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Lecture

Lec 15


Department
History
Course Code
HIS344Y1
Professor
Ebba Kurt

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US-Soviet Relations
1970s decade of negotiations where both US and Soviet Union tried to reduce tensions
regional conflicts and arms race undermined the security at home (esp. financial security)
best way out of Vietnam was to reduce tensions between Soviet Union and US
by late 60s/early 70s nuclear parity was achieved in military terms
had almost as many missiles as US, both had achieved a level of overkill over the
other – even if they attacked first they still have enough missiles for a second strike
to eliminate the other side (MAD)
no reason to continue the arms race
emergence of China – another compelling factor to seek detente
for USSR had to divide attention from US to China, had to direct meagre military
resources to confront the Chinese
are capable of coming to an agreement – three times during the 60s they signed meaningful
treaties toward detente
detente was almost a logical conclusion after nuclear parity reached
reduction of tension – did not mean that either party saw the other was a friend, or that
conflict would be eradicated
rather conflicts could be settled via diplomacy rather than through direct or indirect
military confrontation
era of negotiations of the 70s, esp from 1970-5
five summit meetings between the leaders of the two superpowers
did reduce tensions, broke through many taboo areas that were seen as unapproachable
American expectations
what they thought would be achieved was the help of the Soviet Union to extricate them
from Vietnam
wanted Soviet Union (now recognized as an equal) to pressure Hanoi to the table to bring an
end to the conflict
wanted USSR to behave as a normal state to give up its goal of supporting international
revolutions or national liberation movements and act through the UN rather than around it
eventually also wanted economic and financial benefits – by improving relations with USSR
American industry would be able to sell their products in the areas formerly under Soviet
influence
Soviet expectations
wanted to be recognize as equals to the US
a free hand to operate in the world without American interference
recognition that they do have solid sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and not be
challenged/criticized by US
had a domestic component as well – Brezhnev thought that the minute that USSR was
recognized as an equal then they could return to Khrushchev's goal and improve standard of
living at home (increase butter now that money doesn't need to go to guns)
historiography
revisionists saw it as a positive sign – for the first time the two superpowers came to the
negotiating table and reduced tensions, reduced potential for nuclear war (even by accident)
brought great deal of stability to the world; effort of the USSR to establish peaceful
coexistence – it was a great opportunity for US to continue on

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traditionalists/orthodox saw an ulterior motive for Moscow – did not give up its goal to
spread communism and win the Cold War
what Soviets did during detente was to engage US by other means
while the promised limitation on nuclear capacity and capability, undertook action to
further undermine US and Western world – was a mean to challenge US and the West
indirectly; ultimate objective is to win the Cold War and spread communism
the moment Nixon was elected, proposal came from Moscow for leaders to come face to face
and negotiate a settlement
understood that USSR could never be humiliated in the same way as during Cuban Missile
Crisis since they have the missiles now – Brezhnev thought to reduce the tensions
in principle both agreed to meet in Moscow
Nixon-Brezhnev Moscow Summit (May 1972) – Nixon came via Beijing, just signed a treaty
with Mao, negotiate with primary communist opponents
was very very successful, had agreed in principle on all major issues before Nixon even
touched down
most crucial was military balance of power, number of missiles that each have (Americans
had 1500 IBM, they agreed to a higher level for USSR, up to 1600)
limited anti-ballistic missile system to two sites – no more (either protecting the capital, and
one of their launch sites)
deliberate decision to keep themselves vulnerable and exposed – whoever gained the
upper-hand in the new system would gain the upper hand and could initiate first strike
Americans had far more precise missiles than USSR, had made technological
breakthrough and equipped missiles with many warheads, had air force (another means
of delivery way superior to the Russians), had medium-range missiles stationed in
Europe to strike Russia, and there were also British and French nuclear deterrent – there
was a raw parity even though Russians had higher ceiling
joint commercial commission – Russians hoped to buy technological know-how from
America and US hoped to sell products in Soviet markets
US also gave Soviet Union most-favoured nation status
major understanding on basic principles that would thereafter dominate and govern
relations with the US
the most important was that US publicly recognized USSR as equals and deal with
them likewise in international affairs
two would cooperate whenever there is an international crisis
in addition, both promised to involve and inform the other of major international
steps that they are going to take
both agreed to never launch a first strike
negotiations and summits continued unabated – June 1973 Brezhnev travels to Washington to
break down more doors separating the two states and making their relations more normal
cultural exchanges
agricultural exchanges – how to sew seeds and tell them why American farmers were more
efficient and productive
transportation exchanges – trains etc.
Nixon although initially quite anxious, by 1973/4 Nixon was deeply engaged in scandal back
home and could not participate in this, left everything to Kissinger
Brezhnev clearly saw as a great breakthrough for the Soviet Union - “one of the best deals
we have ever done”
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