GCSE Modern History/Détente and Refreezing

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In the 1970s, tension between the two superpowers relaxed. This period was known as détente.

Why did the Cold War thaw in 1970s?[edit]

  • At the Helsinki conference in 1975 all countries recognized the borders set out at the end of the Second World War (including Germany/Berlin).
  • The Vietnam War ended.
  • Nuclear testing damaged the environment and cost a fortune. Anti-nuclear movements supported détente.
  • The leaders held regular summit meetings.
  • American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts shook hands in space.
  • Both had extremely advanced weapons, and were spending large sums of money to develop them. They realised that this money could be better spent elsewhere.
  • SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) 1 was signed, and progress was being made towards a SALT 2.

Why did the Cold War freeze again in the 80s?[edit]

  • The USA boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. In retaliation, the USSR and eastern Europe boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
  • SALT 2, a USA-USSR agreement to limit nuclear weapons, collapsed because relations between the two countries had detriorated too far.
  • There was a revolution in Iran. The new leader was anti-American and anti-Communist, both superpowers were worried.
  • Jimmy Carter criticised the USSR's suppression of dissidents in the USSR and eastern Europe.
  • New nuclear weapons were being developed by both the USA and USSR.
  • There were civil wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Angola where the USA and USSR funded opposing sides.
  • Ronald Reagan was elected president. He funded the Strategic Defense Initiative ('Star Wars') and took a tougher line on the USSR. He called the USSR the 'Evil Empire' and was more very anti-Communist.
  • The USSR was fighting for the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan. The USA was supporting opponents of the government.