The Life and Death of Détente: .
Nixon, Carter, and Reagan, 1968-1988.
"If we can learn to live together on these issues and work together and negotiate on these we may change the world. In the end, what it has to do with is the survival of the United States and with it, the chance of survival of civilization." .
"I don't see why we need some fancy French word in dealing with the Russians; we already have a word for it- Cold War.".
--Golda Meir .
By 1972, the Soviet Union had built an arsenal of 1,500 intercontinental nuclear missiles capable of reaching every state within the contiguous United States, and they were producing as many as 250 more each year (Reeves, 486). The United States possessed 1,054 ICBM's, and with submarine launching systems, were capable of detonating nuclear warheads any place on the planet. Humanity had reached its most destructive potential since the dawn of civilization. The ensuing chess match between the two superpowers would consume the better part of the next 30 years, and it would take a handful of men, brilliant, sometimes arrogant, accompanied by courageous leadership and bold policy that combined both confrontation and negotiation in order to pull the world back from the precipice of destruction it precariously rested. Détente was that bold policy.
For all his arguable faults and failings, Richard Nixon, given his strengths in compartmentalization, his capability of strategically dissecting the world by geopolitical relevancy, and his uncanny vision for analyzing the long-term outcomes produced from near-term events, made Nixon the right man and the right president at the right time. By the 1970's, the destructive capabilities of the world's two superpowers along with an emerging third power in the nation of China, had combined to make the world a dangerously unstable place. Détente, therefore, was implemented in earnest under Nixon precisely to lessen these tensions and bring about some measure of stability.