ARMS CONTROL AND DETENTE
Détente is the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation. The term is often used in reference to the general easing of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1971, a thawing at a period roughly in the middle of the Cold War.
The arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union probably began assoon as the Soviets heard about the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. In 1949, the Soviets—who had been working frantically to catch up with the Americans' nuclear technologies—detonated their first atomic bomb, and throughout the 1950s the two nations raced to build ever-growing stockpiles of nuclear weapons. By the 1960s, however, both sides began to question whether continuing to build theirnuclear arsenals was really beneficial. Each country had enough weapons to destroy the other multiple times over—the US possessed around 30,000 nuclear warheads while the Soviets had about 5,000.
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 demonstrated with horrifying clarity the dangers of nuclear proliferation (the spread of nuclear weapons to more and more countries). American President John F. Kennedy andSoviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev were able to stave off disaster through negotiation, but at the height of the crisis Cuban leader Fidel Castro actually pushed hard to launch a nuclear strike against the United States. If the weapons had been under Castro's operational control, rather than Khrushchev's, we might all be dead. The two superpowers agreed to install a direct hotline between WashingtonDC and Moscow, the so called red telephone, enabling both countries to quickly interact with each other in a time of urgency.
In 1963, in the immediate wake of the Missile Crisis, the leaders of the United States, Soviet Union, and Great Britain joined together to sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which they hoped would slow new development of nuclear weapons technology by banning testexplosions in the atmosphere. More than 105 other nations signed on, though Cuba, China, and France all refused to join. While all three of those nations were allied with nuclear powers (the US in the case of France, the USSR in the case of Cuba and China), all three felt that only by controlling their own nuclear arsenals could they maintain their independence in world affairs.
The proliferation ofnuclear technology to France and China only intensified American, British, and Soviet efforts to prevent even more countries from obtaining the bomb. In 1968, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, agreeing not to distribute nuclear weapons to other nations and to limit the development of nuclear delivery systems. The treaty opened eachcountry's nuclear facilities to inspections by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency. The Nixon administration met with the Soviets in Helsinki, Finland, in 1969 to begin discussing further limits on nuclear weapons. These talks led to the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty(SALT I), which froze the number of nuclear missiles (ICBMs) on both sides at current levels for five years.These agreements limiting nuclear weapons contributed greatly to détente (the relaxation of Cold War tensions) during this period. Nixon's successor as president, Gerald Ford, met with Khrushchev's successor, Leonid Brezhnev, in Siberia at Vladivostok to discuss more arms control. Ford laid the groundwork for SALT II, a second treaty which would be signed by Brezhnev and President Jimmy Carter inVienna a few years later.
For much of the 1970s, it looked as if détente could really work and that the superpowers might soon be able to reduce their stocks of arms. Nonetheless, Western leaders were concerned about the lack of basic human rights behind the Iron Curtain. An international conference at Helsinki in 1975, attended by leaders from 35 countries, including the Soviet Union, called...
Leer documento completo
Regístrate para leer el documento completo.