Cooperation of the superpowers during détente

There was a great deal of cooperation and good will between the Superpowers during the period of détente.

President Nixon visits Moscow 1972

This was the first time a President of the USA had been in the Soviet Union since 1945. Nixon met Brezhnev, leader of the USSR.

Brezhnev visits Washington 1973

This visit emphasised the commitment of both sides to work together.

President Nixon returns to Moscow 1974

An unproductive visit, but it showed continued commitment.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) 1975

A joint space flight by Soviet cosmonauts and American astronauts.

Increase in trade

In the 1970s, the Soviet economy was in trouble and had to look to foreign trade partners and investment. The USSR embarrassingly had to accept grain shipments from the USA.

Why did détente end?

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan 1979

The USSR invaded Afghanistan using the excuse that the new communist government wanted their help. This broke existing agreements on communist expansion.

Ronald Reagan elected President of the USA

President Ronald Reagan
Reagan opposed the USSR

Reagan did not trust Brezhnev and thought that the USSR was misusing the period of détente to increase Soviet power and influence. He wanted to increase the power and prestige of the USA to make it the strongest country in the world.

In 1983, Reagan made a speech where he called the USSR an “evil empire”. The USA boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Continued nuclear proliferation

In 1979, NATO placed long-range missiles in Europe, threatening the USSR. In 1983, Reagan announced the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). The USSR assumed the USA was looking for ‘First Strike’ capability.

The video below looks at the relationship between the USA and the USSR.