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The History of the World: Nixon visits Moscow

22 May 1972


The following is a brief extract from The History of the World: Sixth Edition by J.M. Roberts and O.A. Westad.

In October 1971 the UN General Assembly had recognized the People’s Republic as the only legitimate representative of China in the United Nations, and expelled the representative of Taiwan. This was not an outcome the United States had anticipated until the crucial vote was taken. The following February, there took place a visit by Nixon to China that was the first visit ever made by an American president to mainland Asia, and one he described as an attempt to bridge ‘sixteen thousand miles and twenty-two years of hostility.’

Post War Europe – Economic and Military Blocks (c) Helicon Publishing Ltd

When Nixon followed his Chinese trip by becoming also the first American president to visit Moscow (in May 1972), and this was followed by an interim agreement on arms limitation – the first of its kind – it seemed that another important change had come about. The stark, polarized simplicities of the Cold War were blurring, however doubtful the future might be.

Reprinted from THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD: Sixth Edition by J.M. Roberts and O.A. Westad with permission from Oxford University Press, Inc. Copyright © 2013 by O.A. Westad.

J. M. Roberts CBE died in 2003. He was Warden at Merton College, Oxford University, until his retirement and is widely considered one of the leading historians of his era. He is also renowned as the author and presenter of the BBC TV series ‘The Triumph of the West’ (1985). Odd Arne Westad edited the sixth edition of The History of the World. He is Professor of International History at the London School of Economics. He has published fifteen books on modern and contemporary international history, among them ‘The Global Cold War,’ which won the Bancroft Prize.

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