U.S.-Soviet Interactions in the Third World

by Francis Fukuyama

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The Third World is the only arena where the United States has actually engaged in military conflicts since 1945, and remains the most likely venue for future U.S.-Soviet confrontation. While future U.S.-Soviet interaction in the Third World will look similar to what has occurred in the past, with the Soviet Union and its allies seeking to change a status quo that is backed by the United States, this paper argues that the United States and the Soviet Union are in the process of reversing roles in the Third World in certain key respects, and that consequently superpower interactions there are likely to differ from those of the past. The chief issue for future U.S. policy in the Third World will be how best to deal with Soviet clients like Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua, and how to manage challenges to the Soviet-supported status quo.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Occasional paper (Soviet) series. The occasional paper series was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1985 to 1992. It included the occasional paper education (OPE) and occasional paper Soviet (OPS), which was issued jointly by the RAND/UCLA Center for Soviet Studies (CSS) to facilitate the exchange of ideas among those who shared the research interests of the Center and of scholars participating in its research and seminar programs.

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