chapter  14
12 Pages

Economic diplomacy and East–West trade during the era of détente: Strategy or obstacle for the West?


When reading this confrontational statement by the Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in response to the unrest in Czechoslovakia, it is hard to imagine the emergence of a lively exchange of goods and services between the Soviet Union and Western Europe only two years later. In those two years Brezhnev, in hopes of boosting a sluggish Soviet economy, had become an ardent supporter of détente and East-West trade, welcoming this increased interaction with the West as a means of bolstering the Soviet system and the Communist cause. From a teleological, Western perspective, though, détente is often depicted as a vital strategy of deescalating the Cold War and facilitating the final collapse of the Soviet regime through infusion of Western ideas and influence. Implicit here are two irreconcilable interpretations of the efficacy of détente in bringing down the Soviet regime.