Challenges to Detente

Limitations to Success
 The
achievements of détente, although
significant, were limited.
 Even at its height, in the early 1970s, there
were still confrontations between the
superpowers and by the later 1970s many US
politicians were deeply hostile to the policy.
 Within
President Carter’s administration (19771981), there were deep divisions over détente;
Cyrus Vance, the Security of State, generally
supported its continuation whilst Zbigniew
Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser,
was very aggressive towards the USSR and very
skeptical about détente.
 President Carter himself was very keen to link
détente to human rights concessions by the
USSR and this attempt at “linkage” angered the
Soviet leadership.
 Ironically
what was probably Carter’s
greatest diplomatic achievement, his part in
the Camp David Agreement of 1978 and the
subsequent Egyptian-Israeli Peace treaty of
1979, undermined détente because in
brokering the settlement carter had gone
back on an earlier promise that the USSR
would be involved in any Middle Eastern
peace negotiations.
 By
the late 1970s there were growing
challenges to the continuation of détente and
it is clear that it had totally collapsed by
1980 when a “Second Cold War” was begun.
 Included is a list of the most important
challenges to détente which contributed to
its eventual collapse.
The Yom Kippur War, 1973
 This
Arab-Israeli conflict showed up the
limitations of Détente as during it the USA and
the USSR were drawn into a major
 Syria and Egypt launched a surprise attack on
Israel in October 1973 and made big advances
into Israel.
 The
USA airlifted military equipment to
Israel and the Israeli armed forces counterattacked successfully, crossing the Suez
Canal and surrounding an entire Egyptian
 At
this point Brezhnev proposed that a joint USSoviet military force be sent to Egypt to
impose a ceasefire on the Arab and Israeli
forces and threatened to send Soviet troops
alone if the USA failed to agree.
 President
Nixon responded very strongly,
rejecting this proposal and putting US forces
on world-wide alert.
 The USSR backed down and accepted the US
suggestion of a UN peacekeeping force.
 In late October the UN imposed a ceasefire
on the Arabs and Israelis which the Israelis
reluctantly accepted.
 The
Yom Kippur War showed that détente
was only partly successful in improving EastWest relations; there remained the
possibility of renewed conflict.
 Détente survived the Yom Kippur War but
from 1976 onwards the process was
increasingly under pressure.
Soviet Intervention in Africa
 Of
particular importance in the collapse of
détente was Soviet intervention in the
developing world.
 Whist the USSR saw in détente a means of
securing stable and peaceful relations in
Europe, the Soviet leadership did not accept
that détente should restrain the USSR from
seeking to extend its influence in the
developing world.
 Soviet
influence in the developing world was
much more limited than that of the USA and
the USSR refused to accept that inferior
 In particular the USSR was eager to establish
close relations with countries which might
provide the Soviet navy with bases.
 At
the start of the 1970s the Soviet navy
lacked naval bases outside of the USSR
itself which meant that although its Navy
was bigger than that of the USA, the USSR
could not keep its fleet and submarines at
sea as long as the Americans and their
NATO allies could.
 Between
1967 and 1972 the USSR was granted
naval facilities in Egypt following Soviet
military aid to Egypt in the Six Day War (1967)
but in 1972 Soviet-Egyptian relations broke
 President Sadat expelled thousands of Soviet
advisers and refused to allow the Soviet navy
to continue to use Egyptian ports.
 The
mid to late 1970s saw the USSR exploit
a number of opportunities for intervention
in Africa which alarmed the USA and
contributed to a souring of US-Soviet
 Until
1974, Angola was a Portuguese
 In 1974 a military coup overthrew the
right-wing Portuguese dictator, Marcelle
 There had been resistance to Portuguese
rule in Angola since the 1950s;
 The
MPLA (the Moviment Popular de
Liberatacao de Angola) was established in
1956, the FNLA (Frente Nacional de
Liberatacao de Angola) in 1962 and UNITA
(the Uniao Nacional para a Independencia
Total de Angola) in 1966.
 The
Portuguese granted Angola
independence in 1975 which led to civil war
between a coalition of FNLA-UNITA forces
and the MPLA.
 The FNLA-UNITA forces received help from
South Africa, including South African ground
troops, and some limited military supplies
from the USA.
 However,
the US Congress, after discovering
that President Ford, had already provided
unauthorized aid to the FNLA-UNITA,
refused to vote money for further aid.
 By contrast, the USSR provided substantial
military supplies to the MPLA as well as
Russian military advisers.
 More
importantly Cuba sent 17,000 troops
to fight alongside the MPLA.
 Soviet and Cuban aid helped tip the
balance in the MPLA’s favour and by early
1976 the MPLA controlled most of Angola.
 The
US administration was very concerned
at this successful Soviet intervention in
Southern Africa.
 In spite of the MPLA’a success, UNITA’s
guerrilla war against the MPLA regime
continued into the 1980s.
 The
USSR had close linked in the 1970s with
both Ethiopia and Somalia but in 1977-1978
the USSR intervened on the side of the
Ethiopia when it went to war with Somalia
over the disputed Ogaden region.
