Cold War Disarmament Talks

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Impact of Disarmament Talks on Cold War Tensions from 1963 to 1991
Disarmament talks between the two powers during the period of 1963 to 1991 improved the relationship between Soviet Union and United States by providing the necessary spirit of cooperation. The two most significant examples of arms control talks positively impacting the superpower relationship are the SALT I and INF treaties. Negotiations for SALT I played a part in bringing the two countries from the nuclear ‘brinkmanship' of the Cuban missile crisis to détente. Gorbachev realising the importance of arms control in mutual political accommodation, initiated INF. INF and NST alleviated secrecy and suspicion and began a spirit of cooperation that could not have been achieved without successful talks. The interactions also helped the two sides to understand each other better. Through the frequent summit-meetings between Gorbachev and Reagan and Gorbachev and Bush the American public got to know the face of their enemy. This encouraged greater tolerance between the two nations which was necessary if the cold war was to end.

The Cuban missile crisis led to the end of a period of nuclear ‘brinkmanship' as both sides became very aware of how close they came to nuclear war. In 1963 the US and the USSR made important agreements that contributed to arms control. In June a direct ‘hot line' was established between Washington and Moscow. This communication link between the head of states was established to reduce the risk of a nuclear war arising from accident, misunderstanding, miscalculation, or surprise attack. And in August, after an offer made by Kennedy to come to terms with the USSR about testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, the United States, Soviet Union and Great Britain signed a Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This treaty prohibited tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and beneath the surface of the seas. However these agreements came into being due to the fear brought on by the Cuban missile crisis and did little dissuade tensions that were part of a period of ‘oscillatory antagonism'.

The Vietnam War, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the Arab-Israeli War tested the relationship between the superpowers during 1967 and 68. In the background of such cold war tension the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was signed. This treaty asked for nuclear powers and non-nuclear powers to help limit the spreading of nuclear weapons. The Outer Space Treaty, which limited the use of space for military purposes, was also signed by USA, USSR and sixty other nations. It was also during this period that a series of conferences were initiated for the purposes of constructing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I).

After 1968 the relationship between the two superpowers improved and the United States and Soviet Union were able to hold preliminary talks in November of 1969 at Helsinki to discuss limitations on strategic nuclear offensive weapons and anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems. In December they reached an agreement to begin the SALT talks in 1970 (Vienna).

In May 1972 Nixon and Brezhnev formally sanctioned SALT I, which consisted of two basic documents: 1) the ABM Treaty limiting strategic ABM defense systems. And 2) the Interim Agreement limiting strategic offensive weapons limiting the number of intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers (both ICBMs and SLBMs) at existing levels (1,710 for the United States and 2,347 for the Soviet Union).

In addition to these two documents the treaty also limited each side's total missile production and spending on ABM systems. The treaty was made simultaneously with two other treaties, which were: The Nuclear Accident Agreement (September 1971), which limited the risks of accidental war by requiring from the signatories "A pledge to maintain and improve safeguards against the...
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