Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (19 December 1906 – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in length. During Brezhnev’s rule, the global influence of the Soviet Union grew dramatically, in part because of the expansion of the Soviet military during this time, but his tenure as leader has often been criticised for marking the beginning of a period of economic stagnation in which serious economic problems were overlooked, problems which eventually led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

During his eighteen years as Leader of the USSR, Brezhnev’s only major foreign policy innovation was détente. However, this did not differ much from the Khrushchev Thaw, a domestic and foreign policy relaxation started by Nikita Khrushchev. Historian Robert Service sees détente simply as a continuation of Khrushchev’s foreign policy. Despite some increased tension under Khrushchev, East–West relations had generally improved, as evidenced by the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the Helsinki Accords and the installation of the red telephone line between the White House and the Kremlin. But Brezhnev’s détente policy differed from that of Khrushchev in two ways. The first was that it was more comprehensive and wide-ranging in its aims, and included signing agreements on arms control, crisis prevention, East–West trade, European security and human rights. The second part of the policy was based on the importance of equalising the military strength of the United States and the Soviet Union. Defence spending under Brezhnev between 1965 and 1970 increased by 40%, and annual increases continued thereafter. In the year of Brezhnev’s death in 1982, fifteen percent of GNP was spent on the military

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