The overdramatized political and diplomatic reaction of Washington to the military aid which the U.S.S.R. and Cuba have given to Angola and Ethiopia and, in recent times, to the aid which the U.S.S.R. has offered Afghanistan, has been one of the major factors clouding Soviet-American relations in the last few years. Alluding not only to these events but also to the general support and assistance which the Soviet Union and other socialist countries have been giving the Third World movements for national and social liberation, the American press has been claiming for years that while the United States and the Soviet Union seem to have agreed on stabilizing the world situation, the Soviet Union has been destabilizing it by its actions. In point of fact, the charge that the Soviet Union has "broken the rules of détente" in the developing world has been one of the main pretexts used by the Ford and Carter Administrations in domestic debates to try to justify their own abandonment of the policy of détente.

Whatever the American leadership may do to shun this policy, neither of our two nations will ever escape to another planet. As Henry Kissinger rightly remarked once, we are doomed to coexist. And whether we like it or not, the problem of the developing nations will remain one of the major irritants (not tranquilizers) in Soviet-American relations, for the development of emergent nations is taking place in the context of an intense confrontation of the two world social systems.

This confrontation cannot fail to have a profound impact on the course of events in these countries. Therefore, to prevent these events leading to an unwanted crisis or conflict, it is necessary to have at least a modicum of understanding of the policy and the position of each side, as well as of the very problem of the developing nations in the modern world.

Without in any way aspiring to convert the readers of this journal, I should like to present a view of the processes occurring in the developing world today, and of the Soviet and American roles in these processes-a view which is somewhat different from the one currently popular in the American press.


Everybody, including the members of the new American Administration, agrees that the present situation in the developing world is one of turmoil and tension. Zbigniew Brzezinski, with his unmatched ability to make theoretical discoveries out of the obvious, has invented an "arc of crisis" without ever understanding that the arc he has drawn from Bangladesh to Aden is nothing other than an element of the general geographic layout of developing countries. They form a crescent fringing two oceans-the Indian and the Pacific-and there is no less instability in its eastern sector (South and Central America) than in its western part.

As to the causes behind the instability, opinions differ. Many American theorists consider it to be principally due to the chaos and disorder engendered by the process of adjustment of the emergent nations to world realities, to the pains of growth, as well as to the "subversive activity" of socialist states to a greater or lesser degree (depending on the degree of the expert's anti-communism).

The Marxist explanation of the reasons for this instability is different. There is, to start with, a process of anti-neocolonialist revolution and an aspiration in most of the developing nations to gain economic as well as political independence. This is the second stage of the process of national and social-economic liberation from external dependence.

The first stage of this gigantic worldwide process, which can be described as the most important social and historical event of the latter half of the twentieth century, was the anticolonial revolution which unfolded in the Third World after World War II. The United States, as a nation which had no colonies to speak of, gradually accepted the trend for change: as a rule, it sought to dissociate itself from the old colonial powers and to take up the stand either of a well-wishing observer or one actively sympathizing with the national liberation movements. While taking up this stand the United States was actively capitalizing on its image as a power which had paved the way to liberation from colonialism through revolution.

While acting with relative caution with regard to the old colonial powers of Western Europe, the United States managed in the end to "intercept revolutions," that is, to fill, by its economic and, partly, military power, the "power vacuum" which, as John Foster Dulles put it, had appeared because of the breakup of colonial empires and the departure of the colonial powers. It was all the easier for the United States to do so because the emerging nations often regarded cementing their links with the United States as a way of casting off the economic fetters imposed by old colonialists, and as a way of obtaining the capital they needed for their development.

Direct U.S. private investment in developing countries, from 1945 to 1980, increased ten-fold, from four to 40 billion dollars, while U.S. economic and military aid to those countries amounted to about 200 billion dollars during the same period. But these figures do not express the full extent of U.S. infiltration into developing countries after World War II. Countless less conspicuous instruments of influence, from banking credits and managerial assistance all the way to the Peace Corps and aid in infrastructural development of backward nations, have all had their effect, in a stupendous reinforcement of the U.S. position in the Third World. By replacing the bullets of European colonialism with the dollars of neocolonialism, the United States has become virtually the supreme master in the vast zone of developing countries, the nation dictating to most of these nominally independent countries what economic and, consequently, political course (including that in foreign affairs) they must pursue.

However, while acting with a measure of flexibility and caution in many regions of the Third World, in Indochina from the 1950s onward the United States plunged first indirectly and then directly into a typical colonialist war. True, in the perception of American leaders that was not a colonial war, but something like a war of liberation against communism, necessitated by "geopolitical considerations." It was all the easier for them to present the war in Vietnam as one against communism because the national liberation and the communist movements in Vietnam were indeed merged: it was the communists who led the struggle for national liberation.

