The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War

By Raymond L. Garthoff | Go to book overview

15
Competition in the Third World

AN APPARENT SHARPENING of the competition between the superpowers in the Third World in the second half of the 1970s was one of the most important factors in the collapse of détente.1 The Soviet Union, not without reason, saw a continuing very active American role in that competition. But more significant in its impact on their relationship was the American perception, also not without reason, of an increasingly active and expansionist policy by the Soviet Union. The U.S. concern, however, prompted an exaggerated response. In the 1980s, the Soviet presence markedly diminished while the U.S. role increased. A closer look at the perceptions of the two sides and the realities of their competition in the Third World in the 1980s is now appropriate.


The Haig Doctrine, 1981-82

President Reagan entered office with the conviction that "the Soviet Union underlies all the unrest that is going on" in the world. Secretary of State Haig, while far more knowledgeable about world politics, also had a simplified and magnified image of the Soviet Union's exploitation of circumstances and situations around the world for its own advantage. Moreover, for other reasons too, Haig placed the subject of Soviet involvement and expansion of influence in the Third World at the center of American-Soviet relations.2

____________________
1
See the discussion in Raymond L. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relation from Nixon to Reagan, rev. ed. ( Brookings, 1994), chapters 7, 8, 11, 15, 19.
2
See the discussion in chapter 1.

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