The détente was a period in which the two superpowers, the USSR and the USA had a brief moment in which they could finally freely breathe. Although, this moment was wanted by both sides, it was not meant to last long, since neither side would stop being suspicions about each other or trying to undermine the other part. As Bradley Lightbody suggests; after the resignation of President Nixon in August 1974, as a result of the Watergate scandal, the Cold war started to flourish again. Furthermore, both President Ford and President Carter found it difficult to maintain détente against criticism of the Soviet Union’s continued interventions in the Third World.1
We could say that this brief and partially successful coexistence started with the Cuban missile crisis. Both superpowers had reasons for seek relaxation.
On the USSR’s side, Leonid Brezhnev felt that the nuclear arms race was economically unsustainable, since around a 20% of the USSR’s budget was going on defense. Moreover, the soviets hoped to get a financial advantage of the détente, hoping that it would increase the trade with Western Europe as well as getting more access to western technology. Additionally, the soviets believed that a less aggressive policy could gradually separate the Western Europeans from the USA.
The USA economy was also not at its best since the Vietnam War supposed a huge investment.
Nevertheless, the first steps were taken by John F. Kennedy and Krushchev after the Cuban missile crisis, firstly by installing a Hotline between the two countries in order to encourage a more fluid communication between the Soviets and the Americans. After the tensions, both sides realized how primitive their direct communication methods had been. For instance, during the tensest moments of the crisis, Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to Washington, was forced to rely on a bicycle courier to pick up his urgent messages to Moscow and pedal them over to the local Western Union office.2
Moreover, there was signed a treaty around that time. The Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, which was signed in Moscow, in August 5, 1963, by the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. This treaty banned all test of nuclear weapons except those conduced underground. 3
As a matter of fact, not only improvements by adding a Hotline or by signing agreements were made, but also Kennedy acknowledged the suffering and loses of the Soviet Union in the Second World War, greet Soviet successes in science and industry.4 This first attempt of a peaceful coexistence was eliminated when Kennedy was killed, since the new president Lyndon B. Johnson, did not seem very given to dialogue between the two superpowers.
This new president was, as Lightbody suggests, a firm believer of Eisenhower’s domino effect, and to avoid seeing the rest of Asia go the way China went he committed the US forces to Vietnam. However, in 1968, President Johnson signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was...