The Decline of the Soviet Union and the Transformation of the Middle East

By David H. Goldberg; Paul Marantz | Go to book overview

2
"New Political Thinking"
and Soviet Policy
Toward Regional Conflict
in the Middle East: The Gulf Wars

Stephen Page

The ideas that have come to be known as "new political thinking" in Soviet foreign policy were formulated as an attempt to manage the impending decline of Soviet capabilities (compared to those of the United States and the West in general) in such a way as to leave the U.S.S.R. with great power roles to play in the world but with reduced expenditure of resources. Foreign policy was acknowledged to be dominated by domestic considerations, the most important of which was the need to revive the Soviet economy; this was thought to require the help of the advanced industrial states, which in turn could be assured only by the creation of a stable international environment.

New political thinking affected all aspects of Soviet foreign policy, but much of it was related either explicitly or indirectly to Soviet policy regarding regional conflict in the Third World. New thinkers accepted the fact and implications of the security dilemma in Third World regions and adopted the view that security must be mutual. 1 This ruled out military solutions to disputes in favor of political, negotiated solutions that reflected a balance of interests among disputing parties. It was possible to favor political solutions because mainstream opinion now accepted that conflict (whether inter-state or intra-state) stemmed largely from indigenous factors--ethnic cleavages, religion, tribalism, and/or nationalism. The old explanations--colonialism and imperialism--were played down by the new thinkers. Deideologizatsiia was the order of the day.

This change in official thinking not only legitimized the pragmatism that has usually been at the base of Soviet Third World policy but also positively encouraged Moscow's abandonment of national liberation and socialist ori

-28-

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