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What accounted for the resurgence of East-West

tensions after 1975?

Key words:

Accounted: origin
Resurgence: reborn
Tension: conflict
After 1975: in the 1980s

Resurgence: an increase in activity / prominence

1972 = change in policies leading to recognizing the Soviet as a equal power. This time
period lasted approximately 8 years years and was called Detente. The 2 powers
mutually recognized themselves leading to a more pacific opposition.
Gaddis: Dtente, we now tell each other, was not an end to cold war tensions
but rather a temporary relaxation that depended upon the unlikely intersection of
unconnected phenomena. There had to be, we argue, approximate parity in the
strategic arms race, a downplaying of ideological differences, a mutual willingness to
refrain from challenging the interests of rivals, an ability to reward restraint when it
occurred and to provide inducements to its further development, and the existence of
strong, decisive and intelligent leadership at the top in both Washington and Moscow,
capable of overriding all of the obstacles likely to be thrown in the path of dtente by
garbled communications, sullen bureaucracies, or outraged constituencies. The rise,
fall and future of dtente by Gaddis

1980 = Breaking point where both countries decided that it was unsatisfactory, so they
terminated it. The significance of 1980 is indisputable, if also still indistinct.
Majors breaking points that contributed to the end of Detente

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,

The first event that broke the 8 years of pacific coexistence and which
brought the resurgence of the East-west conflict is the invasion of
Afghanistan by the Soviets in December 1979. This particular event is
comparable to the U-2 incident of 1959, the Berlin Crisis of 1961, or the
Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 in terms of its impact. Until the invasion of
Afghanistan a case could be made that the two superpowers were
keeping their detente afloat, if only by a lot of huffing and puffing.Kaiser
This was the first time that USSR used its own military forces to annex
another territory. Indeed, from 1948 to 1979, the communist superpower
with a combination of self restraint and mutual respect for other nations,
had never invaded other territories outside their internationally recognized
sphere of influence. = breaking the rule
What was the reasons of this invasion ?
Very simple and rational: they wanted to show and display their
military forces + self-confidence to the US. It was a good
opportunity to demonstrate their strength and offer a respond to the
US for which they weren't able to answer for many years.
Political matters: They didnt want the afghan to get any closer to
capitalism = US

How did the invasion took place ?

In 1978, control of Afghanistan had been seized by the Peoples
Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). This was a communist
group, financed by the USSR.

Very unpopular gov/ unstable/ much rivality/ a lot of rebellion

in the country

The PDPA was factionalised. A seemingly pro-Western faction

influenced by Hafizullah Amin( minister of foreign affairs), usurped
the main faction of the group in mid-1979 and killed the unstable
president: Nur Mohammad Taraki
Fear of US support for Amins faction + Deteriorating relations and
worsening rebellions led the Soviet government led the Soviet
government under Leonid Brezhnev to order the invasion.
Soviets installed a pro-Soviet puppet government led by former
Afghan exile, Babrak Karmal.
The Soviet Union intervened in support of the Afghan communist
government in its conflict with anticommunist Muslim guerrillas
during the Afghan War (197892) and remained in Afghanistan until
mid-February 1989.
Seen as the last major crisis of the cold war

What was the US response

The invasion mobilized the Carter Administration. The President
told an interviewer that the Soviets' aggression "has made a more
dramatic change in my own opinion of what the Soviets' ultimate
goals are than anything they've done in the previous time I've been
in office." (Later, apparently realizing that this remark sounded
naive, Carter denied having made it.)
Within weeks Carter set out a tough policy of concerted response:
a declaration of vital American interests in the Persian Gulf;
a partial embargo of grain and high technology sales to
the U.S.S.R.;
acceleration of plans for a new Rapid Deployment Force
that could operate in the Gulf region;
and a boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
This particular moment drastically damaged the relation between the 2
superpowers and can clearly be called the breaking point, a major
turnover. At this time, the Carter's press secretary, Jodie Powell, called the
Russian action "a serious threat to peace." On 2 January he announced
that the Carter administration had asked the Senate to postpone
deliberations on SALT-II, the complicated treaty dealing with nuclear arms.
Carter also recalled U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Thomas J.
Watson, Jr. home, ostensibly for "consultation."
As Carter administration officials made clear, however, this action was
intended to send a very strong message to the Soviets that military
intervention in Afghanistan was unacceptable. The Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan marked a critical turning point in U.S.-Soviet relations. With
the action, the age of dtente and the closer diplomatic and economic
relations that were established during the presidency of Richard Nixon
came to an end. Carter lost the election of 1980 to Ronald Reagan, who
promised-and delivered-an even more vigorous anti communist foreign

Soviet paratroopers aboard a BMD-1in Kabul

the workers' uprising in Poland

The events in Poland were also significant for the Soviet-American
relations. In the communist country there was a rise of an independent
anti-Soviet movement called Solidarity that was opposing the communist

The Beginning: Under the communist leadership of Edward Gierek, who

based his economic policies on foreign loans, he lead to weakening the
economic situation in the country. Consequently, he introduced a price
increase policy (raising food prices) which ultimately lead to many protests
and strikes in order to oppose the communist government's behavior.
Gierek was forced to acknowledge the Polish workers right to strike,
which in the aftermath of the protests lead to the creation of the Solidarity
labor union.
Solidaritys principles: It was the first trade union not controlled by the
communist party thus anti-Soviet. It was a social movement that wanted to
advance the workers rights and the overall social change. The workers
had gone on strike to protest poor living conditions and lack of
independent representation.

