War, said Sir Henry Maine, the famous 19th-century British lawyer, is “as old as mankind itself, peace is the latest invention.” The British military historian, Sir Michael Howard, in his book The Invention of the World, published more than 20 years ago, wrote about the onset of the “post-heroic era”: war no longer unites nations, ceases to be a means of self-identification for them, the national flag is a kind of company logo. Western urbanized societies tend to be unwilling to bear heavy losses. The terrible wars of the 20th century, Howard concluded, were the result of the ideology of nation-states.
At the time when the historian was writing his book, the anesthetic effect of the end of history according to Francis Fukuyama, the triumph of the liberal order, was still in effect, and Howard was only finding confirmation of the completion of historical evolution at the end of the history of wars. One year before 9/11 and a certain number of years before nation-state ideologies returned. Along with the war.
Nations seemed to have forgotten how to find a way out of critical situations that arose around disputes over their own “principles”, and when it comes to them, as Henry Kissinger wrote in his 1957 book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, diplomacy is powerless: “… diplomacy has been the most effective in those cases where the disagreements did not concern issues that the disputants considered to be of vital importance. However, at that time, the understanding of unacceptable damage on both sides kept the two superpowers from moving from a cold war to a hot one. It held back in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now these even cozy rules of the classic Cold War do not work in their own way.
The presence of these rules, even during the years of confrontation between the two systems, led the leaders of states to unexpected guesses: what if a potential adversary on the other side of the ocean is pragmatic enough to start building relationships without regard to the fundamental foundations of the systems?
On February 14, 1969, Henry Kissinger, new national security adviser to new President Richard Nixon, was first invited to the Soviet embassy for a reception in honor of Georgy Arbatov , director of the US and Canada Institute. . At one point, the National Security Adviser, maneuvering through “the usual Washington cocktail crowd,” was invited upstairs to the private quarters of Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, which, as Kissi-nger noted in his memoirs, “were furnished with that Central European excess that I remember from my youth in Germany.” The men discussed missed opportunities to mend relations in 1959 and 1963, and agreed in principle that now was the hour to renew such attempts. “Not all mistakes were on the conscience of the American side,” smiled Dobrynin . And Kissinger promised to organize a meeting with the new president. As soon as possible…
The choice between nuclear war and “doing nothing” somehow fed up with the administration, and Kissinger felt that the Soviets would prefer economic development to their “adventures abroad.” In 1970 Nixonpresented on his own behalf the document “Foreign Policy of the United States in the 1970s. New strategy for the world. It was a brilliant document in every sense, including literary, where it was said that peace is “more than just the absence of war.” This is such a state – and stable – of international relations, when the causes of war are eliminated. Even with the communists, it was proposed to build relations in a “business manner”. It was, wrote the Nixon team, “an era of negotiation”—just in time to avoid war. Marxism, like any “-isms”, is outdated and does not correspond to the new industrial realities. This means that one can also talk with the USSR on the basis of pragmatism.
While Kissinger and Dobrynin were forming a “special channel” of communication between the USSR and the USA, Alexei Kosygin worked on his own track , establishing special relations between the Soviet Union and Canada, which at that time was not on excellent terms with the United States. In any case, Nixon called Pierre Elliot Trudeau nothing more than “that ass.” In May, Trudeau visited the USSR, showing the world his new acquisition – a young 22-year-old beautiful wife Margaret, the future mother of the current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Margaret immediately became the younger girlfriend of the daughter of the Soviet Prime Minister, Lyudmila Gvishiani-Kosygina, who replaced the post of first lady during her father’s meetings. In October, Kosygin already arrived in Canada, where a literal orgy of friendship took place, despite the attack on Alexei Nikolaevich by a Hungarian emigrant. Only Kosygin’s button was damaged. In Vancouver, after the NHL match Vancouver Canucks – Montreal Canadiens, Montreal captain Henri Richard, brother of the great Maurice “Rocket” Richard, showed Kosygin how to hold the stick. After that, by the way, the fate of the Super Series of the USSR – Canada – 1972 was decided, which made a giant hole in the iron curtain.
But okay, Alberta, one of the grain granaries of the USSR. During this time, Spetsial Kanal practically prepared the Brezhnev-Nixon summit. Important in terms of nuclear restrictions. But seemingly imp-ossible for the reason that the two countries fought a proxy war in Vietnam.
Kissinger’s exorbitant ego demanded a big deal. And not only with the Soviets. In April, Nixon met with Mao, Kissinger bewitched the chairman with his reasoning that he had read the dictator’s works while still at Harvard . Mao fell for the bait – he thought that the Americans would be friends with him against the USSR. And the idea was to build a triangle: to flirt with both China and the Soviet Union.
The escalation in Vietnam nearly derailed the summit, but for Kissinger’s ego, a big deal with the Soviets was already a matter of honor, and he immediately after China went on a secret trip to the USSR to meet with Brezhnev. He hung out with the General Secretary for four days, went boar hunting with him, played ping-pong with a guard from the Nine, realized that the Russians did not want to link Vietnamese affairs with serious talks on nuclear issues. Like the Chinese, they did not consider it important to discuss Taiwan with the Americans, because this story, in their opinion, was generally decades in advance (which turned out to be true). In a word, the summit did not fail, because, as Kissinger noted, “for the sake of caviar, I am ready for anything.” After that, Dobrynin said about him that this is the only person who is able to eat Russian caviar with Chinese chopsticks.
Most importantly, Nixon wanted peace. Brezhnev, who survived the Second World War, wanted him no less. For this they turned a blind eye to Vietnam, the “Brezhnev Doctrine”, Jewish emigration, Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, the “big grain robbery” (when the USSR in 1972 bought almost all the grain in the United States for cheap from several sellers), and then Watergate. For the sake of this, they met 50 years ago, began detente with the SALT-1 treaty, and met successfully two more times (which did not mean that there were no pitfalls and difficulties in the negotiations, the details of which destroy the ordinary ideas about Brezhnev as a simple-minded, silly old man) . Nixon, however, had to pay for peace: in 1972 – “Cadillac” (10 thousand dollars in those still prices), in 1973 – “Lincoln Continental” (the same amount),
And then… Then there was Watergate and impeachment. Brezhnev’s stroke, which turned him into a walking anecdote, ended with the curtailment of détente and the invasion of Afghanistan, which was the beginning of the end of the USSR. So it was in the 1960s, when the chance for a detente was missed, including because Kennedy was assassinated, and Khrushchev fell victim to a palace conspiracy.
Personalities still play a huge role in history. The world is not just a product of negotiations and polite smiles, although they too. It does not happen without good will (from the side of emotio) and pragmatism (from the side of ratio). And you still need to really not want to fight. Americans half a century ago said that Brezhnev was “obsessed with peace”…