Attempts at détente

Why were there attempts to limit nuclear proliferation?

Nuclear proliferation is the increase in the number of nuclear weapons a country has, or the spread of nuclear capabilities to non-nuclear countries.

There was the fear that nuclear weaponry could fall into the hands of ‘rogue’ governments or terrorist groups with disastrous consequences for all.

Each side saw itself as ‘responsible’ but the more countries who had nuclear capability, the less the superpowers would be able to control events. There was also the fear of nuclear accidents. A number of political agreements were made during the détente period.

Nuclear Test Ban Treaty 1963

  • Signed by the USSR, USA and UK.
  • Banned the testing of nuclear weapons on the ground and in the atmosphere.
  • Did not ban testing underground.

Outer-Space Treaty 1967

  • Signed by the USSR, USA and UK.
  • Banned the placement of nuclear weapons in space and on the Moon.
  • Banned the testing of weapons in space or on the Moon.
  • Space was to remain peaceful and could be explored freely by all countries.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1968

  • An agreement of all signatories to stop or limit the spread of nuclear capability to non-nuclear countries.
  • The five recognised nuclear countries were the USA, USSR, UK, China and France.

Seabed Treaty 1971

  • Signed by the USSR, USA and UK.
  • Banned the placement of nuclear weapons anywhere on the seabed.

SALT I 1972

  • SALT = Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
  • Signed by US President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1972.
  • This was the first agreement under which both superpowers put limits on the number of nuclear missiles that could be produced.
  • However, proliferation continued after this as the limits were so high and only some types of weapon systems were to be controlled.

Helsinki Agreement 1975

The three ‘baskets’ of agreements were:

  • Both sides agreed to recognise the current borders of European countries.
  • Both sides agreed to respect human rights and freedoms in their respective countries.
  • Both sides agreed to help each other economically and technologically.

SALT II 1979

  • There was agreement over limiting the production of long-range missiles.
  • These agreements never came to much - the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and the Cold War began to escalate once more.