As told in my previous blog, the world stood on the brink of world war III, during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. It was a very close call. One miscalculation could have resulted in a nuclear war. The ideological difference, arms race, proxy wars, suspicion, mistrust etc, became causes for the hike in tension. Both the superpowers and their blocks realised that its time to decrease tensions. Steps were taken by the superpowers and we saw significant decrease in tensions, roughly between 1963 and 1979. This period is called ‘Detente’. Emphasis in this period was laid on peaceful coexistence, diplomacy, social economic and cultural progress etc. However, this peaceful state in the world lasted till later 70s only and ended completely after the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR in 1979.
Meaning of Detente
* ‘Detente’ is a French word which means relaxation or decrease in tensions. Nowadays, this word is mostly used for describing the period during the Cold War in which tensions decreased between the two superpowers of the time i.e. America and Soviet Union. This change was brought bye treaties, negotiations, agreements, diplomacy etc.
* Though Detente had mostly political implications but still, it affected other sectors also. As a result, social, cultural and economic relations also improved between the nations.
* Detente doesn’t means that tensions finished completely between the superpowers. Tension was still there but its intensity decreased to a great extent.
Causes of Detente
* Arms race- The race, which began after the start of Cold War was at hike. Countries were spending a huge chunk of their budget, just for producing weapons. They realised that more and more weapons will be more and more dangerous for the world and also that huge amount of money wasted on weapons could be used for education, health etc.
* Nuclear arms race- Along with conventional weapons, the mass production and nuclear weapons by the USA and the USSR was imposing a great threat to the world. The USA and the USSR tested thermonuclear bomb or hydrogen bomb in 1952 and 1953, respectively. Later, other countries followed.. nuclear arsenal of the world increase uncontrollably and a need arrived for for check and balance.
* Fall in USSR-China relations- Both China and the USSR were Communist countries and both wanted to lead the Communist bloc but there can be only one king at a time, so differences between them arrived which became a cause of Detente, because the USSR thought that it should improve its relations with the USA now. Second thing was that the USSR was not giving nuclear technology to China, but China developed it by itself, later. Hence, the differences between the two biggest Communist powers weekend the Communist bloc and decrease tensions.
* Vietnam war- It started in 1965 and America got involved directly. soviet Union and China never sent any troops but played the game, from behind the curtain. This war became a fiasco for the US. Due to its lack of experience in jungle warfare and underestimating, the other side, US faced very heavy losses. American public was not happy with the loss of thousands of lives, it was estimated that approximately 60,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam war.. Consequently, the US Army had to pull off from the war and thus, tensions decreased.
Steps taken during Detente
* Hotline- The first thing which was done after Cuban Missile crisis was the establishment of a hotline between Moscow and Washington, DC. It was to provide a direct means of communication between the head of states of the USA and the USSR, in case of emergency. It finish the gap in communication between them and chances of misunderstandings decreased.
* PTBT and NPT- Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), were signed in 1963 and 1968 respectively. The prior limited nuclear test to below ground only, to stop the environment from being polluted by nuclear radiation. and latter was for stopping the transfer of nuclear technology to other countries.
* Top level summits- When Richard Nixon became the President of America, he laid emphasis on negotiation and cooperation. He became the first U.S. president to visit the Soviet Union since 1945, Nixon and Brezhnev(leader of Soviet Union),, took part in three historic summits while both held office, first in Moscow summit of May 1972, followed by Brezhnev’s visit to Washington in June 1973 and a return trip to Moscow by Nixon in June/July 1974. These meetings played an important role in Detente and as a result, important agreements were reached.
* S.A.L.T. – Both the USA and the USSR had developed hundreds of Inter Ballistic Missiles along with nuclear war heads by then. This was a very dangerous combination for the national security of both the superpowers. It was a big cause of tensions between the two nations and so the historic Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty/Talk I, was signed on May 26, 1972 in Moscow. . The agreement limited the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on either side, in their arsenals and allowed each nation to build two missile defense sites. this was a great achievement for Nixon and has a big significance in Detente. S.A.L.T. II was also signed in 1979, but was never ratified by the US Parliament.
* Helsinki Accord- Cold War affected trade, culture, social issues etc, along with geopolitics. so this Accord was signed by 35 nation at the conference on security and cooperation in Europe. It laid emphasis on not only military issues and defining political borders, but also promoted opportunities to increased trade and scientific cooperation between the nations. Along with this, It advocated the increase of cultural exchanges, human rights and freedom of the press.
Impact of Detente
* Detente reduce the tensions between the superpowers. The world got a slight relief from the constant fear of a nuclear war. It set an example, how countries could coexist peacefully, even with differences. Trade and other exchanges, also increased which benefited everyone
* The uncontrolled production of nuclear weapons finally got controlled, to some extent. The treaties signed between the superpowers increased trust between this was very important because mistrust and suspicion was one of the basic causes of the Cold War.
* The Iranian revolution also known as the Islamic revolution(1978-1979), became successful in Iran and pro-US government was removed from power. This was a very important development in the Middle East which had big implications in the years to come.
Detente was not completely successful but still it has great significance in history of the Cold War. It tells how countries can think and go beyond the never ending struggle for power. I believe this period is going to become very important in the days to come, as we are witnessing the start of another Cold War today.
Note from the author.
Sorry guys, it took some time for the second part, due to time issues. Hope you enjoyed it. All suggestions are welcome as always and I will try to bring the next part as soon as possible Inshallah