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Title: Britain's contribution to détente : the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1972-1975
Author: Hebel, Kai
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 6459
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis examines Britain’s role in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Based on multi-archival research and interviews with key diplomats, it presents the first in-depth study of Britain’s involvement in the negotiations leading up to the Helsinki Final Act of 1 August 1975. It draws on Marc Trachtenberg’s notion of the ‘constructed peace’, and Alexander Wendt’s concept of ‘cultures of anarchy’ to elucidate how the rapprochement process at once stabilised and transformed the East-West conflict. This forms the theoretical framework of the thesis. The thesis revises the interpretation of détente as a status quo project driven by the imperatives of ‘Realpolitik’. Rather, different conceptions of stability and change challenged each other during the Helsinki talks. British diplomacy and the Final Act to which it contributed in fact linked the consolidation of the status quo to an ultimately transformative agenda that was infused with liberal ideas such as human rights. Realpolitik blended with Moralpolitik. To develop this argument, the thesis’ narrative first assesses Britain’s role in the early days of détente politics in the 1950s and 1960s. It then traces Britain’s role in the three main phases of the Helsinki process: the transition from bilateral to multilateral détente (1970-1972); preliminary talks (1972-1973); official negotiations (1973-1975). The British were defensive détente sceptics at the beginning of this process, but became ambitious and positive contributors over the course of the talks. The thesis thus argues that London played a significant part in the CSCE. British foreign policymakers were initially architects of the Cold War, but then early and active proponents of détente until the mid-1960s, when their continental partners adopted a more proactive approach. London was to return to the forefront of détente diplomacy when the CSCE process got under way. Its involvement in the CSCE also marked an important step in Britain’s own transformation into a European middle power. The multilateralisation of détente coincided with Britain’s integration into the European Community, providing a propitious environment in which London’s negotiators acted with determination and skill, thus reasserting their country’s influence despite its continuing relative decline.
Supervisor: Deighton, Anne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modern Britain and Europe ; International,imperial and global history ; Civil Rights ; International studies ; War (politics) ; UK foreign policy ; Cold War ; detente ; Conference on Security and Cooperation (CSCE) ; diplomacy ; negotiations ; constructed peace