However, what the United States waged in Vietnam was not a purely local war. It set its sights higher. President John F. Kennedy, disappointed over the abortive operation in the Bay of Pigs, was staging in Vietnam what he actually intended as a large-scale experiment. He decided, as Walter Lippmann once aptly remarked, "to save the world from revolutionary wars"-to prove that if these wars broke out without U.S. sanction and contrary to its will, they were doomed to failure. Presidents Johnson and Nixon both carried on that experiment, designed, in their opinion, to teach a lesson once and for all to the national liberation movements around the world and to "world communism" as well.

Therefore, the failure of the American "lesson" in Vietnam had global, not just local, repercussions. The people of the developing countries, craving to get rid of U.S. neocolonialist domination but fearing to do so because of American might, learned from the example of Vietnam that the United States, even if it were not a paper tiger, was, in any event, a creature one could cope with.

At the Sixth Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly in April 1974, a group of 77 developing nations, which had sprung up earlier on, put forward the demand for a new world economic order-in other words, for new, equal economic relations between the industrial capitalist North and the developing South. A wave of nationalization of foreign, above all American, corporate property swept across the whole of the arc of the developing countries-from Chile at one end to Madagascar at the other. It enveloped over 40 countries of Latin America, Asia, the Arab world and Africa. This nationalization wave was directed toward reestablishing these countries' control over their own natural resources. In 1973 the Arab member countries of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) used the oil weapon for the first time in the struggle for their rights. Following the overthrow of the pro-American regime in South Vietnam there have been revolutionary changes in Laos, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iran and Nicaragua.

One can well presume theoretically that but for the American failure in Vietnam, the process of anti-American revolutions in the zone of developing countries would have been somewhat postponed. As it was, however, it was the United States itself that expedited the breakup of an unofficial American empire. So it has nobody but itself and nothing but its own policy to blame.


Washington's first reaction to the fiasco in Vietnam was a desire to get out of the war without losing face. President Nixon was prepared to pay a high price in order to achieve this (and thus assure his reelection to a second term).

With the publication of Nixon's and Kissinger's memoirs it has now become clear that the Nixon Administration at first regarded détente primarily as a means of cushioning the shock of a major foreign policy setback and winning a respite both in the international arena and on the home scene-in the face of powerful opposition to its course from the Left-by improving relations with the U.S.S.R. and China. As a matter of fact, such egotism and petty scheming in the approach to détente by its architects on the American side were embryonic of many of the subsequent complications in Soviet-American relations.

It was not Nixon's specific logic but the wider, social logic of détente-its successful initial dynamic and the mass support for the normalization of American-Soviet relations in the United States and all over the globe-that made the then Republican leadership in Washington revise its narrow view of détente, and approach it as a possible way of stabilizing Soviet-American relations on a long-term and sound basis. This is, in my view, what explains the sudden display of realism by the Nixon Administration-realism which was stimulated by the success of the first Soviet-American agreements, in particular the one on the basic principles of relations between the two countries and the first agreements on the limitation of strategic arms, SALT I, signed in Moscow in May 1972.

Nonetheless, the self-centered inner logic of the leaders in Washington, bent on establishing hegemony over others, manifested itself. They saw the further expansion and deepening of détente not along the line of equitable agreements based on mutually acceptable compromises, but rather in attempts to wrest from the Soviet Union greater concessions than those envisaged by the initial Soviet-American understanding and prompted by the true state of affairs. There was also the U.S. Administration's failure to honor its own share of the bargain, for instance in the Soviet-American trade agreement. Going beyond the limits of the package deal, the American leaders attempted in addition to extract from the U.S.S.R. foreign policy obligations which it could undertake neither on principle nor physically, if you will: the Soviet Union was asked to give a "guarantee" of the sociopolitical status quo in developing regions.

The logic behind such an approach on the part of the Administration and, subsequently, the entire American establishment was evidently as follows: The SALT I agreements formally codified the status quo in the Soviet-American strategic balance. The United States agreed to such a codification of the strategic parity in treaty form as a gesture of goodwill-retaining, however, a reserve for surpassing the U.S.S.R. And, Washington reasoned, the Soviet Union was bound to "reciprocate" by the obligation to support the sociopolitical status quo in the Third World. As Henry Kissinger has put it, more subtly: "In our minds efforts to reduce the danger of nuclear war by the control of arms had to be linked to an end of the constant Soviet pressure against the global balance of power."1

Inasmuch as the status quo in the Third World is mostly pro-American, as a consequence of U.S. economic domination, such an understanding wholly suited the United States. This was all the more so since, in the sphere of strategic armaments, Washington clearly also hoped to use the SALT process to "adjust" the balance in its favor by maintaining its lead in the qualitative perfection of these arms.

