United States – Russia Détente Ends – 1/2/1980

World History |

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979, the United States took a strong look at this action and now had to decide how they should react to it. President Jimmy Carter addresses the Senate on January 2nd, 1980 to not only delays the SALT II treaty on nuclear weapons but to have the U.S. ambassador to Moscow recalled back as well. Obviously, these orders sent a clear message that the friendlier economic and diplomatic relations, as well as the age of détente, that were created between the Soviet Union and the United States under the administration of President Richard Nixon (1969-1974) no longer existed.

The Soviets invasion of Afghanistan made Carter fearful for good reason. The Soviets sent in roughly 30,000 combat soldiers into that nation and eventually created a puppet government; now, the possibility that the stability could be threatened of neighboring strategic countries, such as Pakistan and Iran, as well as the chance for the USSR to acquire control over the oil supply of much of the world. The actions taken by the Soviets were classified as being “a serious threat to peace” by the White House. Therefore, Carter made the decision to request the Senate to put aside talks of ratification on Salt II; this was the treaty regarding nuclear arms that the Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev and Carter had signed already and the U.S. ambassador to Moscow (Thomas J. Watson) was ordered to come back to Washington by Carter for “consultation.” This was considered an attempt to let the Kremlin understand it was unacceptable the military intervention that was taken in Afghanistan.

Sadly, the Russians would not comply to withdraw from Afghanistan; therefore, other measures had to be taken. America’s new response was stopping certain vital exports to the USSR which included high technology and grain as well as a boycott of the summer Olympics that was located at Moscow in 1980. Another tactic from the United States was starting to secretly subsidize in Afghanistan anti-Soviet fighters. Throughout the 1980s presidency of Ronald Reagan, billions of funds were sent to Afghanistan secretly by the CIA in order to train and arm the mujahedeen rebel forces while battling the Soviets. While this plan became a victory in assisting to remove the Soviets, it became a long-term failure as it created the oppressive Taliban regime and the al-Qaida terrorist group led by Osama bin Laden.

Jimmy Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan to become president in 1980 and preferred an anti-Communist foreign policy that was more aggressive. Reagan considered it was America’s duty to protect the world from the repression of the Soviets and dubbed the USSR an “evil empire.” Also, Reagan significantly raised U.S. spending on defense plus heightened the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union; ultimately, the Soviet Union’s economy that was faltering made them unable to keep pace which led to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.  

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