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Cold War Master - Essay Example

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The term dtente is used to describe a period that began in the 1970s and went through the 1990s during Gorbachev's administration, when tensions between the Soviet Union and the West began to relax. This was not one continuous period of lowered tension, but rather involved a series of dtentes, each of which experienced their own obstacles and conflicts…
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Cold War Master Essay
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Download file to see previous pages The Soviet Union, led at the beginning stages of dtente by Leonid Brezhnev and Alexey Kosygin, had additional reasons to feel the need for this policy that effectively saw a thaw in the ongoing Cold War.
The early 1970s saw political unrest increase to worrying levels throughout the USSR and its satellite states, particularly in Poland, mainly due to low living standards and widespread economic hardships. In order to be able to attend to bettering the bloc's economic situation and to the people's grievances, the Soviet Union needed to divert funds away from the overwhelming defense spending. A dtente was needed to allow the administration of Brezhnev and Kosygin to ease up on the ongoing nuclear competition with the United States, that was hard to sustain in any case, in order to focus more of their resources on domestic policy. Important pieces of this policy included the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT 1) between the USSR and the USA, which administered what the appropriate levels of nuclear arms were that each side was allowed to possess, effectively slowing down the build up, but did not end it. Another important result of dtente was the Helsinki Agreement signed three years later between the two aforementioned powers, as well as Canada and most of Europe, which solidified the borders of Europe as they had been since the end of World War II, including the division of Germany between East and West (Lowe, 1997).
European nations themselves were also cognizant of the rising risk that the nuclear arms race created, particularly for them, as they feared becoming the front line of a potential nuclear crisis or a traditional war, which was also a possibility if a conflict arose that pushed for direct aggression. With Western European security in mind, the foreign minister and then chancellor of Western Germany, Willy Brandt, pursued better relations with the Soviet Union by accepting the division of his country and the continent. Brandt felt this was a necessary concession to make at a time that rising tensions could jeopardize the uneasy peace of the time. This was convenient for the communist bloc that feared German reunification, which would mean a much stronger threat on the West. Better relations with the West also opened up the door for the Soviet Union to promote certain forums for East-West trade, something that benefited Russia that needed Western technology to help deal with the economic difficulties that it was experiencing (Vadney, 1998).
Beyond the inability of the Soviet Union to continue to viably maintain the arms race with the United States, while trying to resolve its economic woes, the strain on its relations with China offered further incentive in pursuing the policy of dtente. This strain was occurring at the same time as relations between China and the USA were improving, and the Soviet Union faced the possibility of becoming increasingly isolated. Brezhnev and Kosygin did not wish to deal with a hostile United States at a time when their security was in question on the East. This was evidenced by the shift in the 1980s in the stationing of more Russian divisions on their eastern borders than on the west, fourty-four versus thirty-one respectively. Dtente was essentially ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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