Since 1975, seven pro-Soviet communist parties have seized power or territory in Africa and Asia with armed force. In the spring of 1975, after a North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam, North Vietnam's Communist Party took control of the South and its puppet Pathet Lao seized power in a demoralized Laos. After a short civil war in Angola in 1975-76, following the departure of the Portuguese, Agostinho Neto's Marxist-Leninist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) defeated two other Angolan parties contending for power. In February 1977, in a "red terror" directed against other military leaders who had previously shared power with him after the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam and his group of communist officers seized power in Ethiopia. In April 1978, Nur Mohammad Taraki's People's Party launched a successful armed coup in Afghanistan against the military government led by President Mohammad Daoud. In June 1978, in South Yemen, the communist group in a ruling coalition of leftists carried out a successful armed coup against President Salim Robaye Ali, the leader of the non-communist leftists, and his army supporters. Finally, in January 1979, after a North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, Hanoi replaced the pro-Chinese communist government of Pol Pot with a pro-Soviet regime.1

Although the events leading up to communist victories in each of these cases was complex, involved a variety of indigenous forces, and certainly cannot be attributed only to Soviet manipulation, the Russians were active players in each instance. They were not innocent bystanders.

In Vietnam, Russian arms certainly contributed to the final surge that brought Hanoi's armies to Saigon and the Pathet Lao's to Vientiane in the spring of 1975. In the Angolan case, the Russians launched a massive airlift of sophisticated arms and 10,000 Cuban troops that was decisive in defeating the UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), and FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola), which were supported by Zaïre and by South African forces. In Ethiopia, after Mengistu's Marxist group seized power, another massive airlift by the Russians of two billion dollars worth of arms, 20,000 Cuban troops, 300 tanks and 3,000 Soviet military technicians was decisive in helping Mengistu rout Somali-led insurgents in the Ogaden and Eritrean secessionists in the north. Three Soviet generals worked out the Ethiopian strategy on the ground in the Ogaden. In Afghanistan, before the Taraki coup, Soviet advisers were well entrenched in the Afghan armed forces; the Soviets were the leading arms suppliers. And in South Yemen, before the communist coup, the Soviets were training the South Yemen army, the Cubans were training the "people's militia"-which played a critical role in neutralizing the army that was loyal to President Ali-and the East Germans were training the security services. Thus, it is difficult to believe, at a minimum, that the Russians were caught by surprise in either case. Finally, by signing a friendship treaty with Vietnam in November 1978, a treaty that was supposed to have neutralized China, the Russians in effect gave a green light to the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978.

Since these seven pro-Soviet communist parties have come to power, Moscow has served notice that it considers all of them to be new allies, and that it intends to help them consolidate power against their internal and external enemies. It has stepped up supplies of arms to most of them. Cuban troops remain in both Angola and in Ethiopia. There are now 6,000 to 7,000 Cuban troops in South Yemen as a result of recent transfers from Ethiopia. In addition to Vietnam, Moscow has signed friendship treaties with Angola (October 1976), Ethiopia (November 1978), and Afghanistan (December 1978), most of which contain clauses calling for consultation in the event of a threat to their security. Although Moscow has not yet signed such a treaty with the new communist government in South Yemen, it has warned that "progressive forces will not abandon it at a time of trial," and Brezhnev has personally pledged aid and support to the new government.

At the same time, the Russians have given extraordinary attention and publicity to all the new communist leaders. Taraki was given a state dinner at the Kremlin at which Brezhnev announced that Soviet-Afghan relations had assumed a "qualitatively new character." And Moscow dispatched Politburo member and Central Committee Secretary Andrei P. Kirilenko to attend the December 1977 congress of the MPLA where the Soviet leader strongly endorsed the congress' avowed purpose of transforming the MPLA into a "vanguard party" based on "scientific socialism"-thus setting an example for other African states.

Meanwhile, the comforting assumption-widespread in certain Western political circles, including sections of the American government-that the Soviets will not be able to consolidate their influence in these countries, an assumption based on earlier Soviet evictions from Egypt, the Sudan and Somalia, may prove to be wrong, at least in the short run. In all seven of these new cases, the need of local communist leaders for Soviet support against their internal and external enemies could lead to growing dependence on Moscow.

Particularly after China's recent armed incursion, Vietnam will clearly require continuing security ties to Moscow. In Angola, Neto requires Cuban troops to help him consolidate power against Jonas Savimbi's UNITA, which still controls most of the food-producing areas in the southern part of Angola and could yet mount a drive to overthrow the MPLA. In Ethiopia, Mengistu needs the Cuban troops because he has not yet completely routed either the Somali-led insurgents in the Ogaden or the popular Islamic-Marxist rebels in Eritrea, both of whom may pose long-term threats to his regime's stability. South Yemen's new communist government sorely needs Soviet protection because it is feared and despised as the potential Cuba of the Arab world by its three violently anti-communist neighbors, Saudi Arabia, North Yemen and Oman. The recent outbreak of border fighting with North Yemen will make South Yemen even more anxious for Soviet support. Finally, because Afghanistan is Russia's small and vulnerable neighbor, it felt the need for close ties to Moscow even before the communist coup. This need will continue. In sum, all of the new communist states will require Soviet or Cuban arms and protection against continuing threats to their own security which could last for some time. Over time, there is even the possibility that these regimes-particularly if they believe they have no other alternatives-may become increasingly dependent upon the Russians.