It is difficult to say now what gave the American leaders grounds to hope for such a linkage, which is out of the question from our point of view. Perhaps one of the reasons was Kissinger's idée fixe that the U.S.S.R. allegedly was no longer a revolutionary state and that it had "reached its Thermidor." Another probable explanation is that, contrary to stark facts and America's own experience (which refutes the primitive stereotype of ferment in the Third World as being inspired from the outside), American leaders and theorists nevertheless do want to believe in the idea of an "external communist push." This frees them from the need to look for the true causes of this ferment closer to American shores. Finally, due to their pragmatic mentality, American leaders cannot but think in the categories of a bargain, of "give and take" logic which tells them that inasmuch as the Soviets "by definition" are "responsible for troubles in the Third World," they can put an end to those troubles as their part of the "deal of détente."

Whatever the reasons for such an approach, it has been untenable from the very beginning. Even if it is assumed that certain agreements between great powers on the stabilization of the status quo in the zone of developing countries could take place, these would be eventually undone by the natural course of events, because change in the Third World-or "instability" in the parlance of American politicians-stems from the striving of peoples for economic and social liberation from the sway of American and other transnational corporations and other forms of dependence. Due to their objective character these processes are beyond the control of either the Soviet Union or the United States. If the U.S.S.R. has anything to do with the generation of these movements, it is only by the force of its example as a country which freed itself, in 1917, from neocolonialist exploitation by foreign capital, nationalized foreign property, and achieved impressive economic progress without outside aid.

With a view to precluding any American illusions that the SALT agreements could be exchanged for Soviet "guarantees of stability" in the Third World, the Soviet leaders stressed in the most unambiguous terms during their very first meeting with the U.S. President in Moscow in May 1972 that they did not sit down at the negotiating table with him in order to decide questions concerning other peoples and countries. They also made clear that, while concluding agreements on the normalization of relations with the United States, the Soviet Union nonetheless would continue to support the struggle of the peoples for their social and national liberation. This idea has subsequently been reiterated in public statements by Soviet leaders and in documents of the Soviet government.


American leaders pictured a deal along the lines of: We give you the status quo in strategic arms, and you give us the status quo in the Third World. When this did not materialize, they began to try other approaches, so as to enlist the Soviet Union in solving the problems of social and political stabilization in the zone of the developing countries. Two approaches gradually crystallized.

One of them could be called the approach of the large international American banks. Essentially they urged attempts to interest the Soviet Union economically in the status quo in the Third World. To this end they recommended that the U.S.S.R. be enlisted in the realization, together with the United States, of various joint economic ventures there. Should the U.S.S.R. take the bait of joint activity with a wealthy and efficient partner, argued the proponents of this approach, the problem of maintaining the status quo in the developing countries would be solved: the U.S.S.R. will, for the sake of its commercial interests, "contain the leftists" while we-Americans-will support the moderates, sometimes bringing to heel the ultrarightists, and this will clinch it all!

A broader and more recent variety of this approach was the idea of getting the U.S.S.R. into the North-South dialogue as one of the representatives of the "Northern club." Actually it was intended, by appealing to the great-power economic interests of the U.S.S.R., to discredit it by this very same great-powerism, to erase the distinction between the U.S.S.R. as a state bearing no responsibility for the colonial and post-colonial economic plunder of the developing world and those industrial Western nations that do bear such responsibility. That explains why this approach was doomed to failure from the outset. The U.S.S.R. will never agree to participate in undertakings directed at replacing some forms of neocolonial dependence of the developing countries with others. Yet this is exactly what is still the main objective of the United States and its Western partners in the North-South dialogue, whatever highfalutin declarations about "interdependence" are used to couch their proposals.

The mid-1970s saw the collapse of the last major colonial empire-that of Portugal. The Soviet Union, in line with its principled and long-standing position of supporting the real anticolonial revolutionary movement in Angola-the MPLA party led by Agostinho Neto-continued together with Cuba to help the MPLA consolidate its power in the country. The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, remembering the lessons of Vietnam and taking the position of Black Africa into account, decided to halt support to the other Angolan movements, FNLA and UNITA, correctly judging that these CIA-subsidized terrorist organizations had no chance of coming to power even with American backing.