Martial Law: The government tried to destroy the union by imposing

Martial Law that lasted from 1981-1983; military intervention. Solidarity
became too popular, which was seen as a threat to the system, therefore
the Soviet Union wanted to de-legalize it. Since the union was too strong,
a drastic action needed to be taken.
Soviet Union pressured Polish government to deal with Solidarity before it
became too popular and would spread to other communist countries, they
considered sending military (like in Hungary and Czechoslovakia), but
instead Martial Law was introduced which gave the government legal
rights to arrest opposition members. In practice, peoples lives became
limited through practices of:
Censorship of mail
Soldiers and military on the streets
Curfew between 10PM-6AM
Control over scarce resources: due to shortages of resources (eg.
food) people were given cards to obtain them (eg. 1 litre of
milk/week) so that one person would not have more than the other.

Influence: Solidarity's influence, spread of anti-communist ideals and

movements lead to weakening the Eastern communist governments.
The emergence of an independent trade union movement in Poland
Solidarity under the leadership of Lech Wasa showed how
weak the Soviet empire became
Solidarity began as a trade union aiming to improve working
conditions but quickly became a symbol of opposition to oppressive
communism in Poland. It became so powerful that the Polish
government and the Soviet Union werent able to stop it.
Events as such, when they occur, they remind the West that Soviet power
is not maturing and its toleration of pluralism is not increasing (Kaiser)

election of Ronald Reagan to the American presidency have together caused a

sharp break in the continuity of events.

Carters policy: Jimmy Carter during his presidency ideals proved

popular as many Americans had grown tired of Cold War politics and the
dominance of aggressive foreign policy actions such as the Vietnam War,
leading Dumbrell to state the run up to Carters election was an era of
Inconsistent application of Carters human rights policies have led
Chomsky to state that difference between the Carter administration and
the Reagan administrations was not enormous (Rai, 1995, p.112).
Reagans policy: Reagan wanted to reduce the threat of war, to convince
the Soviet leaders that cooperation could serve the Soviet peoples better
than confrontation. President Reagan strongly disliked detente, in contrast
to his predecessor Carter who favoured detente. Reagan wanted to
achieve peace through strength by building Americas economic and
military power.

The election in 1980: In 1980, Jimmy Carter lost the presidency to

Ronald Reagan, who favored a more aggressive anti-Communist foreign
policy. Reagan called the USSR the evil empire and believed it was
Americas responsibility to save the world from Soviet repression. The
Soviet Union accused the new US president of thinking only in terms of
confrontation. expensive and ultimately futile, Reagans SDI program and
his aggressiveness shocked the Soviet Union who were unable,
economically, to match the US in Reagans rapid escalation of the arms

REAGAN DOCTRINE: President Reagan supported the anti-Soviet

movements such as Solidarity in Poland and provided materials and moral
support them. The support of such anti-Soviet revolutions became known
as the Reagan Doctrine. There were also interventions in the Third World -
Grenada, Nicaragua, Afghanistan
In contrast with containment (preventing expansion of that state) and
detente (working relationship with that state) he was an advocate of
roll-back strategy which is forcing a change in the major policies of a state

STAR WARS: The program required advanced and complex technology

to construct system in order to prevent missile attacks from other
countries, specifically the Soviet Union.
The president believed the Soviet Union's government-controlled economy
could not compete successfully against America's free-market system. So,
he increased US defense spending on military technology and weapons
and dared the Soviets to match it. The Soviets were not able to keep up
with the nuclear arms race, due to its faltering economy and eventually
collapsed in 1991.
Berlin Wall: Tear down this wall! speech
calling for the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to
open up the barrier between the East and West
Summary: Due to the rollback strategy and heavy pressure on the Soviet
military because of the STAR WARS defence system the Soviet Union

preparedness as the key to Soviet-American relations, dtente as Nixon had envisioned

it came to an end.
They have also created a good opportunity for reflection on what has
happened and what is to come.

In Garthoffs essay : Dtente and confrontation, he gives a very interesting point

of view on the failure of dtente ? This rising another point: was detente meant to
fail from the beginning ?
major gaps in mutual understanding of such key elements of detente as behavior
in international politics and in managing the arms race,
failure in understanding the crucial relationship of detente to the internal politics
of the two countries
First, Garthoff establishes that the 2 superpowers have different conceptions of
The American leaders saw it (in Kissinger's words) as a way of "managing
the emergence of Soviet power" into world politics in an age of nuclear
The Soviet leaders, for their part, envisaged it as a way of managing the
transition of the United States from its former superiority into a more
modest role in world politics in an age of nuclear parity. Thus each saw
itself as "manager" of a policy transition for the other.
A too ambitious project that led the policy makers unsure of the obligations and
constraints they needed to put in place. It was an oversold project
Different world perspective

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