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The Soviet Union, China and the West in Southern Africa

Courtesy Reuters

Like Henry Kissinger, most American commentators have interpreted the Soviet intervention in Angola almost solely as an extension of Soviet cold war competition with the West into Africa. In this perspective the outcome in Angola has been viewed as a major gain for the Soviet Union against the West, with the Russians capitalizing on the American disadvantage in its years of support for Portugal. With the South African intervention against the Soviet-backed liberation movement, the Russians also scored an important "diplomatic triumph," as the Organization of African Unity swung around to overwhelming support for the Soviet protégé, against the Angolan leaders who had called in the South Africans. In all this the United States and the West were the big losers.

While this interpretation contains some elements of truth, it is an inadequate framework for analysis of what actually happened in Angola and what may now be in immediate

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