Worried by Washington's inability to do anything practical in Angola to create a pro-American regime there, then Secretary of State Kissinger made up his mind to try a different approach for the sake of the same old "stabilization": to reach agreement with the U.S.S.R. on a division of spheres of influence. Kissinger's new approach was, by officially recognizing Eastern Europe as the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union, to try to confirm Western Europe, Africa and Latin America as the indisputable sphere of influence of the United States. Only thus could one assess the so-called Sonnenfeldt Doctrine, formulated by Mr. Kissinger's close associate in December 1975 at a special meeting in London of American diplomats and immediately (though clearly not unknowingly to the architects of the doctrine) leaked to the press.

In response to this kind of great-power maneuver, Moscow unambiguously made clear to Washington that no ideas regarding the division of the world into spheres of influence could be acceptable to the U.S.S.R. It was also authoritatively stated that, as always, the Soviet Union would identify itself with the struggle of the peoples for their national and social liberation, and would continue to give support to developing countries in their efforts to consolidate their independence.

In 1977 a new, third approach of Washington to the same problem took shape, the approach of Mr. Brzezinski. Describing the previous U.S. approach of stabilizing the situation in the Third World as dictated by historical pessimism, Brzezinski suggested his own "optimistic" approach. His optimism lay in the assertion that the United States should ignore the U.S.S.R. and its interests altogether. The Soviet Union, declared Brzezinski, should be entirely removed from the solution of problems concerning the developing countries. These problems should be solved through the collective power of a united Western world ("trilateralism"), laying down tough conditions for the developing countries.

For the Soviet Union the question was formulated even more toughly: "We are challenging the Soviets," declared Mr. Brzezinski, "to cooperate with us [i.e., to join cooperation with the South according to the rules of the game imposed on the latter by the capitalist North] or run the risk of becoming historically irrelevant to the great issues of our time."2 In other words, history temporarily found itself in the hands of the presidential adviser, who, like the well-known character of Russian satirical literature who gave an order to "close America," threatened to exclude a country of 260 million people from participation in the historical process! (I should add that in examining the causes of the sharp worsening of Soviet-American relations at the end of the 1970s, American analysts somehow tend to overlook the impact of this "diplomatic" style of the Carter Administration on the course of the bilateral dialogue.)

The White House under Carter did indeed rhetorically "exclude" the Soviet Union from American foreign policy. Paradoxically, this dramatic "exclusion" yielded the opposite result. Washington's entire foreign policy proved in the end to be subordinated to just one all-embracing idea: how to undercut the Soviet Union, how to make its life more difficult, how to pit the U.S.S.R. against Western Europe, the U.S.S.R. against the developing countries, and so forth. This maniacal idea of "excluding" the U.S.S.R. whenever possible led to the advancement of another "bold" idea of Mr. Brzezinski-a proposal that the United States of America should engage itself in the process of change in the developing countries in order to shape and direct it. In other words, the question was again of "excluding" the Soviet Union as an alternative source of support for Third World countries embarking on the path of radical transformations.

But to have your cake and eat it too-to try to perpetuate a pro-American status quo in the Third World while scaring the American man in the street with an "arc of instability," and simultaneously to direct a process of change the essence of which is to destroy this status quo-proved an impossible task. When the revolution in Iran brought the very first touch with real changes (and not "changes" à la Sadat, aimed at restoring the prerevolutionary status quo), the instinctive reaction of Mr. Brzezinski, as the then U.S. Ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, attests, was a call to the Shah and later to the military to suppress the revolution.3

It is as a result of the Iranian experience that the Carter Doctrine came into being, which the President himself hypocritically tried to explain by the "lesson of Afghanistan." Yet actually it all stemmed from the sad Iranian experience for the United States, because the Carter Doctrine represented an attempt to "protect the status quo against internal upheavals or intraregional attacks."4 In other words, having come full circle, the policy of the White House returned from "controlling the process of change" to the traditional line of resisting change with the help of military force, for which appropriate instruments are being created in the shape of a Rapid Deployment Force and so on.

The renewed U.S. emphasis on the instruments of military power not only frightened many developing countries, but also contradicted President Carter's initial conception of reconstructing relations with the South on the basis of a reform of economic relations within the framework of the continued dialogue on the New International Economic Order (NIEO). As a result, North-South negotiations on the NIEO landed at an impasse, and the Third World showed increasing resistance to a U.S. policy aimed at restricting the scope of maneuver for developing states. And this can be traced in a great number of recent examples-from the positions Islamabad and Riyadh took toward the United States, to the reaction of Latin American states to American military assistance to the Salvadoran junta. All those states that in the White House schema were to be the key strongpoints for U.S. policy in the Third World-the "new influentials" like India, Indonesia, Algeria, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina-proved to be in opposition to U.S. policy.

