Chapter 5 – U.S. “Détente” Strategy from Nixon to Ford - 1969 to 1977


The new U.S. Cold War strategy of “détente” launched in 1969 by President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor (and later Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger was explained by them as moving U.S. Cold War strategy from containment and “confrontation to negotiation” and to a diplomatic “network of agreements” between Washington and Moscow (and then Beijing). “Détente” would overcome East-West ideological antagonisms and encourage “peaceful coexistence” (a Soviet term) based on mutual accommodation to common national interests.

Major Nixon “Détente” Agreements. Major détente agreements included three signed at a U.S.-Soviet summit meeting in Moscow in June 1972 on Détente Principles, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) and Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) defenses (all subsequently violated by the Kremlin). Other agreements included U.S.-Soviet trade, cultural exchanges, and confidence building measures. The major U.S.-People’s Republic of China (PRC) détente document was the U.S.-PRC Shanghai Communiqué of February 1972 in which both sides agreed to disagree, while the Soviets suspected common anti-Soviet intentions. On Vietnam, where Nixon’s civil-military “Vietnamization” strategy made substantial progress even as U.S. forces were reduced, a peace agreement was signed in January 1973 involving the U.S., South and North Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and the PRC. The Communist powers, however, violated the agreement as they continued support for North Vietnam’s warfare across international borders in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. When Nixon’s domestic crises (Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and impeachment proceedings) led to his August 1974 resignation, U.S. power eroded at home and abroad, along with hopes for an effective U.S. “détente” strategy.

[Book pg. 97]