Richard Nixon and Detente

1078 words 5 pages
Why did detente develop between 1969 and 1979?

After the Second World War, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as superpowers and subsequently a period of tension and hostility arose, known as the Cold War. During this time, a new possibility of complete nuclear destruction that would claim the lives of many emerged, therefore “the easing or relaxing of tensions” on both sides was needed, this period would be known as detente. Both countries had been guaranteed mutually assured destruction as they had both managed to stay ahead in the development of nuclear arsenals. By the late 1960s the Soviets had surpassed the United States in intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) by 1,300 to 1,054. Although the U.S was still
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Detente provided a solution to the economic crisis as resources would be directed towards improving the economy and the USSR would have access to much needed Western technology and grain supplies.

President Nixon assumed presidency in 1969 and made detente the centerpiece of this foreign policy. According to historian John Gaddis “détente sought to freeze the Cold War in place.”By this time, the very televised Vietnam War had become very unpopular and the new government believed that there were better ways to contain communism. Nixon and Kissinger’s approach meant downplaying the role of ideology in foreign policy and recognizing the military strength was not always decisive in world affairs. Nixon and Kissinger were able to pull the remaining U.S troops from Vietnam. However, the failure in Vietnam led to the re-evaluation of U.S power in the world. President Lyndon Johnson had spent an estimated $167 billion to finance the war causing an increase in taxation, high inflation and a large budget deficit. Nixon and Kissinger intended to implement much needed social and economic reforms and a relaxation of tensions between both countries would aid in combating the economic crisis of the U.S and would also build up the confidence Americans had lost in their government during the Vietnam War.

Detente also developed in Europe under West Germany’s chancellor Willy Brandt, in an effort to normalize relations with East Germany,


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