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From «Détente» in Europe to European «Détente»

How the West Shaped the Helsinki CSCE


Angela Romano

The Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) is usually overlooked in the literature on the Cold War and presented as the seal of détente. The Final Act came to be considered as the mere official recognition of the European balance for the sake of a fictitious dialogue and vague statements on the freer circulation of ideas, people and information. The emerging human rights movements in Eastern Europe then came as the unintentional consequence of a complete diplomatic and political failure.
It is the opinion of the author that the West neither limited its action to a passive acceptance of a long-sponsored Soviet proposal nor sold out half a continent.
The author carefully traces back the roots of the CSCE and argues that the Helsinki conference was also the result of the development in Western positions and a thoroughly conceived action, especially as far as the EC member states were concerned. She analyses the internal dynamics of the Western caucus and reveals the divergences on ideas, attitudes and goals that emerged between the United States and the European allies. In such a connection the author argues that the Hague Summit and the creation of the European Political Cooperation gave a boost to an active role of the EC states and the starting of serious pan-European talks.
The author offers not only a thorough analysis of the Western experience at Helsinki, but also new seminal interpretations in the fields of Cold War history, transatlantic relations and the history of the European integration. By examining and reconciling all these aspects in a common context, this book contributes to more complete understanding of both détente and the CSCE.
Contents: The Conference and Its Results – A Long Path to Helsinki – The Conference as an Opportunity – Behind the Scenes of a Heterogeneous Alliance – The CSCE Experience for the West.