The emergence of Detente

  1. the idea of detente
  2. Sino-American relations, 1969-72
  3. Ostpolitik and the development of European detente
  4. the Basic Treaty
  5. Helsinki Accords, 1973-5
  6. SALT I and SALT II and arms limitation in the 1970's
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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 18-04-14 18:51

the idea of detente

U.S interpretation of detente

  • Nixon admin regarded detente as process based on negotiation rather than confrontation
  • Nixon and Kissinger saw detente as strategy rather than objective
  • "Detente is a means of controlling the conflict with the Soviet Union"
  • Nixon + Kissinger aimed to draw S.U in to interdependency with U.S
  • detente primarily a strategy to avoid nuclear war as S.U became more powerful
  • S.U would have more to gain by cooperating than confrontation
  • Kissinger - "by acquiring a stake in this network of relationships with the west, the Soviet Union may become more conscious of what it will lose by a return to confrontation. Indeed, it is our expectation that it will develop a self-interest in fostering the entire process of relaxation of tensions"
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the idea of detente

The Soviet Unions interpretation of detente

  • Brezhnev saw detente as means of overcoming Cold War
  • disputes would be resolved not via threats but through peaceful means via negotiation
  • interests of each side would be respected by the other
  • regarded detente as advantageous to both sides
  • detente was possible as S.U had reached nuclear equality by 1960's
  • S.U no longer saw U.S as a dominant world power and S.U was now in a position where it could benefit from negotiations
  • detente was the means by which the S.U could preserve world socialism+ protect it from Western threats
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Sino-American relations 1969-72

  • for 20 years after People's Republic China formed in 1949, U.S refused to recognise its existence
  • Nixon and Kissinger realise that U.S could gain by negotiating with China
  • China realised its self imposed isolationism was of no advantage
  • U.S noticed decreasing Sino-Soviet relations
  • hostility between S.U and China increased from 1960
  • Mao criticised S.U for backing down during CMC
  • By late 1960's Sino-Soviet troops were clashing on Sino-Soviet border
  • July 1969 - U.S removed some trade controls and relaxed travel restrictions
  • the 'artichoke' approach - removal of restrictions, layer by layer
  • by early 1970's some diplomatic relations between U.S-China established in Warsaw
  • August-September 1970 Zhou Enlai(China PM) achieved victory over those against improved relations with U.S
  • policy shift from double oppositon to S.U+U.S toward recognition that S.U was the greater threat. Not made public until 1972
  • Mao saw S.U as a bigger threat than U.S, and thus allied with U.S
  • Nixon, Feb 1971 - "we are prepared to establish a dialogue with Peking"
  • U.S military action in Cambodia, May 1970, and Laos Feb 1971, slightly delayed Sino-Soviet relations - no big impact as vietnamisation already begun by this point.
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Sino-American relations 1949-62

  • April - Chinese invited U.S admin to participate in 31st World Table Tennis championship in Peking
  • 1971 Kissinger visited Peking. Made agreement to establish presidential visit and a Sino-American Summit in 1972
  • September 1972 - Lin Bao dies - opponent on Sino-Soviet relations and Mao's successor
  • At the end of his week in China, Nixon hailed it -  "This was the week that changed the world"
  • Prior to Nixon, the U.S always referred to "two Chinas" - mainland and Taiwan. As a result of visit, U.S policy aimed at "the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes"
  • amounted to gaining China's cooperation in ending the war in 'nam
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Ostpolitik and the development of European detente

  • west Germany significant factor in development of European detente
  • West German cold war stance = Hallstein Doctrine - West did not recognise East, nor negotiate with any country who did. Only exception was S.U
  • Doctrine + Adreneur's(chancellor of FRG) commitment to German reunification was huge issue in European detente
  • October 1969 - Willy Brant new chancellor. Put his beliefs of Ostpolitik - reducing consequences of division - in to action - aimed to recognise East Germany and territorial changes that occured at end of WW2
  • negotiate with S.U, settle frontier with Poland and negotiate with GDR - Brandt plan
  • August 1970 - Brandt's talks with S.U led to joint non-agression pact
  • 7th December 1970 - treaty signed recognising post-war oder-neisser border(Poland)
  • May 1971 - Comm party chief in East Germany, Walter Ulbricht, resigned and replaced by Eric Honecker. Ulbricht was the last Stalinist
  • December 1972 - two Germanies signed agreement recognising each other 
  • Halstein Doctrine dead/over
  • Kissinger realised U.S detente with S.U was vital, else a west German driven detente would marginalise U.S influence in Europe and potentially split Western Alliance
  • U.S superpower could not be undermined by West Germany
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Ostpolitik and the development of European detente

the Berlin agreement, September 1971

  • both sides keen to reach a consensus on Berlin future
  • When Brandt took over, S.U were keen to hold talks about Berlin
  • 1971 - Kiss + Nix keen to use Berlin as a way of advancing SALT I
  • 3 September 1971 - Quadripartite agreement on Berlin signed
  • S.U guaranteed West access and West German presence in Berlin reduced
  • Agreed West Berlin would remain separate from West Germany and Berlin would keep four power presence established in 1945
  • Neutralised ongoing conflict and opened way for Ostpolitik progress
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The Basic Treaty

