Political Policies Between The United States and The Soviet Union

One can not effectively interpret world political policies of the 1970's without the inclusion of the relationship known as détente, and the breakdown there of. The breakdown of the 1970's détente can be attributed to many different issues and events. In researching these events the varying opinions from both world superpowers which would establish the failure of détente in history, as a breakdown in communication and talks between the United State's White House and the Soviet Union's Kremlin with the collapse of détente marking the end of the 1970's.

During the 1976 presidential campaign, the tension between the objective of transformation and the importance of coexistence became crucial. Conservatives criticized détente for not moderating the Soviets involvement in the Third World transformation to communism. In the United States, many saw accumulative series of Soviet interventions which involved military means; Angola, Ethiopia, Kampuchea, Afghanistan, as a pattern of Soviet expansion, which was not consistent with détente. Many actually believed that these expansionist moves were encouraged by détente. Ultimately, the expectations that détente would achieve more were held by both powers. It was the failure to satisfy these expectations which led to its demise. Kissinger suggested that "détente, with all its weaknesses, should be judged not against some ideal but against what would have happened in its absence. Détente did not cause the Soviet arms build-up, nor could it have stopped it. However, it may have slowed it down or made it more benign" (Garthoff 1994:1123). Perhaps détente could be viewed, not as a method of preventing or deterring tension which might lead to war, but as a way of postponing their effect until the United States could more effectively deal with them. By 1976, détente was a controversial term with both left and right hands of the disagreement criticizing its development. With the Administration of Jimmy Carter, a campaign for restoring confidence in government institutions and reforming American foreign policy was implemented (Froman 1991:74). President Carter appointed Zbigniew Brzezinski as National Security Adviser and Cyrus Vance as Secretary of State. The ongoing differences between Brzezinski and Vance resulted in turmoil for the Carter administration as well as destroyed Carter's efforts to develop a set of boundaries for the principles of détente.

Détente began to collapse almost as soon as it had begun. Watergate undermined President Richard M. Nixon's credibility; Senator Jackson's Amendment in regards to the Jewish community and Angola all compromised Democratic/ Soviet relations. In spite of all this, by 1977 Détente was still a viable option, with a new American initiative needed to get détente back on track. With the Carter administration, no sign of renewed confidence in détente was evident. Jimmy Carter's action, if anything, impeded progress towards détente. Zbigniew Brzezinski's "hard line" approach resulted in serious problems for the détente by 1978. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks established in 1972 were not yet completed. The Soviet Kremlin and the White House were no longer having diplomatic talks with both sides feeling the other was to blame. The United States critiqued the build up of the Soviet armed forces and the Soviet/Cuban involvement in Africa placed extreme pressure on détente's success.

In the midst of these events the signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975 placed human rights high on the political agenda. America began to place pressure on the USSR's domestic policy in regards to the treatment of Russia's minority groups. Carter's crusade to liberalize Communist societies through external pressure actually jeopardized American-Soviet relations. The already inflamed détente was further compromised by the Jackson Amendment of 1974, which fought Moscow to open emigration of Soviet Jews. This event humiliated the Soviet Union by the interference of the United States in Soviet internal affairs producing a hostile Kremlin. Jimmy Carter spoke grandly about his "ultimate goal, the elimination of all nuclear weapons from earth" (Isaacs, Downing 1988:354). Disarmament and arms control were a high priority for Carter and he was proposing to introduce radical cuts in arms levels which was flatly turned down by Moscow. In 1977, the Soviets stepped up there nuclear arms in Europe. They replaced all old military devices for improved arms, which was seen by the United States as a new threat to the détente. The Soviet's challenge to America's military superiority saw a simultaneous build up of arms for the Western alliance whilst both sides called for