In addition to the seven instances cited above, in which pro-Soviet communists, with Soviet assistance, have seized power by armed force, there have been several other cases in which armed coups which may have been assisted by the Russians have only narrowly failed. Two such abortive armed coups have recently taken place in Somalia and the Sudan, countries whose leaders must have ranked high on Moscow's "hit list." Somalia's President Siad Barre broke off his Treaty of Friendship with Moscow and expelled Soviet advisers in October 1977. The Sudanese President Ja'far Muhammad Nimeiry, after crushing the Sudanese Communist Party in 1971 and executing its leader, has increasingly become one of the most vehement anti-Soviet spokesmen in the Third World.

On April 9, 1978, President Barre of Somalia announced that his government had put down an attempted military coup undertaken in the interests of the "new imperialists," Barre's code word for Cuba and the Soviet Union. In September 1978, Somali courts sentenced 17 army officers to death and jailed 36 others for their alleged complicity in the coup attempt. What makes Barre's charges plausible is the fact that even before the abortive coup there were reports of groups within the Somali army and government who wanted to reassess Somalia's relations with the Soviet Union. These groups evidently did not approve of Barre's break with Moscow in October 1977.

In July 1976, and again in February 1977, there were attempted coups against President Nimeiry in the Sudan. The Sudanese leadership subsequently charged that these coup attempts were "manipulated by foreign hands." As if to indicate whose foreign hands they suspected, in May 1977, the Sudanese government expelled all 90 Soviet technicians serving with the army and closed the Soviet Embassy's military department. Sudan also requested a reduction of the Soviet Union's diplomatic representation, claiming that that representation included excessive "non-diplomatic" personnel.2 In June 1977, Nimeiry replaced the expelled Soviet military experts with Egyptians, Chinese and Yugoslavs and during a visit to China he launched a fierce attack on Soviet strategy in Africa.

The assassination in June 1978 of the leader of North Yemen, Col. Ahmed Hussein al-Ghashmi, may also have been related to Soviet-Cuban activities. This assassination was carried out by a special envoy of South Yemen who carried a booby-trapped parcel to al-Ghashmi's office. It took place four days before the South Yemen communists launched their own coup in South Yemen against President Salim Robaye Ali, whom they subsequently executed. The Soviets, the Cubans and the South Yemen communists had good reasons for wanting to get rid of both Yemeni leaders. The former president of North Yemen, al-Ghashmi, said publicly in June 1976, that North Yemen was planning to ask the Soviet Union to withdraw its military experts from the country. In December 1976, North Yemen signed an economic and technical cooperation agreement with China. Finally, in August 1977, less than a year before he was assassinated, al-Ghashmi ousted the TASS correspondent from North Yemen.

Unfortunately, these events do not exhaust the record of irresponsible Soviet conduct in the Third World. Libya, one of Moscow's most enthusiastic supporters in the Third World, has been implicated in attempted coups against its neighbors in Chad and in the Sudan, and is well known for its support of the most extreme terrorist movements in the Third World. Yet within the past year, Moscow has doubled to more than 2,200 the number of Soviet military advisers stationed in that country.


Although it would obviously be absurd to attribute all of these developments to some kind of Soviet "master plan" for the Third World-complex indigenous forces which cannot be manipulated by outsiders are, of course, at work in each case-it is just as obviously naive to believe that there is no pattern in these developments. The Russians evidently have a new strategy for expanding their power and influence in the Third World-a strategy which supplements the less successful one they employed in earlier years.

The first surge of postwar Soviet interest in the Third World took place in the mid-1950s under Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev broke with Stalinist orthodoxy about the unreliability of the "national bourgeoisie," and embraced India's Nehru, Egypt's Nasser, Indonesia's Sukarno, Guinea's Sekou Touré, Algeria's Ben Bella and other Third World leaders as "national democrats" who were laying the groundwork for "socialist revolutions." Under Khrushchev, the Russians told local communist leaders in the Third World to cooperate with the "national democrats" and even to merge their party organizations with those of the nationalists so as to avoid mutual suspicions and mistrust.

But the fruits of this strategy of alliance with the "national democrats" were often bitter. Nasser's successor, Sadat, ousted the Russians in the mid-1970s and Sudan's President Nimeiry quickly followed suit. Sukarno, Ben Bella and Ghana's President Kwame Nkrumah were overthrown by military coups. In other countries, the nationalists jailed, purged or even executed communist leaders. And even where the Russians managed to maintain some influence over leaders such as Touré in Guinea, Mrs. Gandhi in India, and the Ba'ath socialists in Iraq and Syria, these leaders used the Russians as much for their own purposes as the Russians used them for theirs. None of them faithfully followed the Soviet line on foreign policy.

Having realized the error of excessive cooperation with unreliable "bourgeois nationalist" leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviets have come up with a new strategy for the 1970s and 1980s. They continue, in some cases, such as Iraq, Syria and Algeria, for example, to support non-communist "socialists" of one kind or another. But now that more orthodox Marxist-Leninist groups and parties have proliferated in many parts of Asia and Africa, the new element in the Soviet strategy is to help communist parties gain state power. Then, via friendship treaties, arms aid, and Soviet, Cuban or East European advisers, the Soviets will help the local communists hold onto and consolidate power. Ultimately, the aim of this strategy is to establish a new alliance system for the Russians in Africa and Asia, a looser eastern version of the Warsaw Pact.

