In a verse reflecting the (colonial) attitudes of his time, Kipling once wrote, ‘Oh, East is East, and West is West; and never the twain shall meet’.Although written in 1889, the underlying sentiment might equally describe the bipolar geopolitics prevalent at the height of the Cold War. Indeed, by the time of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 to suppress intended liberal reforms, to many, the ideological chasm between the Eastern and Western blocs appeared insurmountable. Notwithstanding these divisions, key political leaders (particularly in Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union) sought strategies to promote greater stability and predictability in international affairs. To this end, they pursued more cooperative East–West relations, recognising that collaboration on environmental issues might help to defuse Cold War tensions. The apparently non-political nature, and seeming objectivity, of environmental issues contributed to their becoming, by 1975, a central pillar of détente between the East and the West.