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Linkage was a policy pursued by the United States of America, championed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, during the 1970s period of Cold War Détente which aimed to persuade the Soviet Union and Communist China to co-operate in restraining revolutions in the Third World in return for concessions in nuclear and economic fields. The policy was however fundamentally undermined due to the amount of revolutions occurring during this time wholly independent of Soviet involvement.

The premise behind linkage, as a policy, was to connect political and military issues, thereby establishing a relationship making progress in area "A" dependent on progress in area "B."

An important aspect of this policy was that deviations from respecting the rights and interests would not go unpunished. The intent of such action is to bring home to the offending state the limitations of acceptable international behaviour and demonstrate that attempts at expansion (and upsetting international stability) would not go unpunished. In this way, conflict itself would contribute to stabilizing the international order.

The Nixon-Kissinger approach did not link foreign and domestic arenas.

Selective relaxation of tensions is an opposing policy to linkage. Under selective relaxation of tensions, an issue of arms control could be addressed and tension diminished while maintaining the status quo in other strategic areas.

Further reading

  • Diplomacy (Kissinger) (1994) ISBN 0-671-65991-X, pp 716-721
  • Kissinger: A Biography by Walter Isaacson (1992) ISBN 0-671-66323-2
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