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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: September 2010

7 - Soviet foreign policy, 1962–1975


The span of Soviet foreign policy that is the subject of this chapter covers two distinct periods, 1962 to 1964, and 1964 to 1975. The first period consists of Nikita Khrushchev’s last three years in power; the second covers the first eleven of Leonid Brezhnev’s. Because of the centralized nature of the Soviet system, with so much power concentrated in the Communist Party Politburo, and especially in the hands of the top party boss, Khrushchev and Brezhnev had immense influence over Soviet policy. But the two men were very different leaders with contrasting approaches to governing: by 1962 the impulsive, explosive Khrushchev hardly listened to his Kremlin colleagues. Brezhnev, on the other hand, had to struggle to consolidate his power for the first few years, and even after that, he preferred to preside over the Politburo instead of dominating it. Moreover, the Brezhnev regime came to power determined to alter, although not entirely reverse, the foreign-policy pattern Khrushchev had followed. It is not surprising, therefore, that the two sub-periods are notable for significant differences of both substance and style. Yet, there is an overall trend that characterizes the whole period – movement from the Cold War’s most dangerous episode, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, to the high point of détente in 1975.