The strengthening of the elements of negativism and great-power self-interest in U.S. policy concerning developing countries did not escape the attention of Washington's closest allies among the industrial nations of the world, either. Both the West European countries and Japan were seriously alarmed by Carter's line. For this reason, in the last few years these countries have assiduously, albeit cautiously, been putting forward their own alternatives to the American policy toward developing states. Evidence of this are such diverse initiatives as the Fukuda Doctrine (recently reaffirmed by Premier Zenko Suzuki) to provide economic aid to developing nations in Southeast Asia, the Middle East initiative of the European Common Market countries to involve the Palestinians in the settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute, the latest initiatives of Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and even, if you like, the work of the Brandt Commission itself on North-South relations.

For all the differences in these approaches, they are united by the search for and advancement of an alternative to Washington's policy, and by continued emphasis on the solution of the problems between the North and the South by economic and political means. Just as the United States once used the crisis of colonialism to improve its positions in the Third World at the expense of its West European allies and Japan, so the latter are now seeking to use the crisis of U.S. neocolonialism in order to try and regain some of their lost ground, taking advantage of the political and economic leverage that takes the negative aspects of America's experience into account.


The refusal of the Carter Administration to carry on a constructive American-Soviet dialogue (except in the sphere of strategic armaments); the theoretical ranking of relationships with the U.S.S.R. as almost the last among the American foreign policy priorities; the effort to remove the Soviet Union from peaceful settlement of conflict situations even in regions that lie in the immediate vicinity of its borders (recall the fate of the Joint Soviet-American Statement on the Middle East issued on October 2, 1977); the intensified buildup of the U.S. naval presence near the U.S.S.R.'s southern borders; the dragging on of the SALT II ratification, which was accompanied by an active drive to modernize American strategic weapons and NATO armaments; and finally the use of the "China card" in the attempt to bring pressure to bear on the U.S.S.R.-all these actions could not but affect Soviet assessments of the strategic situation. That is why the introduction of a limited Soviet troop contingent into Afghanistan in December 1979 should be considered not only in the context of Soviet aid to the revolutionary regime in that country at the latter's request, but also in a broader geopolitical context, taking into account corresponding military moves by the United States and China.

It goes without saying that Washington's new emphasis on military force-and all those actions which Moscow could not define as anything but the striving of the United States to overcome the American-Soviet parity in strategic armaments by establishing regional military superiority-have aggravated American-Soviet relations. This, in turn, could not but influence the situation in the regions of developing countries. Tension increased as a result of the escalation of U.S. military activity in the Indian Ocean and the Far and Middle East, and because of the intensification of American attempts to prevent by force of arms any changes in the socioeconomic status quo in the regions which Washington has announced to be areas of its "vital interests."

The American mass media have presented all these U.S. actions as a response to a "Soviet military challenge." Meanwhile, the Soviet Union has not posed any military challenge to the United States in the zone of developing countries. Rather, the process taking place there reflects the competition between two social systems, for the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America represent alternative models of social and economic development. In the post-colonial world of the developing countries, which is mostly filled with American economic and military might, any attempt to get free from the American embrace inevitably means turning for aid and support (as a minimum, moral support) to the side which is the alternative to the United States. The Soviet Union-and in a broader context, the community of socialist nations as a whole-is precisely such a side.

The ruling parties and leaders in many developing countries are attracted by the socialist methods of management based on democratic centralism, by the state-run system of the utilization of resources on the principle of centralized planning, by agricultural cooperation, an efficient approach to the solution of the nationalities question and many other features of Soviet experience. This is recognized even by those American theorists who hold obviously anti-Soviet views. Thus, Zbigniew Brzezinski said, for example: "For many of the developing countries undergoing very rapid change Marxism, Communism, offer what appears to them a relevant intellectual framework."5

What is more, contrary to the exaggerations spread in the West, the Soviet military presence in the regions of developing countries (in the form of military advisers) is maintained in a very few countries and is limited to a small number of servicemen (with the exception of the temporary presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, which has been caused by extraordinary circumstances). Also, a Soviet military presence is not the main component of the Soviet policy of aid and support with respect to developing countries. The pivot of Soviet aid policy is assistance to the countries which appeal to the Soviet Union in making their industries and agriculture work, organizing economic management, and developing their culture, health care and education.

At present, the Soviet Union cooperates with almost 70 developing countries in the economic, scientific and technological fields on the basis of intergovernmental agreements. The U.S.S.R. is helping these countries in the construction and expansion of 1,050 industrial and other national projects. The means provided by the U.S.S.R. are mostly channeled into the development of industry and power engineering. Between 1960 and 1977, the Soviet exports of complete sets of equipment to the developing countries increased nearly nine-fold-from 64 to 560 million rubles.6 As a result, the enterprises built with Soviet assistance account for over 40 percent of pig iron and approximately 30 percent of steel production in Afro-Asian countries. Thus, the economic aid of the Soviet Union facilitates the creation of the economic foundation for the independent development of newly free nations and consolidates their positions in the battle against American and other transnational corporations.

