategic bombers but left out cruise missiles (US had lead here) - highly technicial & detailed.
  • Carter demanded lower ceilings in 1977 (Brezhnev considered this a 'personal front'  - Soviet suspected Americans of seeking to overturn framework to gain a strategic advantage. Carter later dropped this demand and started to invest in Trident 2 submarine and 23 new missiles silos expanding the nuclear arsenal - a seemingly contradictory policy.
  • Soviet Union continued to deploy SS20 medium range missiles - West Germans felt vulnerable.
  • SALT 2 was finally signed in 1979 by Carter (each side to be restricted to 2250 missiles launchers) but it was withdrawn after Afghan invasion.
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Key Features - Helsinki Accords

  • Set out comprehensive framework governing relations between East & West Europe - 33 states from both NATO and Warsaw Pact attended --> Three baskests: Basket 1 - Security issues (all borders declared inviolable); Basket 2 - Economic, cultural, scientific and environmental (share technology) e.g. Apollo-Soyuz link up space probe - 1975 and Basket 3 - Human Rights: freedom of speech, movement.
  • Projects of scientific cooperation and joint space probe - expanded cultural exchanges and deepebed trade links - USSR gained access to Western technology.
  • Helsinki largely ignored - only pledges - dissidents formed Charter77 after trial of 'Plastic People of the Universe'. Helsinki led to unforseen problems with the Soviet Union as contact with West underminded the legitimacy of communism.
  • The democrats in the 1976 election criticised detente - they argued that the Helsinki Accords were largely meaningless Eastern European countries were refusing to honour the sections of the agreement dealing with human rights. They pointed to the KGB's suppression of Yuri Orlav and Andrei Sakharov's Helsinki mointoring group in 1976. The group was closed down after it exposed non-compliance with the Helsinki Accords. The Soviets also attempted to prevent emigration (e.g Jewish 'refuseniks' were denied permission to emigrate from USSR).
  • Russian novelist, Solzhenitsyn criticised detente arguing it shouldn't continue while there was still political repression in the USSR.
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Key Features - Economy

  • US defence spending decreased after withdrawl from Vietnam --> fell from $406 billion to $284 billion on 1976. OPEC oil crisis of 1973 led to four-fold increase in oil prices - combined with collpase of Bretton Woods (causing free-floating currencies --> encouraged detente.
  • Western economies rebounded quickly due to tapping into new sources of fuel; G7 group formed to encourage economic stability among Western states; crisis ended in 1974 which restored stability - this reduced the need for detente in the US.
  • From 1970, despite detente, Soviet economy declined - GDP = 37% of USA GDP by 1980. Central Planning, debt and reduced trade caused by Jackson-Vanik Amendment of 1974 --> denied access to US technology. Brezhnev overspent in Third World - 'living in a fool's paradise' (McCauley).
  • Significance of economic imbalance = Economic consequences of detente were far more favourable for the USA therefore USA became less committed to detente.
  • But the USSR needed detente more than ever due to economic problems and commitments in the Third World.
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Key Features - Third World Tensions

  • Europe was more stable in detente years but superpower competition in the third world continued. 'Detente was buried in the fields of soviet-american rivalry in the third world'.
  • Vietnam: Despite engaging in peace talks with N.Vietnam since 1968, Nixon authorised bombing of Southeast Asia 1969-72 which almost led to cancellation of Moscow Summit 1972. The eventual North victory over the South with Soviet backing gave further support to critics.
  • Yom Kippur War 1973: Egypt (backed by USSR) v Israel (backed by USA).
  • Angolan Civil War 1975: After Portugal granted independence to Angola, a civil war broke out. Cuba and USSR supported the left wing MPLA. The US and China backed UNITA. Led to proxy war in West Africa. Ford's appeal to Congress for stepped up covert aid for UNITA failed - they didn't want a repeat of Vietnam. MPLA was successfully established as the government in Angola and this encouraged Moscow to back a new leftist regime in Ethiopia with arms.
  • Latin America/Africa: US - supported anti-communist factions in Nicargua, El Savador and Chile. USSR supported communist groups in Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia.
  • US Embassy siege in Teheran 1979: Islamic revolutionary movement, under the leadership of the Shi'lite religious leader, Ayataollah Khomeini, gained power in Iran. They viewed the US with suspicion as they had backed the Shah. Militants seized the US Embassy in Teheran and held 52 Americans hostage. This humiliated Carter and led to the Afrganistan invasion.
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Key Features - Critics

  • An amoral policy - ignored USSR's violation of 'Human Rights' issues - e.g. Yuri Orlav, Charter 77, Solzhenitsyn - Dobrynin's response: 'we are masters in our own house'.
  • A weak policy - appeasement (they refused to load grain onto ships heading for USSR - 1974, Jackson Vanik Amendment reduced trade.
  • Criticisms stated by Democrats in 1976 election - Detente was meaningless if USSR violted human rights e.g. Refuseniks.
  • Neo-Conservatives argued that SALT talks handed victory to the USSR. (Haig called it a 'national day of shame') and called for reigniting the Arms Race: detente had allowed USSR to arm nationalists (Pipes); e.g. Reagan, Brzezinski, Nitze, Jackson 'Resurgence of conservative', virulently anti-communist forces in the US...esnured that the era of detente would be short lived (McMahon).
  • Critics in USSR - US still fought the Cold War in Vietnam, Middle East, Chile - detente prevented world revolution.
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Key Features - Afghanistan Invasion

  • Dec 24th 1979: USSR sent 50,000 troops to Afghanistan. The aim was to protect the Communist regime in Afghanistan which was under threat from Muslim fundamentalists. This posed a threat to Soviet interests as Afghanistan was an important buffer state because it was the only area with USSR links left in the Middle East - to preserve oil interests.
  • Cyrus Vance (Secetary of State) was in favour of detente but Brzezinski (National Security Advisor) was in favour of an assertive policy. The invasion sifted favour to Brzezinski.
  • Carter's response was that the invasion went beyond the 'Brezhnev Doctrine' - he demanded withdrawl of troops; started a grain embargo against USSR; sent aid to Mujadhadeen.
  • Consequences: Carter phoned Brezhnev on the hot line and told him that US considered Soviet invasion 'a clear threat to peace' which 'could mark a fundamental and long lasting turning point in our relations'. US congress refused to ratify Salt 2 - Carter agreed. Carter cut off trade links and imposed economic sanctions on the Soviet Union. He encouraged a Western boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Carter called for a substantial increase in US arms spending. Reagan won the next election in 1980 as he played the anti-USSR card - this led to the total collapse detente. US public generally believed that detente must end. Detente had been abandoned - the Cold War was back - with vegeance.
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