Growth of Washington-Moscow Ties
New Mood of Detente Preceding Brezhnev Visit
Soviet-American relations are more cordial today than they have been for nearly three decades. And they promise to become warmer still with the visit of Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev to Washington, June 18–26. The two superpowers have moved significantly to control the nuclear arms race and reduce tensions between them in various parts of the world. They have agreed to seek more trade and cultural and scientific contacts with each other. Yet a chasm remains between them in general outlook and ideology. Undercurrents of suspicion linger and diplomacy on both sides is marked by caution—though a caution tempered by pragmatism and mutual needs.
President Nixon and Brezhnev, Secretary General of the Soviet Communist Party, both have committed their governments to a policy of step-by-step reconciliation between the two countries. Any setback toward this goal would be a setback to the prestige of each in his own nation. Conversely, for the President, new triumphs in foreign policy would help to divert attention from problems at home created by the Watergate scandal. On Brezhnev's part, more Soviet trade with the United States is considered essential to the fulfillment of rising economic expectations among the Russian people.
For these and other reasons, foreign-affairs experts believe the current detente has a greater chance of survival than did any of the previous attempts to reduce Cold War tensions. The foundation of their optimism is the Soviet achievement of a rough “parity” with the United States in the destructive capability of the Russian nuclear arsenal. Analysts think this has helped moderate the traditional hostility of Soviet diplomacy toward the West.