The evidence of some Soviet success in implementing this strategy can be gleaned from the events following the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. Most of the nonaligned countries, even many of the radical ones, opposed that invasion and refused to recognize the new Cambodian communist state imposed by Hanoi. Even Moscow's Warsaw Pact ally, Romania, spoke out publicly against the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and refused to recognize the new government. So did Yugoslavia. But in the eight days after the fall of Phnom Penh, 14 nations did declare formal recognition of the new Cambodian government. Those governments were, in the order in which they acted, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, East Germany, Bulgaria, Laos, Hungary, Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Mongolia, Cuba, Angola, Ethiopia, and South Yemen. Thus Moscow's new communist allies in Asia and Africa joined with Moscow's faithful regimes in Eastern Europe, Mongolia and Cuba in a critical test of allegiance to the Soviet Union that most of the Third World and even communist Romania could not pass.


The new pro-Soviet communist regimes in Africa and Asia, imposed by force and backed as they are by Soviet power, pose serious new threats to many of the regional powers which are friendly to the United States. The South Yemen Marxists have already made known their intention to renew their support of the Marxist-Leninist rebel movement of the Dhofar region of neighboring Oman, one of the conservative pro-Western states in the Arabian Peninsula. The Dhofar rebellion, supported by South Yemen Marxists and Cuban advisers, smouldered for more than a decade before it was dealt a crushing blow by Iranian troops several years ago. The Iranians sealed off the border between South Yemen and Oman. Now, with Iran in revolution, South Yemen may be in a better position to rekindle the revolt.

The Omanis are clearly worried. Recent American visitors to Oman were told by the Sultan's advisers that "from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa, the situation looks very bleak to us." The Omanis fear an attack by South Yemen with its MiG-21 fighters and its Ilyushin bombers, which are currently being flown-so the Omanis say-by Cuban pilots.

Over the longer run, the South Yemen Marxists and their Soviet, Cuban, and East German advisers are undoubtedly aiming to bring down the conservative, pro-Western governments in Saudi Arabia and North Yemen as well.

The events in South Yemen are only one of a number of recent developments that have badly shaken the Saudis. The Saudis were already seriously alarmed over the extension of Soviet and Cuban power to Ethiopia just across the Red Sea, and by the revolution in Iran, just across the Persian Gulf. If the Saudis were to interpret all of these developments as an indication of a declining American power which can no longer guarantee their security, they might be tempted to make their own independent accommodation with Moscow. Such a development, combined with events in Iran, would radically alter the present balance of power in the Middle East.

Pakistan is also increasingly alarmed at the spread of Soviet power. It is now encircled by its old enemy, India, and by communist Afghanistan, both of which have friendship treaties with Moscow. Afghanistan also has long-standing territorial claims to the Pushtunistan region of Pakistan and might revive such claims at an appropriate moment. Iran, a neighbor on which Pakistan was counting to maintain regional stability, is now in the throes of a revolution. And Pakistan's faith in China must have been dealt a serious blow by China's inability to stop the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. In such circumstances, it would not be surprising if Pakistan sought insurance through improved ties to Moscow.

In Southeast Asia, the spread of Soviet power and Vietnamese influence has greatly alarmed China and all of the ASEAN powers, particularly Thailand. The new pro-Hanoi communist regime in Cambodia brings Vietnam to Thailand's doorstep, and has increased Thai fears about the communist insurgencies in the northeast and the south that have been active for many years. China, on the other hand, now feels encircled by Russia on the north and Russia's ally, Vietnam, on China's southern border. As we have already seen with the Chinese incursion into Vietnam, regional tensions will almost certainly grow in intensity.

In southern Africa, Angola does not pose a larger regional threat for the moment because Neto has sought to improve relations with neighboring Zaïre. But Angola is one of the "front line" states close to Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa, and if events in this region lead to a racial war, Angola could become even a larger staging area for Cuban and black nationalist forces preparing to fight the white minority regimes. That is why the South Africans and Rhodesians keep a wary eye on the Cubans in Angola, and probably continue to nourish hopes of overthrowing Neto.

In sum, the forcible extension of pro-Soviet communism backed by Soviet power to several new areas of the world poses serious new strategic problems for a variety of middle powers, many of whom look to the United States for leadership and support. The danger is not so much that Moscow will achieve hegemony in the Third World. This is unlikely for a great many reasons. The danger is rather that the spread of communism and Soviet power will upset tenuous regional balances of power, lead to intensified regional instabilities, and make even more difficult the settlement of a variety of regional clashes that could lead to war.


One shudders to think of what might have been the American response to seven communist takeovers in Asia and Africa at the height of the cold war. Clearly we have been sobered by our experience in Vietnam. But the lack of response today-indeed the lack of comprehension-is just as frightening. Analysts both in and out of government who call attention to these developments are accused of being "cold warriors" with "globalist" points of view that ignore "complex local realities." High-ranking officials in the State Department warn against "abstract geopolitical thinking," and allege that the Soviets have a "loser's mentality." And the Secretary of State himself recently said that the Soviet involvement in the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia was "unclear," and that we must not accept "oversimplified generalities as applying to different situations."

