Moscow's Post-Brezhnev Reassessment of the Third World

by Francis Fukuyama

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This report analyzes the reassessment of policy toward the Third World that has been taking place in high Soviet leadership circles since the end of the Brezhnev era. It is divided into two main parts: (1) a survey of the theoretical discussion that has been taking place in speeches by Soviet leaders, official statements, articles in journals specializing in Third World issues, and elsewhere; and (2) a comparison of what the Soviets have been saying about the Third World with their actual behavior over the same time period, and a discussion of the potential consequences of the current reassessment for future Soviet policy. The report identifies three primary themes running through recent Soviet discussions of the Third World, all of which imply the need for a retrenchment from the activist policies of the mid- to late 1970s: (1) the pressure of economic constraints and the need to attend to the Soviet Union's own economic development; (2) an awareness of the damaging effect of past Soviet Third World activities on U.S.-Soviet relations, and the fact that increased superpower tension inhibits Moscow's ability to support progressive forces in the Third World; and (3) a critique of the Marxist-Leninist vanguard party as a solution to the problem of securing long-term influence in the Third World.

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