Courtesy Reuters

America and Russia: The Rules of the Game: Into the Breach New Soviet Alliances in the Third World

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

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