The Soviet Union in the Third World

A Retrospective Overview and Prognosis

by Harry Gelman

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To analyze the prospects for Soviet policy in the Third World during the Gorbachev era, this paper traces the Soviet history of involvement with Third World countries since Stalin — involvement that has conditioned Soviet behavior to this day — and examines that behavior in the present world configuration. The author concludes that over the years many Soviet weaknesses have manifested themselves through Soviet Third World policy, and that recent setbacks have chastened the Soviet mood toward the Third World. However, the momentum of inherited policy interests seems to constrain Gorbachev's future options, so that Soviet language has changed much more than behavior.

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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