In short, representing the competing social systems, the U.S.S.R. and the United States are, as a rule, at opposite poles in their relations with developing countries, which is due to their systemic or class solidarity, and this process tends to grow more acute, rather than smooth out. A number of circumstances precondition this sharpening.

First, with the growth of the economic might of the U.S.S.R., its capacity to give economic, scientific and technological aid to developing countries is increasing. Those in the West who now accuse the Soviet Union of insufficient assistance to the Third World inwardly fear, I am sure, precisely the growth of this assistance, along with the buildup of the U.S.S.R.'s economic potential. Furthermore, Soviet aid has no neocolonialist strings attached, as is usually the case with the economic assistance of industrialized Western states. As to the Soviet Union's possibilities of helping newly free countries in strengthening their defenses, they are growing, too, in an analogous manner.

The massive transfers of Soviet military hardware at the most generous financial terms and the assistance rendered by Soviet military specialists helped to build up the impressive military potential of Egypt and Syria that made it possible for them to counter Israeli military force with their own. After the 1973 war in the Middle East, Soviet military aid helped to compensate for wartime losses of the Arabs and also to build up Iraq's defenses. Soviet military assistance to the liberation movements of such countries as Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola helped the people of those countries to win battles against the Portuguese colonialists, thus bringing closer the arrival of their freedom. Military supplies by the U.S.S.R. played an important part in building up the defense potential of India. Generally speaking, Soviet military aid to the many newly free countries of Asia and Africa contributes to strengthening their capability to thwart outside aggression and develop their national armed forces.

Second, the striving to ensure their accelerated social and industrial development prompts Third World countries to choose a socialist orientation or, at least, assume a more radical stand in their confrontation with the United States. By and large, the Third World, as Fouad Ajami justly noted in a recent article in this journal, shifts from more moderate leaders to left-wing radicals.7 This is a result not of "Moscow's intrigues," but of the efforts of these countries to shake off the fetters of neocolonialism, above all to free themselves from the technological neocolonialism of the United States.

Third, Washington's new emphasis on the instruments of military pressure cannot but engender growing opposition to the United States among developing nations and tilt them further toward the U.S.S.R. and the entire community of socialist nations as a system counterbalancing and neutralizing the military pressure brought to bear by the United States and some other Western states.

Fourth and last, the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America find themselves, more frequently than in the past, on "different sides of the barricades" in the Third World-and not only in the context of the alternative models of development they represent. This makes the problem of settling crisis situations in the developing world all the more urgent. The fact that the U.S.S.R. shows solidarity with the just struggle of developing nations does not mean that it is against efforts, including those taken on the diplomatic front, with a view to ensuring peaceful solutions to the problems that arise. This attitude on the part of the Soviet Union stands in contrast to the current approach of American politicians and specialists who place military solutions above all others.


On that score the gist of recommendations by experts in the Republican Party can be summed up in one sentence: the danger of a conflict breaking out and involving the United States and the U.S.S.R. will be less likely only if the United States holds positions of strength both in the sphere of the central military balance and in the developing regions. Since the problem of the central balance is outside the scope of this article, I can only note that the very idea of preponderance runs counter to the one on which the SALT process is based, i.e., the concept of parity. Speaking about regional situations I find this thesis untenable for the following reason: it is based on the assumption that the chief aim of Soviet foreign policy in the developing regions-particularly Southwest Asia and the Middle East-is military expansion and at the first opportunity "cutting the jugular vein" of the United States and the West, i.e., the lanes of supply of Middle Eastern oil. Although this assumption is absurd, it is hard to refute it in such a way as to put an end to any further speculation on it. It is like the famous question: "When will you stop beating your wife?" The person who asks this question is convinced that the husband does beat his wife, no matter what the latter's reply might be. The strength of the paranoiac "system of coordinates" lies in the fact that everything is logical within it, while the axiom serving as a point of departure is taken for granted, as in geometry.