Certainly the proper American reaction to the communist surge in Africa and Asia is not to send half a million troops to these regions. Certainly the victory of communist forces in the Third World represents the outcome of complex indigenous situations which are not all manipulated by Moscow. Certainly Moscow will have some trouble consolidating its hold on these communist parties in the Third World. Certainly it is true that there is a qualitative difference between the victory of indigenous communist parties in Asia and Africa and the imposition of communism on Eastern Europe by Soviet occupation forces in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

But, in the meantime, are there no general problems for American foreign policy resulting from these developments? Many of our allies and friends are worried by the appearance of pro-Soviet communist parties supported by Soviet arms and Cuban gendarmes on their doorsteps. How do we reassure them? Regional stability is now threatened in many areas. How do we restore it? The credibility of American power has been shaken by these developments and by our apparent lack of response to them. How do we restore it? What is the significance of these developments for U.S.-Soviet relations? Are they compatible with our understanding of détente?

Most important of all, what kind of international order are we likely to build if one of the superpowers believes in the continued, uninhibited use of force to spread "liberation movements," and the other believes either that force is immoral or that it has lost its political utility? These are some of the questions that need to be discussed, and not in a sterile debate between "globalists" and people who profess to understand "local realities" - a debate which drives both sides into extreme positions.


Evidently there are three levels at which these problems have to be addressed. First, there are broad questions that go to the very heart of our relationship with Moscow. Second, there is the need for consultation with our friends and allies in the regions affected, in order to develop strategies for dealing with the new communist regimes. Finally, there is the question of how we should relate to those new communist states.

President Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has said on numerous occasions that détente with the Soviet Union is desirable, but that if it is to be enduring, and is to be accepted by the American people, it must be both reciprocal and progressively more comprehensive. "Reciprocal" means that one party cannot feel free to engage in the direct promotion of revolutionary violence while at the same time considering it an act of intervention if the other side affirms its own beliefs. To be comprehensive, détente cannot be conducted selectively. That is, it cannot mean accommodation in one part of the world and uninhibited exploitation of unavoidable turbulence in another. There must be some agreed-upon "rules of the game."

These are sound principles on which to base Soviet-American relations. But there has been little progress so far in getting the Soviets to adhere to them. Partly this is because the Carter Administration itself is divided on how best to pursue détente with the Russians. Partly it is because there is no national consensus, in either the Administration or the Congress, on our relations with Moscow. Partly it is because the President himself has sent inconsistent messages to the Russians. And partly it is because we have not given the Russians enough cause either for hope of better relations through a true détente or for fear of the results of promoting violence in the Third World. Whatever the reasons, Brzezinski's concept of a reciprocal and comprehensive détente, however sound, is not being implemented.

To achieve such a detente, the Administration must make two things clear to Moscow: first, that it will be to the Soviet advantage if they exercise greater self-restraint in the Third World; second, that it will be risky if they don't. In the past we have failed to provide the Russians with sufficient positive or negative incentives for self-restraint. By foolishly imposing congressional restrictions on trade with the Russians, and by linking those restrictions to Soviet emigration policies-rather than to Soviet foreign policy-we have deprived ourselves of positive leverage on Soviet behavior in the Third World. At the same time, we have not been able to demonstrate any kind of military or political response to Soviet activity in the Third World that might be a negative incentive for further Soviet advances. So far, these advances have been virtually cost-free.

There are three steps in particular that we need to take in providing Moscow with positive incentives for restraint. First, Congress should make the kinds of amendments in trade legislation that Senator Adlai Stevenson is now proposing. Stevenson's proposed amendments to the Trade Act would waive the Jackson-Vanik Amendment that ties most-favored-nation trading status to Soviet internal policies. The effect of Stevenson's amendment would be to increase the President's flexibility to trade with Moscow and to use such trade for "linkage." The Russians are still very anxious to obtain American technology and credits. By offering them such a possibility in exchange for real restraint in the Third World, we will at the least present them with a difficult choice.

Second, we should engage the Russians in preliminary discussions about regional security problems in various parts of the Third World. We cannot exclude the Russians from all negotiations on regional matters and then ask them for restraints in the regions. Ultimately, Moscow will have to be brought into a Middle East peace settlement. The Russians suspect that it is our intention to freeze them out of a variety of areas of the world in which they have legitimate interests. We should try to make clear to them that this is not our intention. Indeed, much as we dislike it, we will be forced to face up to the fact that Russia is now a global power capable of influencing regional developments almost everywhere. It is time that we engage the Russians in a broad dialogue on regional security issues and offer them a role in helping to maintain regional security.

We also need to sign and to ratify the SALT II agreement as a symbol both of our desire to slow down the nuclear arms race and of our desire to pursue an evenhanded policy between Moscow and Peking. A congressional refusal to ratify SALT at a time when our relations with China are moving forward in high gear might well convince the suspicious Russians that we intend to form a new Chinese-Japanese-European-American axis against them, even though that is not our policy. Such one-sided diplomacy on our part would only increase Soviet paranoia. It could lead the Russians to take even more aggressive actions in the Third World, and against China itself, in a desperate effort to strengthen their position before the imagined anti-Soviet axis materializes.

In sum, there are a variety of overtures we need to make to Moscow in order to assure the Russians that, for our part, we are anxious for a more comprehensive détente.

But along with the "carrots" there should also be some "sticks." The Senate, when it ratifies SALT II, as I expect it will, should warn Moscow in a "sense of the Senate" resolution that the United States will no longer accept a narrow and unreciprocal détente, and that future Soviet conduct in the Third World will influence the future development of détente, including the prospects for SALT III. And Moscow should understand that if it continues to conduct violent interventions in the Third World wherever the opportunity beckons, we will eventually be forced into consolidating our new relationship with China.

