Detente: The origins of detente


The origins of detente

  • Detente refers to a relaxation in tension between the two superpowers as a deliberate attempt to avoid crises.

The origins of detente

The Soviet perspective

  • Brezhnev sought a better relationship with the US for the following reasons:
    • The USSR had achieved relative nuclear parity in armaments - they felt they could negotiate from a position of strength.
    • The USSR was experiencing economic problems - 1/6 of the size of the US economy. They wanted to boost economic growth and raise living standards by reducing military spending.
    • They wanted to buy cheap grain from the West.
    • They wanted access to superior Western technology.
    • Sino-Soviet relations had deteriorated and weakened the strength of the communist bloc.

The US perspective

  • Nixon became president in 1969 and was a well-known opponent of communism.
  • He was a realist and felt the war was draining US resources.
  • He believed the US should seek a more stable relationship with the USSR and sought detente for the following reasons:
    • US leaders wanted to end the Vietnam War and…


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