Yet, it should be noted, at least by those who are capable of thinking rationally, that the Soviet Union does not need Middle Eastern oil, since the U.S.S.R. is a country that exports large quantities of energy raw materials; moreover, it is prepared to increase substantially these exports to the West (which, inter alia, is something that Washington is making great efforts to prevent). Moreover, no strategic military considerations can force the Soviet Union to extend its borders 1,000 kilometers southward to such a highly explosive region (yet this is exactly what an alleged thrust of Soviet divisions to the Middle East would imply). Finally, all those who might plan such a "thrust" realize full well that it would certainly lead to rapid escalation of a Soviet-American conflict in that region to a nuclear level. The price of Arab oil thus obtained could bear no comparison with the price (consequences) of a strategic nuclear war for this oil. Consequently, the main argument of those who claim that the U.S. military buildup in the Middle East is the best way to avert a Soviet-American conflict does not hold water, because it completely disregards the real situation.

For all the hopes which Washington is pinning on American armed forces (even if they are used only as an instrument of political pressure) to maintain a status quo in the Third World, this policy is not an answer to the social and economic problems of the developing countries. And it is these problems-not the actions of the Soviet Union-which are at the core of the U.S. worries, though few Americans are conscious of this. The developing nations, for their part, have become increasingly aware of a direct relationship between disarmament and development. The course of events in Pakistan, Iran and Chile made them realize that the intensification of the arms race and the spending of vast sums on imported arms lead to social stagnation, regression and increasing domination by external forces. Consequently, the U.S. policy of encouraging militarization of the developing countries will exacerbate conflicts, aggravate social instability and, in the long run, cause revolutions (the revolutions in Nicaragua and Iran bear this out), or at least provoke actions against the transnational and other symbols of American domination.

Washington will hardly gain anything from employing the gimmick of labeling liberation movements and whole countries of the Third World as "terrorist bodies." The most surprising thing is that Washington already tried this approach some time ago not only in propaganda but in practice as well, and it shamefully failed. It is common knowledge that the American use of "a special war" to suppress national liberation movements was based exactly on the premise that these were terrorist movements and the moment the United States created special counterterrorist (i.e., counterinsurgent) forces they would have the problem solved. Is it conceivable that the experience of Vietnam-and more specifically, the failure of Operation Phoenix-taught nothing to the American generals, or at least to those now turned politicians?

In short, the policy of increasing American military presence as a means of stabilizing the situation in the developing countries and ensuring "a final solution" to all problems created by the revolutionary movements will undoubtedly fail, just as all the previous attempts made by Washington to settle political, social and economic problems in the Third World by force have failed.


Can any "code of conduct" of the Soviet Union and the United States in the Third World lessen their confrontation on an international scale? If this means establishing spheres of influence or spheres of special interests, then such a "code" is unacceptable to the Soviet Union. On the other hand, if such a code means basing relations with the developing countries on generally recognized norms of international law, then the Soviet Union is quite ready and willing to abide by it. These norms necessarily include the recognition of the right of every people to govern their own affairs, the obligation to respect the sovereignty of each state over its natural resources, and the readiness to honor the status of non-alignment which these countries choose.

At the same time it is obvious that elaboration of certain more specific rules of conduct stands little practical chance of success in view of the objective factors leading to revolutionary changes in the Third World, and in light of the conflicting evaluations given to these phenomena by the capitalist and socialist countries, by the United States and the Soviet Union in this particular case. Their conflicting appraisals give rise to the opposing political stands these countries hold with regard to their support for different social forces and movements in the Third World, and the sociopolitical polarization of that world.

Can foreign policy restraint on the part of the two great powers help abolish the sources of tension and alleviate their confrontation? In principle, it can. Under the June 1973 Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, the Soviet Union and the United States undertook "to act in such a manner as to prevent the development of situations capable of causing a dangerous exacerbation of their relations." However, as experience shows, it is very difficult for one side to show restraint when the other side is inclined to interpret such restraint as weakness which can and should be exploited.

To stabilize the world situation, the Soviet Union in the 1970s worked for the decisions of the United Nations and other international documents to record certain principles of the conduct of states on the world stage. In particular, the Soviet Union suggested that all countries gear their actions in all regions of the world to the interests of détente. However, for this principle to be translated into deeds, it is first of all necessary to have détente. As for détente, it is inconceivable without at least normal Soviet-U.S. relations.

Only if a minimum of understanding and cooperation exists between the two countries will it be possible to radically improve the situation in the world as a whole and its individual regions by the joint constructive efforts of states. However, now that Washington is bent on an overall confrontation with the Soviet Union, any Soviet proposal, even the most reasonable one, for improving the situation in one region or another is immediately interpreted as a "pretext and cover that might be used for a future Soviet intervention."8

The question of settling Soviet-U.S. relations as the main prerequisite for easing international tension was raised most resolutely by Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In the report he made to the 26th CPSU Congress in Moscow in February, Leonid Brezhnev said that the acuteness of today's international situation necessitates an active Soviet-U.S. dialogue at all levels, including at the summit. This is understandable, since the aggravation of the situation is largely due to the Washington-Moscow understanding having been undermined by the Carter Administration, which, as I have noted above, ostentatiously gave these relations last place on the scale of its foreign policy priorities. In his report to the CPSU Congress Leonid Brezhnev stressed that "the military and strategic equilibrium between the U.S.S.R. and the United States of America, between the Warsaw Treaty and NATO is, objectively, a safeguard of world peace."9 That is why the limiting and reduction of the strategic arms of the Soviet Union and the United States should play an exceptionally important role in maintaining stability in the world.