We must be clear-and sufficiently modest-about the nature of the demands that we make upon Soviet behavior in the Third World. We cannot realistically expect Moscow to stop selling arms to its client states; but we can expect it to reduce the flow of arms, rather than to increase it, as it has recently been doing. We cannot realistically expect Moscow to stop trying to expand its influence in the Third World; but we can expect Moscow to stop transporting Cuban troops to various trouble spots. And we can expect the Russians to increase pressure on their Cuban allies to withdraw from Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen and other areas of the world where those troops and "advisers" constitute daggers pointed at important Western interests.3

It is true, as the Soviets contend, that the United States intervened in the Third World during the 1950s and 1960s and that, in this sense, Moscow is now giving us back a little of our own medicine. But apart from the case of Vietnam, the United States, even at the heyday of its interventionism, did not employ combat troops to influence the course of events in the Third World. In small countries, a few hundred combat troops on one side or another can make a decisive difference in the outcome of a local war. Thus, we must make it clear to the Russians that in our continuing competition for influence in the Third World, the use of foreign combat troops cannot be allowed. In a word, the Russians should be put on notice that they cannot have both a stable détente with the United States, including expanded economic relations, and a cost-free license to stir the boiling pot of the Third World.


There are also a variety of steps the United States will have to take to reassure pro-Western states-particularly in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea regions-that we will not abandon them. During Secretary of Defense Harold Brown's recent trip to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon announced that it intended to increase sharply its arms supplies to North Yemen and to the Sudan. Secretary Brown was reported to have told the Saudis that the United States is ready to discuss the creation of a Persian Gulf command led by Americans. Brown also reportedly discussed with the Saudis the possibility of expanding port facilities for American ships in the Indian Ocean naval base of Diego Garcia. Finally, Brown is reported to have assured the Saudis that the United States is creating a "quick strike force" of American paratroopers and marines to be used in case of a request for help by Saudi Arabia or other Gulf nations threatened by a Soviet-supported coup. These are all worthwhile countermeasures. But they may not be enough.

We should also consider security pacts with critical countries such as Saudi Arabia, to assure them of American support in the case of an external threat. And the United States needs to adopt a much higher profile in the entire region from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa. Oman would welcome a much larger U.S. diplomatic presence. As of February, the American Embassy in Oman had only a staff of five. Oman also wants a stronger CIA station, to assess what is needed in the country and in the region as a whole. Steps such as these are needed as a short-term stopgap to convince the Gulf countries that the United States remains committed to their security.

Over the longer run, of course, the United States will have to guard against overidentifying itself with reactionary regimes standing on feet of clay. Such regimes will prove to be unstable no matter how many U.S. arms and how much U.S. support they receive. Iran dramatically illustrates the danger. At the same time, the United States will have to guard against the opposite danger-of assuming that all authoritarian regimes are equally unstable and unworthy of U.S. support.

It is time, too, for the United States to play a stronger and more creative role in fostering regional organizations, which could play an important role in minimizing the kinds of interstate conflicts on which the Russians feed. ASEAN, the organization of noncommunist states in Southeast Asia that includes Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, could provide a useful model. The ASEAN states are increasingly aware that internal weaknesses in the region invite exploitation from outside. They say that the best way to promote regional security is by developing economic wellbeing and social justice on the one hand, and by forging regional unity on the other. The ASEAN states have adopted a common front in such international agencies as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT); they have intensified their efforts at regional cooperation; they have put forth joint proposals to the United States, the European Community and Japan for a commodity price stabilization scheme; and they have signed a treaty of amity and cooperation, the first binding agreement among Southeast Asian countries in the history of the region. More recently, in an effort to remove territorial frictions with its neighbor Malaysia, the Philippines has dropped its territorial claims to Sabah. Thus, without overemphasizing military activity, the ASEAN countries have gone a long way toward achieving the kind of regional cooperation that is necessary to keep predatory external powers out.

But achieving stability in Southeast Asia, as elsewhere, will in the long run require the participation of the great powers. Now is the time for us to take the lead in convening a new international conference on the future of Indochina, a conference modelled on the 1954 Geneva Conference, which recognized the division of Vietnam and the political neutrality of Laos and Cambodia. Such a conference should include Russia, China, the United States, India, the ASEAN countries, and Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. If such a conference were to be successful, it would serve a number of purposes. It would reassure the ASEAN countries. It would set an important example for the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts. And, not least of all, such a conference could be used to demonstrate to both Moscow and Peking that our interest is in regional stability, not in siding with one communist power against another in an effort to gain one-sided advantages that can only raise tensions between the great powers.

Finally, in Northeast Asia, it is time to reverse the Administration's earlier decision to withdraw American combat troops from South Korea. No more troops should be withdrawn until there is an accommodation between the two Koreas. The Administration has wisely modified its earlier decision; it has left open the possibility that the withdrawal would be halted "if conditions so warrant." Conditions do now warrant such a change. The recent rise of regional tension in Southeast and Western Asia make it imperative that Northeast Asia should remain stable. The apparent revival of the North-South Korean dialogue is an encouraging sign, but it may be no more than a North Korean ploy designed to encourage the Carter Administration to continue its planned withdrawal. The only way to test North Korea's sincerity is to insist that American troops remain in South Korea until North and South Korea reach a peaceful settlement that is ratified by the great powers.


