Government and Politics

Iron Curtain

What was the détente?

Adétente is a relaxation of strained relations, particularly between nations.

The détente of the Cold War era began after Premier Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) rose to power in the Soviet Union in 1958 and initiated a plan of peaceful coexistence with the West. During the 1960s the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) entered a phase of improved relations, which saw the signing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (1968), the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (known as the SALT-1 treaty; 1972), and the Helsinki Accords (1975)—which pledged increased cooperation between the nations of Eastern and Western Europe.

Some historians refer to the détente as the end of the Cold War, while others view it as an intermission: When the Soviet Union under Premier Leonid Brezhnev (1906–1982) invaded neighboring Afghanistan in 1979 to put down an anti-Communist movement there, tensions between the two superpowers (the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.) heightened dramatically. Further, Brezhnev had been steadily building up Soviet arms during his tenure. These events brought an end to the détente.


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