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

  • always exercise restraint in their mutual relations and will be prepared to negotiate and settle difference by peaceful means . . .   in a spirit of reciprocity, mutual accommodations, and mutual benefit;
  • recognize that efforts to obtain unilateral advantage at the expense of the other, directly or indirectly, are inconsistent with these objectives;
  • make no claim for themselves, and not recognize the claims of anyone else, to any special rights or advantages in world affairs.

[No Alternative to Peaceful Coexistence] . . . [These} elements made it possible to summarize one general principle governing Soviet-American relations:

“They will proceed from the common determination that in the nuclear age there is no alternative to conducting their mutual relations on the basis of peaceful coexistence. Differences in ideology and in the social systems of the United States and the Soviet Union are not obstacles to the bilateral development of normal relations based on the principles of sovereignty, equality, non-interference in internal affairs and mutual advantage.”

[A Solemn Obligation to Bridge Ideological Differences] What we have agreed upon is not a vain attempt to bridge ideological differences, or a condominium of the two strongest powers, or a division of spheres of influence, . . . but express a code of conduct which, if observed, can only contribute to world peace and to an international system based on mutual respect and self-restraint, . . . a guide for future action, . . . a solemn obligation. (headings added)4

In addition to reading the full text of the “Principles Agreement” and Nixon’s summary above, readers are encouraged to read Nixon’s summary of the agreement in his comprehensive report to the Congress on U.S. Foreign Policy—1973 and especially to read his summary and rationale of overall U.S. détente policy toward the Soviet Union in U.S. Foreign Policy—1973: Excerpt on the Soviet Union.

The Jackson Amendment to SALT. Underlying flaws and asymmetries evident in the 1972 SALT and ABM agreements led to the Jackson Amendment to SALT proposed by Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D–WA). Although it was strongly opposed by the Nixon White House it was overwhelmingly passed on a bipartisan basis by both houses of Congress. The Amendment established new U.S. conditions for nuclear arms control by requiring equal “levels” (i.e., not simply in numbers, but also capabilities) for future agreements and at the same time required firm Administration commitments to strong U.S. defense research and modernization programs. Thus, the Congress:

urges and requests the President to seek a future treaty that, inter alia, would not limit the United States to levels of intercontinental strategic forces inferior to the limits provided for the Soviet Union; and the Congress considers that the success of these agreements and the attainment of more permanent and comprehensive agreements are dependent upon the maintenance under present world conditions of a vigorous research and development and modernization program as required by a prudent strategic posture.5

The Senate endorsed the Jackson amendment on September 14, 1972 by a vote of 56 to 35 with 3 not voting. The House vote eleven days later was 308 to 4 with 114 not voting. The final votes on a Congressional resolution that included the Jackson Amendment in approving the SALT–I Treaty were the Senate vote of 88 to 2 also on September 14 and the House vote of 330 to 7, with 95 not voting on August 18.

The Broader “Linkage” Issue of Arms Control and Soviet Behavior. The three SALT, ABM, and Principles agreements signed at the 1972 Moscow Summit were hailed by the White House and U.S. national media as extraordinary breakthroughs for diplomacy, arms control, and superpower relations. Other agreements in areas like trade and exchanges were added at a second Nixon-Brezhnev summit, held in Washington a year later, in June 1973. These were documented in a Department of State publication on The Washington Summit—June 18–25, 1973, and received similar applause. Yet all of the Moscow and Washington agreements proved controversial and were judged by critics like Senator Jackson and Ronald Reagan to contain fundamentally flawed assumptions and provisions. To such critics these “détente” agreements appeared to mark a one-way street of U.S. concessions and Soviet violations in the historical Cold War context of the aggressive Soviet actions reviewed earlier in chapters 2, 3, and 4. The record showed that Soviet promises to Roosevelt in 1933; pledges to Roosevelt and Truman at Yalta and Potsdam in 1944 and 1945; Soviet United Nations Charter and Helsinki Act commitments and ongoing Soviet appeals to “peaceful coexistence” had all been crudely and repeatedly violated by the Soviet regime.

[Book pg. 102]