USSR - Relations with the United States

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USSR - Relations with the United States

USSR - Relations with the United States

Soviet relations with the United States after World War II were marked by alternating periods of crisis and cooperation.

In 1962 the USSR and United States clashed over Cuba. The USSR had maintained close relations with Fidel Castro's government, promising help in case of attack by the United States. In 1962, when the USSR provided Cuban bases with offensive missiles, and US President John F. Kennedy demanded their withdrawal, Premier Khrushchev yielded. The USSR continued to support the faltering Cuban economy through trade, loans, and technical aid, a policy that gave it great influence in Cuban affairs. The influence increased as a result of the cooperation between Soviet and Cuban advisers and soldiers in Africa and Asia after 1976.

Arms Control

Disarmament was considered of paramount importance, both inside and outside the UN. In 1954 and again in 1959, the Soviet Union suggested complete disarmament, but the proposals failed when the USSR rejected provisions for inspection to verify such an agreement. In 1960 the USSR announced a reduction of about one-third in its military strength, but again the Western nations would not follow such a lead without inspection provisions more stringent than the Soviet Union would accept.

By 1953 the USSR had a hydrogen bomb. In the following years test explosions, by all the major powers, of increasingly powerful nuclear bombs seemed to make agreement on limitation imperative. Little was accomplished, however, until 1963, when the USSR signed an agreement with the United States and Britain banning all nuclear tests except those underground. It also joined the United States in agreeing to keep outer space free of all armaments. A series of strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) between the two powers, begun in 1969, resulted in agreements in 1972, 1974, and 1979, limiting missile weapons and sites.

Détente

The Soviet Union pursued an active foreign policy backed by steadily increasing military strength, but it also showed a marked drive towards détente with the West, especially the United States. In May 1972, President Nixon visited the Soviet Union. Soviet-US agreements included cooperation on health research, environmental protection, science and technology, space ventures, avoidance of incidents at sea, and arms limitations.

Following these came settlement of the Soviet World War II lend-lease debt, a 3-year trade pact, and cultural exchange programmes.
Efforts to reach a new SALT agreement after 1975 were hampered by such issues as Soviet and East European repression of dissidents, the Soviet involvement in Angola and other African states, and continued Soviet support of the Arab cause against Israel. Despite these sources of tension, Soviet and US negotiators reached an agreement on a new SALT treaty in May 1979, and Brezhnev met with US President Jimmy Carter in Vienna for a formal signing one month later. The Soviet armed intervention in Afghanistan in December of that year, however, doomed ratification of the accord by the US Congress.
US-Soviet relations worsened during the early 1980s. The United States condemned the Soviet role in the suppression of dissidence in Poland and the September 1983 shooting down of a Korean Air Lines civilian aircraft in Soviet airspace.

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