US Foreign Policy, 1972 - 1989

Leaving Cert > The United States and the World > US Foreign Policy, 1945-72

US President Richard Nixon (right) talks with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev (left) through an interpreter in 1973.
When he became President of the United States in January 1969, Richard Nixon faced a very difficult decision when it came to his nation's foreign policy: what was he going to do about Vietnam? His decision to withdraw US troops and hold a peace conference - effectively surrendering South Vietnam to the North - left an impact on US foreign policy which lasted right up to the 1990s and 2000s.

Free of Vietnam, Nixon and his successors turned their attentions to Russia. A new policy called "détente" was born, where both superpowers would try to peacefully co-exist - that is, until the election of Ronald Reagan as President, a man who decried the Soviet Union as an "evil empire". It was expected that Reagan would butt heads with the leaders of the Soviet Union, but his meetings with the new Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev had results that nobody thought were possible...

Continue to The US Economy: Boom and Recession, 1945 - 1989

  • Nixon and Vietnam (1969 - 1973)
    • What was Vietnamisation? What was peace with honour? What was the Nixon Doctrine?
    • What did Nixon do in Cambodia? Why? What were the effects of this?
    • What was the credibility gap and how did it come about?
    • What happened as a result of the peace treaty?
    • What was the legacy of the Vietnam War on the United States?
  • Nixon and Détente (1969 - 1974)
    • What is détente?
    • What was the impact of Nixon's visit to China?
    • What was the SALT agreement with Russia?
    • How did the Arab-Israeli War break out? What was Nixon's response?
    • Why did Nixon become involved in Chile?
  •  Ford, Carter and Détente (1974 - 1981)
    • President Ford: Meetings with Brezhnev, Helsinki Agreeement, relations with Congress.
    • President Carter: Moral Principles, Camp David Accords, SALT II.
  • Reagan and the "Evil Empire" (1981 - 1989)
    • Why did US-USSR relations deteriorate in the late 70s and early 80s?
    • Why did Reagan begin an arms build-up?
    • What was Reagan's approach to the Soviet Union? What was the "evil empire" speech?
    • What was the Strategic Defence Intiative (Star Wars)?
    • How did Reagan's relationship with Gorbachev change things?
    • What did Gorbachev's reforms result in?
President Reagan and his Strategic Defence Initiative (Star Wars) on the cover of Time, April 1983.© Time


Higher Level (100 marks each)


2012: What part did one or more of the following play in US foreign policy: Korea; Cuba; SALT and Star Wars?

2011: Why did the US lose Vietnam?

2007: What were the significant developments in US foreign policy, 1973-1989?

2006: What were the successes and failures of the political career of Ronald Reagan?

Ordinary Level:
2015, The United States and the World, Part B:
Write a short paragraph on SALT and Star Wars (30).

2014, The United States and the World, Part B: 
Write a short paragraph on the US withdrawal from Vietnam. (30)

2011, The United States and the World, Part B:
Write a short paragraph on the Détente, SALT and Star Wars. (30)

President Jimmy Carter (centre) meets with Egyptian President Anwar al Sadat (left) and Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin (right)
at Camp David.

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