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.
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.