Detente: Nixon and Brezhnev

Nixon and Brezhnev. Click for link.

To the surprise and relief of many people throughout the world, the late sixties and early seventies saw a decrease in tension between the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union. This came at a period in the Cold War when both sides possessed nuclear weapons with means of destroying each other. The relationship that is most associated with this “détente” or “thaw” is the one between the Nixon-Ford administration of the United States and the Brezhnev administration of the Soviet Union.

During this time, the United States and the Soviet Union met and composed various agreements. In the Seventeen Moments article “Détente,” Lewis Siegelbaum points out the SALT I talks and the Helsinki Accords as two of the most notable. The SALT talks were talks to limit nuclear and strategic weapons while the Helsinki Accords established the status quo for post-war acceptance throughout Europe. These agreements helped solidify the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union during this time of détente.

Along with these agreements, Nixon also sought the help of nations throughout the Middle East to try to get them to resist Communist insurgency in their countries. Despite Nixon being very active in the counter-communist insurgency campaigns in these nations, as well as backing the overthrow of Allende in Chile in the early 1970s, the relationship and tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union continued to thaw. As an article in the Current Digest shows, Nixon and his advisors, including Henry Kissinger, met with Brezhnev in 1972 and everyone agreed on the benefits that the increased cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union was provided and came up with ways to continue improving them.

Jimmy Carter Quote.

This period of détente would eventually come to an end when the Jimmy Carter administration came into power in 1976. The event that marked then end of the period was when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to fight against a U.S. backed rebel group. Although it did not last forever, the period of détente led to many good things throughout the world. The increased cooperation of both the United States and European nations with the Soviet Union resulted in greater international stability. Along with this, the fear of nuclear war seemed to be forgotten during the time of détente, allowing people to live in less fear. Overall, Brezhnev left his mark on the history of the Soviet Union and his legacy will forever be the thaw that he helped create with the United States.

5 Replies to “Detente: Nixon and Brezhnev”

  1. I also wrote about detente, however I focused more so on it’s end with the invasion of Afghanistan. This was a really thorough and interesting post, thanks for sharing!

  2. Your post does complement Catherine’s, so I’m glad you found each other! Interestingly, the Current Digest article you cite is from 1973, when Brezhnev and Gromyko went to Washington for a Summit meeting. The signing of the ABM and SALT I treaties happened at the Moscow Summit in 1972 (when Nixon became the first US president to visit Moscow).

  3. It is very important to note that during detente the Cold War was still being fought. You did a great job including the fact the United States still engaged in anti-communist/counter-insurgency activities despite relations between the United States and the Soviet Union being at an all-time high. I also like the article and picture of Nixon and Brezhnev. Great post!

  4. Interesting post, I think the Thaw is a significant part of the history of Soviet-U.S. relations, that can often be overlooked. As you mentioned it allowed for a number of disarmament treaties, that began to limit the threat of Nuclear war. I wonder if the opinions of the each other began to change during this time period? For example, did the U.S. see the Soviets less as a backwards people and more as a modern nation. Did the Soviets still view us as capitalist pigs, or did they come to respect us as a rival superpower? Also, what was the opinion like at home, among the populous?

  5. Why do you think that, with the United States engaging in anti-communist insurgency movements around the world, the thaw was able to continue? Did the Soviets simply tolerate it? Was this a step towards a new normal where war by proxy would be the main points of conflict between the two powers?

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