Abstract

The 1970s are often associated with East-West détente, talks about the limitation of nuclear and conventional forces, the emergence of the Third World as an increasingly important factor in international relations, and the subsequent erosion of détente and deepening of East-West hostility. However, the 1970s were also a high-water mark of international terrorism—particularly terrorism emanating from the Middle East—and this threat generated action on the part of the leading Western countries. The United Nations (UN) could have been an important forum in which to address this threat and develop responses, but the UN was paralyzed by the differences not only between the Western countries and the Soviet bloc but also between the West and the Third World. The definition of “terrorism” was a particular bone of contention. Nevertheless, despite this inauspicious environment, some achievements proved feasible because of a changing international context that was increasingly hostile to terrorism and the persistence and diplomatic skills of some Western countries, notably West Germany.

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