Brezhnev's administration set three foreground tasks in the sphere of foreign policy: to dispose of the threat of the socialist camp breakdown and to unite it more closely in political, military and economic terms; normalise the relationship between the West and the East (the so-called policy of peaceful co-existence); to carry on the policy of consistent support for "progressive' movements and regimes all over the world.
That policy was especially active in regard to the countries that were under the USSR influence. The most important events in the foreign policy at that time were: Soviet intervention into Checkoslovakia; signing up of the two first agreements about confinement of strategic weapons during Richard Nixon's visit to Russia in May, 1972; the Soviet Union Intervention into Afghanistan.
Soviet foreign policy had always had a number of levels: relationship of the CPSU with foreign communist and working parties, interstate relations with socialist countries, relationship with developed capitalist countries, relations with the countries of "the third world", developing countries.
Strengthening of USSR's cracked positions in the socialist world and among communist parties of the "Third world" was for Khrushev's successors the first concern in the realm of foreign policy. In Eastern Europe Soviet leadership managed to stabilise the situation and clear away the backwashes of the Hungarian events of 1956. In spite of a slightest rise of political and economic independence of the socialist countries the relationship between them were far from being equal-right ones. The USSR was still "The elder brother", determining main directions in his brothers' life. At the same time it should be said that there were some positive achievements in cooperation between the socialist countries. The Soviet for Mutual Economic Aid initiated a complex programme of deepening the cooperation, planned for 15-20 years.
Together with socialist countries within the SMEA there existed socialist countries, carrying out an independent foreign policy course. With some of these lands the Soviet Union maintained friendly, good-neighbour relations, with others it was in the situation of confrontation. The relations between the USSR and Yugoslavia were friendly. Romania occupied an interim position between Yugoslavia and other socialist countries. The relationship "USSR-China" and "USSR-Albania" were rather tense. Speaking about "USSR-China" relations, "confrontation" would be a more correct word.
Relations with developed capitalist countries were of contradictory, but mainly constructive character. The second half of the 60-s was the time of detente between USSR and France. The relations "USSR-FRG" improved considerably. In the Fall of 1969 Socio-Democratic Party of Germany won the election. The new administration declared about irreversibility of the post-the-war borders and de-facto recognised existence of the Democratic Republic of Germany. All this served a good fundament for the peace treaty between USSR and Western Germany in August, 1972. Among other issues the borders between Western Germany and USSR and Western borders of Poland were acknowledged in that treaty. In the second half of the 70-s Western Germany became one of the main USSR's external economic partners.
The relations between USSR and the majority of other European and non-European capitalist countries developed in an analogous way. The relationship "USSR-Great Britain", "USSR- Japan" had the strictest character. Improvement in relations between USSR and Britain began only after coming the labourites to power in 1974. While the economic relations between USSR and Japan were successful enough, the foreign-policy ties were on a rather low level. Relations "Washington-Moscow" were in the main stream of development. Late 60-s were clouded with the war in Vietnam.
1972 was the year of an important turn in Soviet-American relations, which was connected with 1972 President Nixon's visit to Moscow.
Helsinki, Finland Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was the peak of detente. Heads of 33 European States as well as of the USA and Canada signed the Final Act of the Conference. The Act nailed down and legalised political, military, social and economic position in the post-war Europe and in the whole world.
In 1973-1976 the countries exchanged visits of their leaders. On the meetings military, political and economic issues were talked over. For the period the gross volume of trade increased 8 times, while the gross volume of goods traffic between the West and the East increased only 5 times.
In its turn, in late 70-s attitude of the West towards cooperation with the East began to worsen. In early 80-s constructive contacts with Western countries fizzled out, practically came to nought. In mass media of both the East and the West words of the Cold War period got popular again. The retrogress carried on for the whole first half of the 80-s, up to coming M. Gorbatchev to power.
Soviet intervention to Afghanistan in December, 1979 killed the detente. The assumption of Afghanistan proved the widespread in the West opinion, that the detente was "a street with one-way traffic", that it was like a manipulative deception in the market-place. A new period began, the one of deep mistrust, even of opposition between the two super-empires. The opposition was expressed in continuous accusations ("The USSR is an empire of evil" - said Ronald Reigan), in demonstrative actions (the refusal of American, then Soviet delegations from participating in Olympic Games in Moscow and Los-Angeles).