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Helsinki Accords

Gerald Ford

Helsinki Accords: Gerald Ford was the 38th American President who served in office from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977. One of the important events during his presidency was the Helsinki Accords.

Definition and Summary of the Helsinki Accords
Summary and definition:
The Helsinki Accords were a series of agreements that were signed in August 1975, during the period of Detente, by leaders of the USA, the USSR and 35 nations who were members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The Helsinki Accords dealt with three main issues of cooperation, security and human rights.

Under the Helsinki Accords the nations of the East and West agreed to forge cultural links aimed at bringing the USA and the USSR closer together. It was agreed that the parties would recognize the borders of Eastern Europe that were established at the end of WW2 and in return the USSR promised to uphold basic human rights that included allowing people in the Eastern Bloc the right to move across borders. The Helsinki Accords were a formal agreement between countries but were not binding as they did not have the same status of a bonafide treaty. The USSR went on to ignore its promises about human rights, tarnishing the spirit of the Helsinki Accords.

Facts about Helsinki Accords
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Helsinki Accords.

In the summer of 1975, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) met and produced the Helsinki Accords which, in keeping with Detente, attempted to improve diplomatic and political relations between the Communist bloc and the West.

The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe opened at Helsinki, Finland on 3 July 1973 and continued at Geneva from 18 September 1973 to 21 July 1975, was concluded at Helsinki on 1 August 1975 when the agreement was signed by representatives of all the participating nations.

The participating States reaffirmed their commitment to peace, security and justice and the continuing development of friendly relations and co-operation

United States President Ford pursued the concept of Detente aimed at easing tensions between the East and West. With this in mind he made the decision to attend the final stages of the 1975 Conference on European Security and Cooperation in Helsinki, Finland to sign the Helsinki Accords.

The 35 countries who signed the Helsinki Accords were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the USSR, the UK, the USA and Yugoslavia.

The parties who signed the Helsinki Agreement agreed to the following principles:

  1. Sovereign equality and respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty
  2. Refraining from the threat or use of force
  3. Inviolability of frontiers
  4. Territorial integrity of States
  5. Peaceful settlement of disputes
  6. Non-intervention in internal affairs
  7. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief
  8. Equal rights and self-determination of peoples
  9. Cooperation among States
  10. Fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law

The Conference was hailed as a success and the Helsinki Accords was viewed as a significant step towards reducing Cold War tensions.

The Helsinki Accords was a formal agreement but was not binding as the Accords did not have the same status as a treaty.

The USSR went on to ignore its promises about human rights which led many people to disagree with the continuation of Detente.

Although the Soviets chose to ignore the agreements made about the Civil Rights of its people, many of their own people took the Helsinki Accords seriously.

Critics of the Helsinki Accords believed that the agreements gave far too much control of Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union. The famous Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn denounced the Accords as “the betrayal of Eastern Europe”.

A number of human rights groups emerged to monitor the USSR's compliance with the Helsinki Accords. Organizations such as the Helsinki Watch were founded by a collection of Soviet dissidents and became one of the loudest critics of Soviet human rights policies.

The Soviet Civil Right issues would not be resolved until the 1980's when Glasnost was introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Ronald Reagan was elected President and condemned the Soviet Union for breaking their promises. Reagan went on to denounce President Ford for refusing to meet with Alexander Solzhenitsyn and for signing the Helsinki Accords which he said gave “the American seal of approval for the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe.”

The period of Detente came to an end and the strong anti-communist views of the aspirations of the Helsinki Accords

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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