What factors explain detente`s breakdown in the late 1970s?

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Several factors led to the breakdown of Détente in the late 1970s. The first one to come up was the longer-term trends associated with arms control. Both the Soviet Union and the US viewed détente to mean different visions which caused confusions on what its pursuit would encompass. There was the creation of public dissatisfaction caused by the overblown expectation that the warming, as well as the implementation of the détente, would bring a long-term solution to that would end the Cold War. As a result, there emerged rising portrayals of continued competition especially between the Soviet Union and the United States particularly on the issue of China. Evidently, the spirit of cooperation came to an end when the SALT II agreement was hindered. In essence, the disagreements on the association to solve the issue of arms control resulted in the breakdown of the détente era that was spearhead by Nixon. The second factor was associated with leadership whereby leaders disagreed on issues because they felt that the cooperation was meant to benefit only specific countries and take advantage of the rest. Leaders such as Politburo found out that the chances of obtaining from the enormous concessions were minimal and it had to doubt the intentions of the proposed move. Politburo thought that the US was reluctant or unwilling to take sides with the Soviets against China. Kissinger, on the other hand, found that the USSR had no leverage particularly on the Vietnamization of Vietnam and had nothing in store to bring a lasting settlement of the compromise. Thirdly, the Arab-Israeli war which had broken in 1973 was supported by Moscow, and when Kremlin failed to push Sadat’s case during the Moscow summit, he became furious and launched an attack which found the US off-track yet the Soviets knew about it. Consequently, this led to détente breakdown.

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  1. Harper, John Lamberton. The Cold War. Oxford University Press, 2011.
  2. Leffler, Melvyn P. For the soul of mankind: the United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War. Macmillan, 2007.
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