Détente with the Soviet Union Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

An important transitional stage in U.S.-Soviet relations marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.


More than a declining Soviet system and U.S. vigilance, however, contributed to this radically new and unexpected twist of history. In retrospect, it is clearly important that Gorbachev and Shevardnadze made substantive changes of a scope that few would have believed possible in the early days of détente. The role that détente played in the overall process is not easy to estimate. What is clearer is that the long détente process contributed to new thinking about world peace and the national interests of the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies. If the future of arms control has been uncertain in the post-Soviet period, there is little doubt that it will remain a pivotal concern of most nations, because of the continuing existence of thousands of nuclear weapons and the possibility that they might fall into the hands of states less restrained by Cold War considerations than the United States and the Soviet Union were for decades. SALT I (1972)[Salt 01] U.S.-Soviet relations[U.S. Soviet relations];détente U.S.-Soviet relations[U.S. Soviet relations];détente Détente (U.S.-Soviet relations) Cold War;détente

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gorbachev, Mikhail. Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World. Updated ed. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1991. A personal account of the origins and meaning of perestroika by its principal proponent. Contains sections on world peace and Soviet-U.S. relations, in which Gorbachev supports cooperation and arms reduction.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kissinger, Henry A. American Foreign Policy. New York: W. W. Norton, 1969. Kissinger’s views of U.S. foreign policy and the global balance of power, reflecting his historical, issue-specific approach to diplomacy.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Diplomacy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. A comprehensive analysis of diplomacy in early modern and recent periods. Extensive material on the period of détente and support for the approach, despite detractors’ arguments.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Landau, David. Kissinger: The Uses of Power. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972. A sympathetic biography by a colleague and friend. Presents Kissinger as one of the most creative modern diplomatic theorists, with both academic and experiential credentials.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Loth, Wilfried. Overcoming the Cold War: A History of Détente, 1950-1991. New York: Palgrave, 2002. A thoroughly researched examination of the Cold War, including how it was contained and finally overcome.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Nixon, Richard M. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. Reprint. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990. A comprehensive personal account of Nixon’s life and public career, in which the strongest elements are his foreign policy and détente. Shows his belief in a practical approach to peace, marked by mutual pragmatic agreements to avoid a nuclear war.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ulam, Adam B. “Forty Years of Troubled Coexistence.” Foreign Affairs 64, no. 1 (Fall, 1985): 12-32. A masterful overview of détente, with a scholarly analysis of SALT I and its aftermath. Argues that détente was essentially pragmatic; rejects the notion that détente was simply a Soviet ruse.

Nixon Opens Trade with China

SALT I Is Signed

East and West Germany Establish Diplomatic Relations

Helsinki Accords Offer Terms for International Cooperation

SALT II Is Signed

Gorbachev Initiates a Policy of Glasnost

Dissolution of the Warsaw Pact

Bush Announces Nuclear Arms Reductions

Dissolution of the Soviet Union

Categories: History