The United States will also have to devise policies designed to deal directly with the new communist governments in Africa and Asia. The place to begin in formulating such policies is with a recognition of the nature of conditions in much of the Third World that breed radicalism, and with a certain degree of empathy for those forces in the Third World that insist on radical change. As contemporary events in Iran demonstrate, radical change in the Third World is inevitable; and, in many places, it is desirable. Such change will come under a variety of auspices, some of them Islamic, as in Iran, some of them Marxist, as in Angola. If the United States places itself in opposition to all such changes, the result will be an isolated, besieged and increasingly nationalistic America that becomes irrelevant to the Third World. In fact, the United States, because of its commitment to pluralism, diversity and social justice, should be in a better position than the Soviet Union, with its monolithic notions of social change, to relate to legitimate Third World aspirations.

A second point of departure for American policy should be a clearer recognition of the nature of the Marxist movements in the Third World and their relationship to the Soviet Union. The potential weak link of the new Soviet alliance system in Asia and Africa is the same weak link that disrupted Soviet alliances with communist Yugoslavia and communist China-national communism. The history of the modern world demonstrates that in the radical mixture we call national communism, the nationalistic ingredient is far more powerful than the Marxist. The best current indications of this can be found in East Asia, where the most intense conflicts are between communist states-between Russia and China, between China and Vietnam, and until recently, between Vietnam and Cambodia. Indeed, in East Asia, the East-East conflict, that is, conflict between communist states, has replaced the East-West conflict as the source of greatest tension. Thus, we can assume that there are already conflicts of interest between the Russians and their new national communist clients in Asia and Africa, and that such conflicts will continue to develop.

Such tensions can already be detected in the relationship between Moscow and Neto's MPLA in Angola. Neto himself fought Portuguese colonial rule for two decades and is as much an Angolan nationalist as he is a communist. Moreover, he has had many differences with the Russians in the past. At times, Moscow even encouraged several of Neto's rivals to overthrow the MPLA leader because he was insufficiently subordinate. There are many recent signs of Neto's concern about excess Soviet and Cuban influence in Angola. Last December, Neto warned publicly about the need to "defend the independence of the Party"; in the same month he fired a Cabinet minister who had signed an agreement with Cuba calling for 6,000 additional Cuban technicians to be sent to Angola. The agreement, Neto said, had been signed without his permission. Neto has also made a marked effort during the past several months to improve relations with the United States. He entertained Senator McGovern and a number of American journalists who accompanied McGovern. Neto has also sought to improve his troubled relations with neighboring Zaïre. And recently he has sought to improve relations with Portugal in an effort to get Portuguese technicians to return to Angola. This would make Angola less dependent on Cuban and East European technicians.

In the light of these developments, the United States should reconsider its policy of nonrecognition of Angola. American recognition would encourage those less doctrinaire forces within the MPLA, led by Neto himself, who do not want to become excessively dependent on Russia or Cuba.

By recognizing the new Angolan government, we would not be deserting the noncommunist forces that continue to oppose Neto's government. The conflict between Neto's MPLA and Savimbi's UNITA is likely to go on indefinitely. Savimbi's forces already control much of the south, especially at night. Eventually, a real peace in Angola will require negotiations between these two parties. But the United States will be in a better position to help mediate such efforts if it is directly involved in Angola.

The same principle of encouraging independence from Moscow should be applied in Vietnam. The Vietnamese communists fought a 30-year war against the French, the Japanese and the Americans to gain their independence from external powers. As a result of this experience, they cannot be anxious to become dependent on Moscow. To some extent, Hanoi and Moscow have parallel interests. But it would be a serious error to conclude that Hanoi has overnight become one of Moscow's vassals, even in the wake of China's armed incursion.

There are in fact many signs that Vietnam, like Angola, does not want to become excessively dependent on the Russians. Vietnam wants Japanese and American economic aid in order to rebuild its war-torn economy and to reduce its dependence on the Soviets. The United States should make it clear that if Hanoi demonstrates its independence from Moscow, we shall show more interest both in recognition and in providing assistance. But if Vietnam aligns itself even further with the Russians-and particularly if Vietnam provides Moscow with a base in Cam-ranh Bay and other military facilities-there will be no possibility of such aid.

In sum, the United States should recognize that Marxist parties which come to power in Africa and Asia are not simple agents of Soviet power. If we treat them as if they were, we will force them to become even more dependent on the Russians. This is the mistake we made in dealing with the Chinese communists in the 1950s, and it is the mistake we made in dealing with Ho Chi Minh. We should not repeat it in the 1980s.

The extent to which the new communist states of Africa and Asia follow foreign policy lines independent of Moscow is one basic criterion we should use to judge their behavior. A second is the extent to which they contribute to regional stability and order. Angola is seeking to improve its relations with Zaïre. It is also contributing to a peaceful solution in neighboring Namibia. We should watch carefully to see whether Vietnam and the new Cambodian communist government also seek to improve their relations with Thailand and the other ASEAN countries. Where the new communist states demonstrate good will in reaching accommodation with their neighbors, the United States should encourage them.