The U.S. Senate and the Administration have now blocked the SALT II treaty, alleging that it does not meet the national interests of the United States. Of course, it is not for a Moscow observer to judge America's national interests. However, some people in the United States apparently do not realize that the SALT I and SALT II agreements are a kind of nonaggression pact between the Soviet Union and the United States. These treaties go much further than traditional nonaggression pacts, which set forth the commitment not to attack the other side only as a solemn pledge. As regards the SALT treaties, the tacit commitment not to attack each other, although it is not formulated in so many words, rests on a solid material foundation, which was not the case with any "classical" nonaggression pacts. This foundation is the legally fixed parity of the main, i.e., strategic, arms of the sides. In this way, the recorded configuration of the strategic offensive and defensive arms, guaranteeing each side the possibility of dealing a crushing retaliatory blow if the other side undertook an attack, is the main factor of stability. People shaping and conducting U.S. foreign policy, lawyers in particular, who now shout about a "Soviet threat," would do well to ponder this.

As for interaction between the Soviet Union, the United States and other countries in crisis situations, the main thing, as the 26th CPSU Congress stressed, is not merely to extinguish military conflicts after the hostilities have started, but to prevent the emergence of the sources of war, to defuse explosive situations before they break out.

It is generally recognized that today the Middle East is the most dangerous area of conflict in the developing world. The protracted Iraqi-Iranian conflict, Arab-Israeli confrontation resulting systematically in combat operations in southern Lebanon, etc.-each such situation is fraught with the potential for a major war erupting. To prevent further backsliding toward a major war, the Soviet Union suggests returning to an honest collective search for a Middle East settlement on a fair and realistic basis with the participation of all interested sides, including the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. In this respect the United States and the Soviet Union have some experience in cooperation, which was unilaterally disrupted by the White House in favor of the Camp David deal, although that has brought neither any benefits to the United States nor stability to the region.

The 26th CPSU Congress also reiterated Soviet proposals for normalizing the Persian Gulf situation on the basis of an international agreement which would guarantee the sovereign rights of the states of the region and the safety of sea lanes and other routes there. More than that, to disperse the ungrounded assertions about "a growing Soviet military threat to Persian Gulf oil," which are being peddled in connection with the stay of the Soviet military contingent in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union put forward several variant proposals for settling the problems of the Middle East and Southwest Asia. The Soviet Union is ready to negotiate on the Persian Gulf as a separate issue, and it is also ready to participate in settling the situation around Afghanistan as a specific issue. At the same time the Soviet Union has expressed its readiness, if the West reciprocates, to solve the international questions connected with Afghanistan in linkage with Persian Gulf security matters. The Soviet Union is very flexible in its approach to these problems because it really wants to abolish today's conflicts and sources of tension, and to prevent new ones from arising.

The continuing stormy events in the Third World, generated by the objective process of development, specifically by the newly free countries' struggle for an equal place under the sun, are inevitable. This process has developed and will develop against the background of the continuing competition between the two world systems, the capitalist and the socialist, for influence on its course and outcome. It is only an unbiased and business-like approach of all non-local forces to the political settlement of acute crisis situations arising in this zone that can ensure their not leading to the military involvement of great powers, to another world war.

1 Henry Kissinger, White House Years, Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1979, p. 1250.

2 "The New Challenge to Russia," U.S. News and World Report, May 30, 1977, p. 35.

4 Walter J. Levy, "Oil and the Decline of the West," Foreign Affairs, Summer 1980, p. 1010.

5 The Washington Post, October 10, 1977.

6 K.N. Brutents, Newly Free Countries in the 1970s, Moscow: Politizdat Publishers, 1979, p. 135.

8 Albert Wohlstetter, "Half-Wars and Half-Policies in the Persian Gulf" in National Security in the 1980's: From Weakness to Strength, W. Scott Thompson, ed., San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1980, p. 138.

9 Pravda, February 24, 1981.


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  • Henry (Genrikh Alexandrovich) Trofimenko heads the department for the study of U.S. foreign policy in the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. He is the author of a number of books and numerous articles on U.S. foreign policy and on Soviet-American relations.
  • More By Henry Trofimenko