Soviet relations with the United States after 1945 fluctuated with the general international climate and with the accidents of leadership in either country. The Cold War set limits to the cooperation each side could offer, yet the inherent dangers of the arms race forced the superpowers to maintain contact and continue to negotiate over differences. In 1962 the two countries had a dangerous clash over Soviet activities in Cuba, in what is known as the Cuban missile crisis. The USSR had maintained close relations with Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba, promising help in case of an American attack. When the Soviets stationed nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles in Cuba in October 1962, U.S. president John F. Kennedy demanded their withdrawal; Khrushchev yielded and ordered the rockets removed. Moscow continued to support the Cuban economy through trade, credits, and technical aid. Cuban advisers and soldiers helped advance Soviet policy in Africa and Asia after 1976.
In 1954 and again in 1959, the USSR suggested total disarmament and destruction of nuclear stockpiles, but this was mostly for propaganda value. The proposals were stymied when the Soviets rejected provisions for inspection to verify such an agreement. In 1960 Khrushchev unilaterally announced a reduction of about one-third in the Soviet military establishment. Again, the Western alliance nations would not respond in the nuclear sphere without inspection provisions more stringent than Moscow would accept. An issue of special interest was the limitation of tests of nuclear weapons.
In 1963 the Soviet Union signed a treaty with the United States and Great Britain prohibiting all nuclear tests except underground. It also joined the United States in agreeing to keep outer space free of armaments.
A series of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between the two powers, begun in 1969, resulted in agreements in 1972, 1974, and 1979, placing quantitative and qualitative limits on nuclear weapons arsenals and delivery systems.
Relations with West Germany improved at the end of the decade with the advent of a Social Democratic government in Bonn.
At the same time as it bulked up its military strength and actively sought to extend its influence, the Soviet Union showed a marked drive toward détente (a relaxing of tensions) with the West, especially the United States. General Secretary Brezhnev and Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko saw it as a mark of the USSR’s superpower status that it could reach agreements with Washington on an equal basis.
In May 1972, during a Moscow visit by U.S. president Richard Nixon, he and Brezhnev signed agreements on medical research, environmental protection, science and technology, space ventures, avoidance of incidents at sea, and arms limitations. After these came settlement of the World War II lend-lease debt, a trade pact, and cultural exchange programs. Efforts to reach a new SALT treaty after 1975 were hampered by Soviet-bloc repression of dissidents, the USSR’s involvement in Angola and other African countries, and continued Soviet support of the Arab cause against Israel. Nonetheless, agreement was reached in May 1979, and Brezhnev met with U.S. president Jimmy Carter in Vienna for a formal signing one month later. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December of that year doomed ratification of the accord by the U.S. Senate.
U.S.-Soviet relations worsened during the early 1980s. Washington condemned the Soviet role in the suppression of dissidence in Poland in 1981 and its shooting down of a South Korean civilian aircraft in Soviet airspace in September 1983. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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