Detente Was Caused By Political And Economic Motivations History Essay

In the context of the Cold War, détente (the French word for “relaxation”) was an easing of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. It lasted through the 1970s, starting with the Nixon administration and ending with the Carter administration.

Détente was mainly caused by political and economic motivations. The Sino-Soviet Split strained relations between the Soviet Union and China, the two largest Communist countries at the time. As China began to form a more diplomatic relationship with the United States, evidenced by President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, the USSR feared that an alliance between the two countries would undermine its power, prompting it to seek amicable relations with the United States as well. Economic motivations were also a factor. Before détente, both the US and the USSR stockpiled weapons to keep on par with the other – it was believed that Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) could be averted only if both countries had the same nuclear capability. However, nuclear arms buildup was proving to be more and more unfeasible for both countries. In the United States, a combination of arms buildup and the Vietnam War strained the federal budget and stifled President Johnson and Nixon’s domestic policy of the expanding social welfare.

Naturally, détente led to greater cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Probably the most significant act of cooperation between the two countries was the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (dubbed SALT I) of 1972, an agreement that limited nuclear arms production for both countries. During the same year, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty limited systems that defended against Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The Apollo-Soyuz project in July 1975 was a space flight cooperative between the two countries, where American astronauts worked collaboratively alongside Russian cosmonauts on scientific experiments. The project eased Space Race tensions and provided a foundation for future space cooperatives such as the International Space Station. Cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union also extended economically, as the US shipped grain to the USSR after the failure of its collectivized agriculture program, where the state controlled large conglomerate farms.

Unfortunately, however, détente was abandoned by the 1980s. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan forced President Jimmy Carter to abandon the SALT II talks that were in progress and to increase US military spending. President Reagan continued the increase of Cold War tensions throughout his presidency, until the collapse of the Soviet Union by the end of the 1980s.


-412 BCE to 323 BCE

-Greek Philosopher, co-founder of Cynic philosophy


-Born in Sinope, a Greek colony

-Worked with father as a banker, exiled for defacing currency

-Traveled to Greece and made a personal goal of challenging the status quo

-Became the pupil of the ascetic Antisthenes, who was a pupil of Socrates

-Captured by pirates on his way to Aegina; sold to the Corinthian Xeniades; tutored Xeniades’ sons and lived in Corinth for the rest of his life

-Divergent stories of his death: held his breath, infection from a dog bite, complications from eating a raw octopus; supposedly, he left instructions to be cast outside the wall of the city after he died so that animals could eat his carcass


-None of his written works survive; anecdotes about his life provide the source for his philosophy

-Protested against the artificial material comforts of society and called for a return to a simplistic life in harmony with nature

-Obscene: urinated and defecated and masturbated in public

-Called himself a “citizen of the world,” a cosmopolite, at an era where one’s social standing was intimately tied with one’s city-state.

-Diogenes the Dog:

-The word cynic is derived from the Greek word meaning “dog”

-Living shamelessly

-Extolled the dog’s honest simple living and mocked the artifice and hypocrisy of civilized living


-Threw away his wooden bowl as a child so he could drink from his hands

-Said to have lived in a tub

-Walked with a lamp in broad daylight, as he was “looking for humans”

-When Alexander asked him if there was a favor he wanted, he told Alexander to stand out of his sunlight


Diogenes was a Greek philosopher who lived from 412 BCE to 323 BCE. As a co-founder of the Cynic philosophy, he is famous for anecdotes of his asceticism and disregard for social conventions.

Born in Sinope, a Greek colony, in his youth Diogenes worked with his father as a banker. He was exiled from the city after he was found complicit in a controversy surrounding the defacement of currency. After being exiled, he settled in Athens and made a personal commitment to challenge the status quo there. He subscribed to the ascetic philosophy of Antisthenes, who was a pupil of Socrates, and became his only pupil. At some point in time, he was captured by pirates on his way to visit the Greek city of Aegina. The pirates then sold him to a Corinthian man named Xeniades. Diogenes tutored Xeniades’ sons and lived in Corinth for the rest of his life. There are multiple accounts of his death: he either died by holding his breath, by an infection from a dog bite, or from complications after eating raw octopus. Supposedly, he left instructions to be cast outside the wall of the city after he died so that animals could eat his carcass.

While it is believed that Diogenes had a respectable body of written work, none survive today; only anecdotes about his life provide the source for his philosophy. As a Cynic, he protested against the artificial material comforts of society and called for a return to a simplistic life in harmony with nature. In perhaps the most famous anecdote about Diogenes, Alexander the Great, awed by the great philosopher, asked him what favor could he do for him. Diogenes only asked Alexander to step away, for he was blocking the sunlight. During a time when success was measured in material gains, he lived in destitute poverty. It was said that, as a young boy, he cast away his wooden bowl so that he could drink from his hands. During a time when one’s social standing was intimately tied with one’s city-state, he called himself a “citizen of the world” – a cosmopolite. As Diogenes lampooned the follies of man, he praised the virtues of the dog – indeed, the word cynic is derived from the Greek word meaning “dog.” He himself was comparable to a dog, as he lived shamelessly – he often defecated and urinated in public, much to the chagrin of the people around him.

Because of his radical break from the traditions of his time, Diogenes is still well-remembered today. He is often seen as a symbol of truth and honesty – an image of candid, if eccentric, simplicity against corrupt artificiality.

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