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International Relations Since 1945

International Relations Since 1945 (3rd edn)

John W. Young and John Kent
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date: 27 February 2024

p. 36315. The Return to Confrontation, 1979–80locked

p. 36315. The Return to Confrontation, 1979–80locked

  • John W. YoungJohn W. YoungProfessor of International History, The University of Nottingham, UK
  •  and John KentJohn KentEmeritus Professor, London School of Economics & Political Science


This chapter examines why the United States and the Soviet Union returned to confrontation during the period 1979–80. Despite the slow progress of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II), there were at least some efforts to control strategic weapons. Short-range and intermediate-range nuclear weapons, in contrast, continued to grow in number and sophistication, particularly in Europe, where NATO and Warsaw Pact forces still prepared for war against each other, despite détente. The failure to control theatre nuclear weapons led to a new twist in the European arms race at the end of the 1970s which helped to undermine recent improvements in East–West relations. The chapter first considers NATO’s ‘dual-track’ decision regarding theatre nuclear weapons, before discussing the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. It concludes with an assessment of the revival of the Cold War, focusing on the so-called Carter Doctrine.

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