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Rough parity had been achieved in stockpiling nuclear weapons with a clear capability of mutually assured destruction (MAD).There was also the realization that the "relative gains" theory as to the predictable consequences of war might no longer be appropriate. Brezhnev and Nixon each hoped improved relations would boost their domestic popularity and secure their power. The most obvious manifestation of Détente was the series of summits held between the leaders of the two superpowers and the treaties that resulted from these meetings.
It was developed both to slow the arms race (nuclear testing is necessary for continued nuclear weapon advancements), and to stop the excessive release of nuclear fallout into the planet's atmosphere. Later in the decade, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Outer Space Treaty were two of the first building blocks of Détente.
It was signed by the Governments of the USSR (represented by Andrei Gromyko), the UK (represented by Douglas Home) and the USA (represented by Dean Rusk), named the "Original Parties," at Moscow on August 5, 1963 and opened for signature by other countries. However, these early treaties did little to curb the superpowers' abilities, and served primarily to limit the nuclear ambitions of third parties that could endanger both superpowers.
The latter in particular, with its mutual recognition of post-World War II borders and implicitly spheres of domination, represented a major victory against what the Kremlin labeled revanchism (from the French for “revenge,” usually motivated by ambitions to recover lost territory).
But these agreements themselves need to be explained – as part of the political calculus of respective leaders, their responses to unanticipated events or those over which they did not exercise control, and third-party initiatives.
Many historians date the coming to power of the Regan administration in 1981 as marking the definitive onset of Cold War II.
During the late 1950s and early 60s both European alliance systems began to weaken somewhat; in the Western bloc, France began to explore closer relations with Eastern Europe and the possibility of withdrawing its forces from NATO. involvement in the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia led to additional conflict with some of its European allies and diverted its attention from the cold war in Europe. President Ronald Reagan revived cold-war policies and rhetoric, referring to the Soviet Union as the and escalating the nuclear arms race; some have argued this stance was responsible for the eventual collapse of Soviet Communism while others attribute its downfall to the inherent weakness of the Soviet state and the policies of Mikhail Gorbachev .
The American economy was also in financial trouble as the Vietnam War drained government finances at the same time as Lyndon Johnson's Great Society (and to a lesser extent, Richard Nixon) sought to expand the government welfare state.
In Europe, the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt was decreasing tensions; the Soviets hoped that with Détente, more trade with Western Europe to bolster their sagging economy would be possible.
From the Soviet perspective, détente represented the culmination of a policy pursued since the mid-1950s, namely, to obtain formal recognition of peaceful coexistence and military parity with the United States and the West which implied acceptance of Soviet interests in various parts of the world.
Previously reluctant to acknowledge the end of Pax Americana, the United States for its part was weary of global disorder, exhausted financially and in terms of morale by the war in Vietnam, and increasingly desperate for comprehensive agreement with “the Russians.” At the same time, Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger complemented their pursuit of détente by seeking out regional powers (Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil) to stave off Communist or other leftist insurgency movements and then, beginning in 1971, by “playing the China card.” Neither war in the Middle East, nor the subsequent defection of Egypt to the West, nor the US-backed overthrow of the Allende government in Chile disrupted détente.