On the other hand, the new communist regime in South Yemen has declared publicly its intention to rekindle the Dhofar rebellion in neighboring Oman, and it has made its territory available to Soviet airplanes supplying Ethiopia in the war against neighboring Somalia. And the new Ethiopian communist regime itself has shown little restraint in its relations with two of its neighbors, Somalia and the Sudan. Ethiopian units have recently set up fortified camps inside Sudan's territory and Ethiopian MiG fighters, probably piloted by Cubans, have been bombing Sudanese armored units. Under such circumstances, the United States, in conjunction with its regional allies, should seek appropriate policies designed to restrain and to isolate both South Yemen and Ethiopia.

Thus, American policies toward the new communist states of Asia and Africa should be differentiated according to the behavior of these new states. Where they demonstrate independence from Moscow and willingness to contribute to overall regional stability, we should encourage them. Where they do not, we should isolate them.


The challenge of dealing with communism in the Third World is as much a challenge to our understanding as it is to our policy. We need a much more sophisticated national understanding of radical movements and states than we presently have. Compared to the huge amounts of money and effort the government spends on collecting and evaluating military intelligence and "hardware," the amounts which it spends on political analysis are trivial. The problem is not merely a failure of gathering information or even a failure of proper evaluation. Even more serious, it is a failure to ask the right questions.

Many of the "right" questions to ask about the Third World today concern the nature of radical movements-their ideological origins, leadership, foreign policy orientation, social base, and so on. Yet there are very few specialists in the National Security Council, the State Department, the Pentagon, or even the CIA, who possess extensive and detailed knowledge about radical political movements of one kind or another in the Third World. There are even fewer who can relate these movements to the broader political competition between Russia and the United States. To the extent that the United States has such expertise, it can be found in the universities. That university expertise needs to be brought to bear on American policy in a more effective way than has been the case in the past. And the government's own capacity to analyze radicalism in the Third World must be greatly strengthened both qualitatively and quantitatively.

One widely noted recent analytical deficiency was the failure of the American intelligence community to understand and to evaluate the widespread opposition to the Shah in Iran. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Another recent example of such a lack of analysis was the government's abject neglect of developments in South Yemen. Congressman Paul Findley of Illinois, who visited South Yemen frequently in recent years, wrote in The Washington Post of July 7, 1978, that he was the only U.S. official, elected or appointed, to visit South Yemen since 1969, when the United States broke off relations with the country. When Findley returned from a recent visit to South Yemen and pleaded for more U.S. involvement in the country before the June 1978 communist coup, the State Department delayed. Even after the coup, according to David Binder, writing in The New York Times of August 5, 1978, the State Department concluded that "South Yemen, because it is small and has only 1.5 million people, does not pose a real threat to anyone and hence is not worth larger concern." This remarkable statement came at the very time that 15 Arab League states were organizing an economic, political and cultural boycott directed against South Yemen!

This appalling lack of understanding of developments within the Third World and their relation to U.S. security is a national scandal. We can no longer afford to be ignorant of what is going on in Iran or South Yemen or in the many other Third World countries which have the potential for becoming future "Irans" and future "South Yemens." This lack of understanding extends to our political parties as well. An important part of our difficulties in responding effectively to the Soviet challenge in the Third World is that neither our extreme liberals nor our extreme conservatives properly understand it. The Soviet offensive employs military power in behalf of "just" causes-or at least causes that are often perceived as just by many in the Third World. The extreme liberals in the United States are usually sympathetic to the causes, but they overlook or minimize the Soviet use of force to assist them. The extreme conservatives are primarily concerned with the Soviet use of force, but they generally ignore the political causes on behalf of which that force is employed.

Both stand on abstract principles. The liberals make a fetish of non-interventionism. The conservatives talk in equally abstract ways about "backbone" and "strength," by which they usually mean military power. Both are equally unrealistic-the liberals because non-interventionism is not a policy; the conservatives because more guns and missiles are not a sufficient answer to problems that are essentially political.


Over the longer run, there is room for optimism. Soviet expansion in the Third World has already run into a variety of forces that will work against it. The so-called "nonaligned" movement, which incorporates many of the Third World countries, is deeply split; the Yugoslavs, the Somalis and others have taken the lead in criticizing Cuba as a proxy for Soviet imperialism. This view has considerable support among a broad range of African and Asian countries. China still commands considerable respect in much of Asia and Africa, and Peking's activities will counter those of Moscow. The rigid Soviet stance is incapable of relating effectively to the national, ethnic and religious diversity that is characteristic of much of the Third World. The Russians find it difficult to deal with their friends as equals; yet the proud nationalists of Asia and Africa, having thrown off the shackles of Western colonialism, are not likely to tolerate a new Soviet colonialism. Once radical movements consolidate their power and turn their attention to economic development, the West will become increasingly relevant and the Russians increasingly irrelevant to them.

In many parts of the Third World, such as Northeast Asia and non-communist Southeast Asia, the Russians have not been able to expand their influence very much.4 Recent events in Afghanistan and South Yemen have alarmed other Third World countries which are generally friendly to Moscow. In Iraq, there has been a new purge of suspected communists in the armed forces. Syria has restricted the writings of pro-Soviet journalists. The Iraqi and Syrian fears of communist infiltration point up the inherent contradiction in the new Soviet strategy. Moscow cannot expect both to woo Arab socialists and to try to replace them with local communists. Finally, the new U.S. ties with China, which have completely altered the global strategic chessboard, may in time more than compensate for Soviet gains elsewhere in Asia and Africa. Thus, while there is room for concern about Soviet expansion, there is no need to adopt Chicken Little's view of the world-that the sky is always falling down.

