The Soviet Attitude to Political and Social Change in Central America, 1979-90: Case-Studies on Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala

By Danuta Paszyn | Go to book overview

5
The Impact of Gorbachev’s Policy of Perestroika and ‘New Thinking’ on Soviet–Nicaraguan Relations

In order to understand the effects of Gorbachev’s policy of Perestroika on Soviet–Nicaraguan relations it is necessary to look first not only at the impact of this policy on USSR–Third World relations in general, but also how the ‘new political thinking’ had itself been shaped by broader national-security and domestic economic concerns.

When Mikhail Gorbachev assumed the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985, he inherited, as one observer described it, an ‘exhausted empire’. 1 Though the Soviet Union still ranked as a superpower with a formidable military arsenal, its economy was in a shambles averaging just below 2 per cent GNP growth per annum between 1981 and 1985. 2

After decades of trying to catch up with the West in a wide range of fields, and having succeeded in establishing itself as a global power, 3 the Soviet Union was faced at the beginning of the 1980s with the prospect of stagnation and declining economic growth. The expansion of economic problems and the technology gap between the Soviet Union and the West suggested a decreasing ability of the Soviet economy to support the basic needs of its own people, and to ensure military security as well as the global standing of the Soviet state in the twenty-first century.

Disillusionment and a feeling of betrayal by Marxist-Leninist predictions that capitalism was on the brink of collapse and socialism in the lead was felt among a number of Soviet analysts and policy-makers when they finally conceded that not capitalism but the Soviet model of socialism was in decay. To quote Alexander Bovin, the well-

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