 The USSR provided Ethiopia with military
supplies but again Cuba went further sending
17,000 troops to fight on Ethiopia’s side.
 Ethiopia
won the war and the USSR benefited by
being granted the use of Ethiopian ports.
 Once more the USA saw this as Soviet aggression
and the Right in the US politics criticized
détente for failing to curb Soviet expansionism.
 However,
the USSR was reacting to events in the
Horn of Africa, it did not provoke the crisis and
would have preferred to remain on good terms
with both Ethiopia and Somalia.
The Soviet
Invasion of Afghanistan, 1979
 This
was arguably the event that finally killed
off the process of détente and did most to
provoke the “Second Cold War”
 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was very
different from the USSR’s involvement in
Angola and Ethiopia.
 This
time, although the Soviet leadership
had anticipated a brief military operation,
the USSR found itself bogged sown in a full
scale war lasting nine years and costing over
15,000 Soviet soldiers lives.
 The
origins of the USSR’s intervention lay in
a successful coup by a left-wing Afghan
group, the PDPA (the People’[s Democratic
Party of Afghanistan), in April 1978, which
overthrew the regime headed by General
Mubammed Daoud.
 The PDPA aligned themselves with the
USSR, signing a Friendship Treaty in
December 1978.
 The
PDPA, led by Muhamed Tarakki, introduced a
range of radical reforms, including measures to
emancipate women, which offended Islamic
 This resulted in the outbreak of civil war, which
intensified in 1979.
 The
Afghan rebel groups received support from
Pakistan and Iran, and, the USSR suspected CIA
involvement too.
 Also causing concerns to the USSR was the internal
feuding within the PDPA between the Khalq and
Parcham factions.
 Also
causing concern to the USSR was internal
feuding within the PDPA between the Khalq
and Parcham factions.
 In October 1979 Hafizullah Amin had Tarakki
arrested and executed and became the new
 However,
the Amin regime failed to
prevent the civil war from escalating
and did not end the PDPA’s factionfailed.
 In December 1979 the USSR sent 85,000
troops into Afghanistan and installed a
new president, Babrak Karmal, leader
of the Parcham faction (Amin, leader of
the Khalqs, was executed).
 The
Soviet leadership invaded Afghanistan with
intention of preserving a left-wing, pro-Soviet
government on its border.
 The USSR was anxious to prevent the collapse
of the PDPA regime because it feared that a
successful Islamic fundamentalist revolution in
Afghanistan would incite unrest among the
millions of Muslims who were Soviet citizens.
 The
concern was understandable given the
Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 which
brought the Ayatollah Khomeni to power.
 The
Republicans launched scathing attacks on
Carter for failing to prevent yet more Soviet
 Consequently,
President Carter reacted
very strongly to the Soviet invasion,
declaring that it was the most serious
threat to world peace since the end of
World War Two.
 In
January 1980, Carter end his attempts to get
SALT II Treaty ratified by the Senate (where it
would not have passed in any case),
 It
placed an embargo on certain US exports to
the USSR, including grain, banned American
involvement in the Moscow Olympics.
 Promised
to increase defence spending by
5% each year in real terms over the next
five years.
 Détente was now finally killed off.
The Deployment of SS-20s
& Cruise Missiles
 The
late 1970s saw an intensification of the
nuclear arms race, with both superpowers
developing and deploying more technologically
advanced intermediate ranged nuclear missiles.
 This development increased international
 In
1977 the USSR began to deploy the SS-20,
a new type of intermediate range nuclear
missile, based in the USSR itself and targeted
on Western Europe and China.
 The SS-20 was moveable from one launch site
to another, had a longer range than the SS-4
and SS-5 which it replaced, and was a MIRV.
 The
USA decided, in response, to deploy their
own new intermediate missiles, the Cruise and
Pershing II.
 Cruise missiles flew at low levels to avoid
detection by radar and so were seen as a
weapon that could be used for a surprise
 The
USA’s Western European alli4es had asked
the USA to deploy the new missiles to counter
the Soviet SS-20s.
 In December 1979, NATO announced that, from
1983, 108 Pershing II missiles would be sited in
West Germany and 464 Tomahawk cruise
missiles in five Western European countries.
 This
decision alarmed the USSR which saw
them as evidence that the USA might
consider a successful first strike against the
USSR as possible option.
 It also caused a storm of protest from antinuclear groups in Western Europe
e.g. from CND (the Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament) in the UK.
The Rise of the “New Right” in US
 Within
US politics, the “New Right” emerged: an
alliance of Republicans and conservative
Democrats who favoured substantial increases in
defence spending as both a way of deterring
Soviet expansionism and of pulling the US
economy out of the severe recession that it had
suffered since 1973-1974.
 The
New Right saw détente as fundamentally
flawed, describing it as a “one-way street”;
they argued that the USA had entered into the
spirit of détente but the USSR had not.
 They
(the New Right) believed that the Soviet
leadership had cynically exploited détente,
refusing to improve their record on human
rights in the Eastern bloc and increasingly
seeking to intervene in the developing world.

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