In fact, the great majority of the nonaligned countries spoke out against the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia earlier this year, and most of them did not extend recognition to the new Cambodian government. This reflects growing suspicions within the Third World about Soviet policies.

But although there is reason to be cautiously optimistic over the longer run, there is no reason to be complacent. Three very serious dangers now lie on the horizon. The first is that the Soviet expansionist drive in the Third World will make certain regional tensions even more acute. China has already attempted to give Vietnam a "bloody nose" in response to Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia. Will Russia now attempt to bloody China's nose in return? Developments in South Yemen and the Horn of Africa have heightened tensions all over the Indian Ocean, and could even contribute to undermining our efforts to reach a Middle East peace accord.

The second danger is that the Soviets, inspired by a conviction that the United States is still paralyzed by a post-Vietnam trauma, and angered by the new American ties to China, will continue or even increase their expansionist policies in the Third World on the assumption that the risks are minimal and the potential gains considerable. From the Soviets' perspective, moreover, what they are doing in the Third World is "just" and legitimate. They are helping to undermine "reactionary," "feudal," or white minority regimes. And the United States is being cast as the defender of the unpopular status quo. To expect the Soviets to give up such a promising field of endeavor, where they can hope to expand their influence while supporting "just" causes, is unrealistic.

The third danger is that this Soviet drive to expand its influence in the Third World will help stimulate a new cold war mentality in the United States which will relate all American difficulties abroad to the "Soviet menace"-a vast oversimplification of the problems we face. Such a mood in the United States could make it impossible to ratify SALT II; it could lead to a resurgence of the chauvinistic elements on the American political scene, and, eventually, to a serious deterioration in Soviet-American relations. Already some leaders of the right-wing of the Republican Party are charging President Carter with "appeasement" and calling him another Neville Chamberlain. This is irresponsible politics, and one can only hope that it does not represent a preview of the electoral campaign in 1980. We certainly need a more thorough public debate about the Soviet challenge and its implications for American foreign policy, but a debate in which the opposition party leaders appeal to the most primitive instincts of the American people is bound to be counterproductive and even dangerous. There is a vast middle ground for American opposition politicians between raising the spectre of "appeasement" on the one hand and accepting the Administration's present policies on the other.

In the past, the United States has displayed an unhealthy tendency to vacillate between unrealistic hopes and unreasonable fears about the Russians. It was the overselling of détente by Nixon and Kissinger that led us to have unrealistic expectations about Soviet behavior in the first place. Let us not now go to the opposite extreme and treat every crisis in the Third World as if it was the last showdown at the O.K. Corral with Moscow. That would make the situation in the Third World even more unstable and much more dangerous. As Adam Ulam has recently reminded us, it is a sobering thought that "no Soviet move or ruse has undercut the effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy as much as what the Americans have done to themselves in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate."5

We have the resources, the strength, the technology and the allies to stand up to the Soviet challenge in the Third World without overreacting to it. But we cannot deal with this challenge either by returning to simplistic cold war formulas or by advancing equally simplistic anti-cold war formulas against "globalism." We will have to do better than that.


1 Writing in Problems of Communism in January-February 1978, the distinguished authority on Africa, Colin Legum, describes both Neto and Mengistu as in that category of "pro-Moscow Marxist-Leninists who, apart from needing Soviet assistance anyway, feel friendship for the communist world . . . [and] invariably react favorably to Soviet intervention and with hostility to any type of Western intervention." See p. 11 of his article "The USSR and Africa." Taraki is a veteran pro-Soviet Marxist. His biographic sketch appeared in Literaturnaya Gazeta, Moscow, on May 17, 1978. The Washington Post, May 1, 1978, described Taraki as chairman of "the new, united communist party formed in 1977." See also the London Times, October 2 and 3, 1978. Abdel Fattah Ismail, General Secretary of the Yemeni Socialist Party, wrote in the pro-Soviet organ, World Marxist Review, January 1979, that his party was guided by "the theory of scientific socialism and that it was determined to deepen its friendship and cooperation with "the socialist community countries headed by the Soviet Union. . . ." The models for socialist development in Afghanistan held out by Ismail as "the most striking" were "the Soviet Republics of Central Asia, socialist Mongolia and Vietnam." Details on recent developments in South Yemen can be found in The Manchester Guardian Weekly, July 2, 1978, August 27, 1978, and September 10, 1978. Also see an article by Congressman Paul Findley, Republican from Illinois, in The Washington Post, July 7, 1978. For reporting on developments in Afghanistan, see The Washington Post, November 7, 1978, November 23, 1978, December 6, 1978; The New York Times, November 18, 1978; The Christian Science Monitor, November 14, 1978; and The Manchester Guardian Weekly, November 12, 1978. For reports on Ethiopia, see The New York Times, November 21, 1978, December 6, 1978, December 17, 1978, and The Washington Post, January 18, 1978.

2 The Toronto Globe and Mail, May 19, 1977.

3 There are reportedly a total of between 20 and 40,000 Cubans in 16 African states.

4 See my article "The Soviet Quandary in Asia," Foreign Affairs, January 1978.

5 Adam Ulam, "U.S.-Soviet Relations: Unhappy Coexistence," Foreign Affairs, America and the World 1978, p. 567.

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  • Donald S. Zagoria is a professor of government at Hunter College and the City University Graduate Center. He is also a research fellow at the Research Institute on International Change at Columbia University, and author of Sino-Soviet Conflict, 1956-1961 among other works.
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