Helsinki Final Act

(1975)

Context

The Helsinki Final Act was the culmination of decades of on-again, off-again international diplomacy with roots in the postwar realities of a divided Europe and the overarching confrontation between the United States and Soviet Union. Since immediately after World War II, through which the Red Army liberated Eastern Europe from Nazism, the Soviet Union had sought formal recognition of existing political boundaries between Eastern and Western Europe—and thus uncontested control over its recently acquired satellites. An important step was made toward this Soviet goal when in 1972 the international community recognized the German Democratic Republic (Soviet-dominated East Germany). These negotiations had been conducted primarily among the Europeans, with the United States playing only a minor role; from the Soviet viewpoint, any further progress would almost certainly be impossible without full U.S. participation. Yet the U.S. administration, then under President...

Image for: Helsinki Final Act

Henry Kissinger (right), walking with President Gerald Ford (Library of Congress)

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