Began with 1969 Nixon presidency. Consisted of atttempt to get more USA-USSR cooperation.

Why (USA)?

War unpopular and economy hurt because Vietnam.

USA & USSR had same number warheads.

Proxy warfare hurt US ability to get econ, military superiority.

Why (USSR)?

Economy stagnating, aid to developing world increasing, wanted tech & trade w/US, Sino-Soviet split and border clashes were a thing, USSR didn’t want US-China anti-USSR alliance.


Nixon flies to China 1972.

SALT I signed including USSR (talks started 1969). Arms control (not reduction). Research into delivery systems not banned. MAD upheld.

New InterContinental Ballistic Missile and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles not allowed to be built for next 5 years. Each side could only have Anti-Ballistic Missile sites with 100 missile launchers. MIRV Multiple Independently targetable Reentry Vehicles not limited.

Brezhnev visits USA 1973-06, Nixon visits Moscow 1973-07. USA de facto recognizes DDR. Bundeskanzler Willy Brandt of BRD begins Ostpolitik with goal of reducing east/west barriers and increasing trade.

1973 Helsinki Conference and Accords

  1. Current borders of Europe de jure accepted as inviolable. (Did WWII only end here?) This was concession to USSR.
  2. Scientific, cultural, economic ties and collaboration.
  3. USSR didn’t really agree to have more human rights and less torture.

The decline of detente

USSR wanted allies with ports. Also, their warheads weren’t as good as US warheads. USSR had more conventional forces, but only 7 aircraft carriers to NATO’s 20. See: no warm-water ports.

USSR said they’d hold back on supporting revolutions, but didn’t.

Egypt lost 1967 Six Day War (Israel got Sinai), USSR replaced their stuff and sent in advisors in an attempt to get a warm-water port. 1973 Egypt wanted a war with Israel, USSR said lolno, Egypt kept the gear but kicked out the USSR. NATO wouldn’t let USSR join peace conference.

Therefore, USSR started supporting revolutions everywhere with ports and/or oil.


Nixon responded by making better tech. SALT I is over! Brezhnev develops Trident & Cruise missiles and B1 bomber. Brezhnev whines about US not selling them tech.

Watergate happens! Congress is pissed.

Carter years 1977-1981

Carter says he won’t automatically support random dictators just because anti-communism.

He was an ex-governor, though.

Had Cyrus Vance as Secretary of State and Leonid Brezinski as National Security Council head. They disagreed with each other, so Carter flip-flopped.

Cyrus: Yay detente! Brezinski: Outspend them, hard-liner.

Carter pushed for human rights in Soviet bloc. However, he also wanted US nuclear superiority, 36% rise in defense spending, created stealth bomber and cruise missiles (launchable from aircraft carrier).

More defense and Carter

USSR responds by putting SS-20s (intermediate-range missiles focusing on Austria, BRD, Italy, France, etc) in Eastern Europe. Carter responds by putting Pershing II missiles in BRD and cruise missiles in Britain.

SALT II begins 1974. Limit on MIRVs and 2400 missile launchers agreed on. Congress delays signing in 1979 because they’re annoyed about Soviet brigade in Cuba (which US agreed to in 1962), USSR invades Afghanistan 1979-12, US boycotts 1980 Olympics in Moscow and detente ends.


Pershing II missiles mounted on trucks, Cruise missiles basically drones and were quiet.

Stealth bombers not detectable by radar, Trident submarine could contain a MIRV, B1 bomber supersonic.