The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview
70.
Pravda, July 5, 1990.
71.
Ibid.

42 The USSR and the
Third World in the 1980's

DAVID E. ALBRIGHT

Virtually all Western analysts today agree that Soviet policy toward the Third World has changed during the 1980's, but they differ widely in their assessments of the extent and meaning of the policy shifts. One group argues that although Moscow's policy has undergone some modification, the Soviet approach to the Third World remains fundamentally the same as before. However, members of this group disagree as to which factors explain this perceived continuity. Some trace it back to tsarist policies that have been reinforced in the Soviet era. 1 Others view it as the product of lingering ideological commitments on the part of the Soviet elite. 2 Still others see it in terms of recurrent patterns of Soviet behavior toward developing areas. 3

A second group asserts that the alterations in Soviet policy reflect a basic change in the Soviet approach to the Third World, yet there is also no unanimity within this group about the reasons for the shift. Some maintain that it has resulted from the declining impact of ideology on Soviet perceptions of the Third World. 4 Others contend that it has stemmed essentially from domestic considerations—particularly the need to improve the performance of the USSR's economy. 5

In addressing these issues, however, analysts tend to ignore some major new developments. In the last decade, the number of distinct Soviet schools of thought about what policy the USSR should pursue toward the Third World has multiplied significantly. The top Soviet leadership, in contrast with earlier periods, has not endorsed a single school of thought exclusively. Finally, the USSR's behavior in the Third World has combined elements of the policy prescriptions of all of the contending schools of persuasion, and the mix has varied substantially from region to region. Each of these developments, it should be stressed, antedates Mikhail Gorbachev's advent to power.

These changes have important implications. Moreover, these implications relate not just to the nature of policy but to the nature of policy formulation as well.

-492-

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