Soviet Civil-Military Relations and the Power Projection Mission

by Francis Fukuyama

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This report considers ways that the Soviet Union's policy toward the Third World has been a factor in its civil-military relations. The report pieces together what we know about evolving Soviet military views on the Third World and tests the hypothesis that the military as an institution was in some way an advocate of intervention after the early 1970s. The author (1) provides a brief overview of the mechanics of Soviet decisionmaking on the Third World and of ways in which the military fits into the picture; (2) traces the ascending curve of military interest in the Third World, beginning with the Soviet Navy's pursuit of bases in the 1960s and the development by the early 1970s of the concept of a "liberating mission" for the Soviet armed forces as a whole; (3) discusses the subsequent downplaying of the "liberating mission" under the military leadership that assumed control in 1976; (4) analyzes the effect of the invasion of Afghanistan on the military's view of intervention in general and on civil-military relations; and (5) provides an overview of the evolution in Soviet military thinking about the Third World. The author concludes that Soviet military views of the Third World do not fit a simple pattern and that they represent a point of view on Third World issues distinct from that of the political leadership.

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