Under the leadership of Brezhnev, the Soviet Union’s relations with China continued to deteriorate; following the Sino-Soviet split which had broken out in the early 1960s. There were however talks in 1965 between Brezhnev and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in Moscow, but these did not resolve the conflict. The relations also took a major hit in 1969 when troops of both the Soviet Union and China fought a series of clashes along their border on the Ussuri River. Thawing of Sino-American relations began in 1971, and this marked a new phase in international relations. In order to prevent the formation of an anti-Soviet U.S.-China alliance, Brezhnev opened a new round of negotiations with the U.S. This led to the signing of SALT I in may of 1972, marking the beginning of the détente era.

Other factors contributing to the decline of Sino-Soviet relations were the increasing competition between Beijing and Moscow for influence in the third world, as well as the international communist movement. Due to the different views of communism shared by China and the Soviet Union, the Chinese communist party broke off ties with the Soviet communist party in 1966, and these had not been restored by mid-1987. Beijing viewed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 as an ominous development, and accused the Soviet Union of “social imperialism.” The Sino-Soviet dispute reached its peak in 1969 when serious armed clashes broke out at Zhenbao (or Damanskiy) Island on the northeast border of China. Both sides drew back from the brink of war, and tension was defused when Zhou Enlai met with the Soviet premier Aleksey Kosygin, later in 1969.

In the late 1970s, the increased Soviet military buildup in East Asia and Soviet treaties with Vietnam and Afghanistan heightened China’s awareness of the threat of Soviet encirclement. Officially, the statements released by the Chinese government called for a struggle against the hegemony of both superpowers, but especially against the Soviet Union, which Beijing called “the most dangerous source of war”. This led to more stalling in the Sino-Soviet talks. However in 1979 Beijing notified Moscow it would formally abrogate the long-dormant Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual assistance but proposed bilateral talks. These talks were suspended after only one round by China, due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. This led to the beginning of what most historians call the second Cold War. This term is used due to the reawakening of Cold War tensions and conflicts early in the 1980s.

Détente Under Brezhnev (1950s-1970s)

How did the major treaties of the Brezhnev period of Détente, strengthen and weaken the international relations between the Soviet Union and other nations?
The Era of Détente was a time of easing of diplomatic tensions between the Soviet Union and the United states from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. It was initially started during the rule of Khrushchev but also lasted through much of Brezhnev reign as well. This overlap of foreign policies towards the United States proved to lead to many interesting developments in the `60s, `70s, and early `80s. The first of these developments was the Non-Proliferation Treaty when the United States, Soviet Union, and 100 other nations came together to ban the spread of nuclear technology to nations that did not previously posses them. This can be seen as both a way stop the spread of nuclear weapons to small unstable nations and governments, but it can also be seen as the consolidation of a nuclear arms race between the US and the USSR. Following the monumental treaty was the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT I) of 1969. These talks worked not only to reduce both anti-ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, but also to created a platform for accords on space exploration, environmental issues, and trade. These talks were continued in 1974 with the SALT II treaty. Communication between the US and the USSR greatly increased through this time period and most people hoped that the Cold war was over.

The major goal of the Soviet foreign policy in the 1970s, was the settling of the official territorial settlements in post WWII Europe. Following through with this policy, Brezhnev saw to the signing of the Landmark treaty of 1970 with West Germany. This confirmed the existing boundaries of the Soviet Union in Europe (specifically the borders with East Germany) and denounced the use of force to settle disputes. This worked to ease tensions in the powder-keg the divided Germany had become, but also allowed the Soviet Union to legitimatize their claims to an Eastern Europe sphere of influence. The security of a crumbling European security could no longer be ignored, so in 1973 a European security conference was held. These talks called for a mutual reduction and balancing of power in Europe. This led Brezhnev to giving much assistance to underdeveloped nation in Europe, but little headway was made on the reduction of arms.

Relations between the US and the USSR on a military and diplomatic level were going quite well up to the early 1970s. Détente had played its role in easing tensions but its glorious death was coming fast. In the early 1970s there was a great increase in the military power of the USSR. The rivalry between the two nations was sparking up again, the space race just proved that the US got an edge (man on the moon) over the USSR that they had to take back. The final of the great treaties of this period of Détente under Brezhnev was the Helsinki Accords. This was a very influential meeting of nations with the great focus on the preservation of human rights. Along with this point, the accords also saw to the permanent legitimacy of all post-war European boundaries. This along with much criticism about human rights violations really heated the tensions between the Soviet Union and its Global rivals. This along with the invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989) proved to bring about the death of Détente…