  • 21st December 1972
  • attempt to normalise relations between the two Germanies
  • Basic Treaty key developers - Egon Bahr, Michael Kohl and Willy Brant
  • FRG+GDR shall develop normal, good-neighbourly relations with each other on the basis of equal rights
  • FRG+GDR will be guided by aims and principles of UN charter - (Equality for all states, respect for independence, autonomy and terrirtorial integrity, right of self determination, protection of human rights, non discrimination)
  • FRG+GDR shall settle any disputes exclusively by peaceful means and refrain from threat or use of force
  • commitment to economic relations, recognition of sovereignity, further articles promised to seek peaceful methods of conflict resolution
  • critical moment in european detente
  • established the route by which other european nations could create relations with GDR
  • by end of 1973, both FRG and GDR were members of United Nations
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The Helsinki Accords, 1973-5

  • 35 states cooperated including whole of Europe minus Albania and U.S+Canada
  • each had the power of veto
  • main parts of the agreement divided into baskets. Each basket linked to a specific package of agreements

Basket 1: Security in Europe

  • respect for sovereignity and equality among states
  • rejection of threat or use of force
  • peaceful settlement of disputes
  • recognition of existing frontiers
  • territorial integrity recognised and acknowledged
  • non intervention in international afairs of other nations
  • respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • equal rights and self determination of peoples
  • cooperation among states
  • fulfilment of international obligations
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The Helsinki Accords, 1973-5

Basket 2: cooperation in Economics, Science, technology, and Environment

  • trade and industrial cooperation
  • transport, science, technology, tourism, environment, migrant labour

Basket 3: cooperation in Humanitarian and other fields

  • cultural and education exchange. Encouraged freer movement of people, info and ideas

The Soviet Position

  • to expand Ostpolitik and develop acceptance of the Status quo in central/east Europe
  • to decrease barriers between states to increase economic activity and trade
  • further the process of east-west detente
  • less interested in human rights
  • soviet commitment to east-west detente that led them to accepting conditions in final act
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The Helsinki Accords, 1973-5

The American Position

  • U.S not fully committed to accepting political status quo in eastern Europe which is what final act recognised as a permanant reality
  • Feared that as West states felt more secure, NATO's reduced military programmes would be removed
  • There was a common recognition that east-west confrontation was relaxing
  • some commentators regard Helsinki Accords as high point in detente
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SALT I+II and arms limitation in the 1970's

  • began in 1969 and finalised May 1972
  • two fundamental parts - ABM Treaty and agreement on measures with respect to strategic offensive weapons
  • ABM Treaty limited S.U + U.S to constructing 2 fields of ABM's - one to protect a city, the other to protect ICBM's
  • Interim agreement on offensive weapons established a freeze on strategic missiles
  • the treaty was to be current for 5 years
  • agreement didn't cover newly developing countries. No limits on cruise missiles
  • SALT I was an opportunity missed by superpowers
  • significant step toward strategic arms limitation
  • led to relaxation of tensions - opened way for more detente negotiation
  • SALT I acted as a catalyst in detente process
  • SALT was the foundation of a political achievement which made detente possible
  • SALT opened the way for an era of negotiation rather than confrontation
  • a balance of power had been acknowledged and this necessitated the construction of a new relationship. That relationship was to be detente
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The Nixon-Brezhnev Moscow Summit, May 1972

  • expand U.S-S.U cooperation in science, technology, environment and health, space exploration
  • 'The basic principles of relations between the united States and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics' - code of behaiour between 2 powers.
  • 12 principles agreed, but 3 were more important:
  • 1) U.S and S.U 'will proceed from the common determination that in the nuclear age there is no alternative to conducting their mutual relations on the basis of peaceful coexistence.' Committed to develop  'normal relations based on the principles of sovereignity, equality, non-interference in internal affairs and mutual advantage'
  • 2) determination to avoid situations developing that could damage commitment to peaceful coexistence. Agreement to prevent military confrontations and nuclear war. Peaceful relations based on recognition of right of each state to protect its security interests
  • 3) acceptance of a "special do everything in their power so that conflicts or situations will not arise which would serve to increase international tensions" and to "promote conditions in which all countries will live in peace and security"
  • the principles had no legal status
  • everything relied on the sides abiding by the rules
  • basic principles respresented aspirations rather than the basis for future detente
  • SALT + Basic Treaty recognised parity between S.U and U.S - this was foundation of detente from the Soviet p.o.v
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Nixon-Brezhnev Washington Summit, June 1973

