Détente lasted from 1972 to 1981 and is seen as a success for both American and Soviet diplomacy. U.S. President Richard Nixon saw détente as a means of reducing the tensions of the Cold War and expanding commercial ties with the Soviet bloc. The Soviet understanding of the process of détente was different. Soviet party leader Leonid Brezhnev told the Politburo: “We communists have to string along with the capitalists for a while. We need their credits, their agriculture, and their technology. But we are going to continue massive military programs, and by the mid-1980s we will be in a position to return to a more aggressive foreign policy.” Brezhnev’s tactics may have been influenced by analysis from the Central Committee that capitalism was weakened and that the Soviet Union was in the driver’s seat.
   The KGB saw détente as a golden age in which to collect technical and industrial intelligence. Throughout the 1970s, the KGB strengthened Directorate T of the First Chief Directorate and its Line X (Scientific Intelligence) officers in rezidenturas abroad. More than 200 Line X officers were operating in Western states in the mid-1970s. The GRU also increased its scientific and technical collection. Détente often gave Soviet intelligence officers access to sensitive plants, and they took advantage of almost every collection opportunity. For instance, a KGB officer visiting the Boeing plant in Seattle put adhesive tape on his shoes to collect metal samples.
   Détente also provided the Communist Party and the KGB with a challenge. A policy of even partial openness seemed to encourage dissent, which the Brezhnev leadership was determined to stifle. In the 1970s the KGB cracked down very hard on religious and political dissidents to show that détente did not mean liberalization. Nevertheless, in the Baltic republics and the Ukraine, détente did spur nationalist and religious dissent. In Moscow, Soviet human rights organizations and critics like Andrei Sakharov emerged, only to be quickly crushed by the KGB.
   Détente is often seen as a setback for the naïve Western democracies in the intelligence Cold War. It is true that the Soviet economy benefited from the collection of industrial intelligence. But the period forced the Soviet Union to become more dependent on Western foreign credits, foreign food, and pilfered technology. In 1980, after a decade of détente, the Soviet economy was stagnant, its growth barely at 1 percent. Moreover, détente also spurred intellectual diversity inside the Soviet bloc, despite the best efforts of the KGB and its allies.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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  • détente — [ detɑ̃t ] n. f. • 1386; de détendre ♦ Action de détendre; son résultat. 1 ♦ Relâchement de ce qui est tendu. Détente d un arc, d un ressort. Les « jambes et [les] pieds dont la détente énergique lancera tout l homme en avant pour la course et… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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