Linkage (policy)

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Linkage was a foreign policy that was pursued by the United States and championed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the 1970s détente, during the Cold War. The policy 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. However, despite the lack of Soviet intervention, a large number of revolutions still occurred in Third World countries, thereby undermining the policy. 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 the policy was that deviations from respecting the rights and interests would go punished. The intent of the action was to bring home to the offending state the limitations of acceptable international behavior and demonstrate that attempts at expansion (and upsetting international stability) would go punished. Thus, conflict itself would contribute to stabilizing the international order.

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

Selective relaxation of tensions is an opposing policy to linkage. In that case, an issue of arms control could be addressed and tension diminished, with the status quo being maintained in other strategic areas.


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