The Nixon Administration and Foreign Affairs: Part 1: White House Central Files: Foreign Affairs Subject File

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Before the realist Weltanschauung of President Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger could function, policymakers needed to analyze, plan, and identify the nation's capabilities, interests, and objectives. Since bureaucratization hindered the thoughtful, yet agile, approach to statecraft favored by the president and his national security advisor, reforming the policymaking process emerged as one of their key goals. This documentary collection outlines the reform of America's foreign policymaking.

This collection provides the intellectual and practical foundations for Nixon's policy formulation. Realism, triangular diplomacy, and linkage-making provided President Nixon with an understanding of world strategy and a negotiating approach that fueled his pursuit of détente and accommodation. Common wisdom within the administration held that the Sino- Soviet split, Soviet-American strategic parity, and certain challenges facing the Kremlin within its own sphere of influence had combined to create a situation in which a lessening of Cold War tensions was in the interest of both nations.

The following are examples of Nixon's diplomatic foundations at work:

  • Realism-détente produced dramatic results in May 1972 with the Moscow Summit, where the United States and the Soviet Union signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation agreement.
  • Triangular diplomacy-the deepening Sino-Soviet split and the emergence of China as a global power presented the Nixon administration with an opportunity to establish relations with the PRC which, by serving as a counterweight to the Soviet Union, would provide additional leverage for extracting concessions from Moscow.
  • Linkage-making-Nixon and Kissinger went to great lengths to link progress on détente and SALT to the Kremlin's willingness to press its client in Hanoi to negotiate an end to the fighting in Vietnam.

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