  • Kissinger keen to not have U.S influence in Europe sidelined by European detente
  • he wanted Europe+China as close allies so they could be used in U.S strategy of influencing global diplomacy
  • objective failedand European detente was strenghtened during 1973
  • Kissinger + Nixon policy shows they were primarily interested in global power rather than backing international developments that may reinforce world peace
  • agreements on agriculture, cultural exchange, and transport
  • also considered situation in middle-east. Brezhnev wanted joint support of a soviet proposal to make Israeli withdraw from frontier that existed before 1967 arab-Israeli war. America not willing
  • Brezhnev wanted U.S guarantees that U.S-S.U relations would come before Sino-American relations
  • Important for U.S to not form any military bonds with China
  • The major outcome = Agreement on the prevention of nuclear war
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Agreement on the prevention of nuclear war, 1973

  • Kissinger - "we eventually agreed in June 1973 on a bland set of principles that had been systematically stripped of all implications harmful to our interests"
  • U.S fear of removal of nuclear weapons would remove vital deterrent
  • S.U feared it may weaken their grip over eastern bloc states
  • detente seen as tying the S.U down and restricting its freedom to act globally in socialist interests
  • U.S saw it as a necessary incentive for the Soviets to keep them committed to detente.
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third U.S-S.U summit, June-July 1974

  • progress on SALT II - neither side could agree on number of MIRV's
  • U.S had superior MIRVs and didn''t want this undermined
  • both sides agreed to reduce number of ABM sites from 2 to 1
  • 10 year agreement reach on economic, industrial and technical cooperation 
  • consular links set up
  • further consolidated detente as the basis of superpower relations
  • made no progress on SALT II
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Vladivostok Accords, November 1974

  • preceeded by a visit to Moscow in October, by Kissinger
  • Ford had succeeded Nixon after watergate
  • agreement reached on framework for a 10 year plan; preliminary move toward SALT II
  • S.U agreed to equal levels of ICBM and SLBM launchers
  • February 1975 - congress passed SALT Accord - despite U.S claims S.U had more launchers than allowed
  • SALT II negotiators met in Geneva - clear a smooth transition from Vladivostok to SALT II was not going to happen - U.S said limit of SAM's applied only to ballistic missiles - S.U said it also included cruise missiles
  • both sides were still far from a finalised agreement that could be ratified through SALT II
  • when Kissinger returned from Vladivostok he faced opposition from JCS
  • Brezhnev rejected the new approach, clear another SALT agreement wouldn't be agreed in 1976 - partly because it was political election year.
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The Carter Administration, 1977-81

  • January 1977 Carter replaced Ford as President
  • planned for more ambitious arms reduction programme
  • new proposals were unveiled to S.U on 28th March 1977:
      • reduce strategic systems from 2400 agreed at Vladivostok to 1,800-2,000
      • reduce number of MIRVs from 1320 to 1100
      • reduce ICBMs to 150 and number of ICBM launchers with MIRVs to 550
      • ban on deployment, testing of new ICBMs
      • ban on all types of cruise missiles with range 2,500km+
      • air launched missiles range 600-2500km restricted to bombers
  • proposals had a greater impact on S.U than U.S
  • Brezhnev rejected them - "one cannot talk about stability when a new leadership arrives and crosses out all of that has been achieved before?"
  • by the end of 1977 the differences had been sorted and proposals were resolved. SALT II was back on track
  • difficulties facing SALT II and detente were made worse by Carter's commitment to human rights
  • january 1977 U.S dept of state accused Czechoslovakia of violating human rights - U.S showed support for Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov
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The Carter Administration, 1977-81

  • March, Carter welcomed Vladimir Bukovsky to White House - start of a series of human rights recognition aimed directly at S.U and its allies.
  • July 1977 Helmut Schmidt(FRG chancellor) and Canadian PM Pierre Trueau cautioned Carter on the risks imposed on east-west detente by adopting too robust a human rights stance against S.U
  • Carter failed to see the implications of challenging internal affairs of the S.U
  • Carter faced conflicting advice on what his attitude toward S.U should be - made his approach uncertain and ill-defined
  • Cyrus Vance, carter's sec of state, supported detente - saw SALT II as an asset for the U.S
  • increased Sino-Soviet peaceful coexistence would stop backing of extremist Arab regimes in middle east
  • Zbigniew Brezintski, Carter's National Security Adviser had less faith in detente. He wanted to develop U.S strategic superiority over S.U and developing Sino-American relations in order to marginalise the S.U
  • SALT II was important to Brezinski, but not primary route to ensuring U.S power and protection of interests
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The Carter Administration, 1977-81


  • U.S relation with China became increasing issue for SALT II
  • Carter turned to China to retaliate against 'Soviet expansionism in developing countries'
  • China receptive to U.S as it faced issues with 'Nam and feared a Soviet-Vietnam alliance of some sort
  • 'China card' to counter Soviet and Cuban activity in Africa
  • to 'promote' the 'normalisation' of Sino-American interests
  • Carter failed to recognise this would damage U.S-S.U relations at a crucial point in SALT II discussions


  • both S.U and U.S wanted SALT II agreement to go ahead
  • 9th May 1979 - SALT II finally announced
  • June 1979 - Vienna Summit - finally signed
  • some historians claim the summit merely interrupted the decline of detente and the irreversable deteoreation in relations between S.U and U.S
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