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?
- 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?
- 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.