The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War

By Raymond L. Garthoff | Go to book overview

13 Europe and American- Soviet Relations

EUROPE HAD BEEN a central arena of the emergence of the Cold War in the late 1940s and remained the central locus of confrontation even as peripheral areas around the globe also became enveloped in the conflict. Europe was also the leading element in the détente of the 1970s.1 During the reinvigoration of American-Soviet tension in the early 1980s, Europe again came to be an important area of conflict in a complex way. Yet by the latter years of the decade, new processes were rapidly developing that led beyond a new détente to the sudden ending of the confrontational division of Europe and of the Cold War. How did this come about?


Western Divergence over Détente

The disjunction between the collapse of American-Soviet détente and the continuation of an East-West détente in Europe intensified in the early years of the 1980s. The first effects were felt in 1980, in the wake of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, when the United States abandoned détente and Europe did not.2 During 1981-82 a similar discrepancy attended the responses of the United States and Western Europe to the Polish suppression of the Solidarity movement in December 1981 and thereafter.

Though less clear-cut and dramatic, an uneasy compromise was also required in NATO policy statements and in coordinating the positions of the NATO countries for the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe

____________________
1
See Raymond L. Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan, rev. ed. ( Brookings, 1994), chapters 4, 14.

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