Foreign Policy under Khruzhchev
Foreign Policy under Gorbachev

Era Brezhnev, 1964-1985

The policy of DESTALINIZATION had not only resulted in political liberalization, it had alienated allies (China) and had emboldened satellite peoples to revolt (Hungary 1956). In 1962 Kryzhchev's policy of installing Soviet missiles on Cuba had almost caused a war.
Khruzhchev's successor LEONID BREZHNEV believed that the USSR had to return to a foreign policy of strength, in order to stabilize the international situation. When reformists took over in Czechoslovakia in 1968, Brehnev ordered Warsaw Pact forces to invade to fight the 'counterrevolution'. He issued the BREZHNEV DOCTRINE, justifying invasions in such a case.
In the same year a border confrontation erupted with China, on the Amur and Ussuri river as well as on the Central Asian border with China. It was a war of ideological confrontation, not a conflict over territory. Yet the breach seemed insurmountable; from now on there were two rival communist camps. Both were trying to establish their own networks of alliances. ALBANIA withdrew from the Warsaw Pact, siding with China.
The USSR continued to economically support CUBA, NORTH KOREA and NORTH VIETNAM, the onject of the policy being to present these as successful role models, to be imitated by other ex-colonies. Many newly independent, ex-colonial countries sympathized with the USSR; many organizations fighting for independence got their weapons from the USSR or Czechoslovakia.
When the new administration in the FRG pursued the OSTPOLITIK (policy of Detente), the USSR reacted positively, perhaps hoping to draw the FRG away from the western camp. As GDR party chief and de facto head of state Walter Ulbricht opposed the Ostpolitik, Moscow ordered his retirement. The MOSCOW TREATY was signed with the FRG; the USSR accepted the invitation to the CSCE CONFERENCE !1973), signed the CSCE protocol (1975). Further CSCE conferences were held, among them BELGRADE 1977. SALT I (1972) and SALT II (1979) were signed to limit the arms race, which caused high, unproductive investment.
The ARMS RACE continued, and in the mid 1970es the USSR installed the SS 20 MISSILES in Eastern Central Europe, a threat to much of Western Europe, especially to the FRG; FRG chancellor Helmut Schmidt would ask his American NATO partners to counteract this move by developing missiles of similar range.
The OIL CRISIS had its effect on Russia, which, as an oil-producing nation, had to supply many of its satellites with cheap oil in order to prevent socialism from collapsing there.
The Cold War was 'cold' in Europe and East Asia, but there were numerous hot conflicts in the third world which were side-shows of the Cold War. The VIETNAM WAR ended with the US withdrawal in 1973 and the unification of the country under communist rule in 1975, the USSR being involved only indirectly, massively supporting the north. In 1973 Egypt expelled Soviet advisers and soon switched to a US alliance; on the other hand, ETHIOPIA, after a coup d'etat, switched from a US to a Soviet alliance. Ethiopia's enemies, the independence fighters of ERITREA and OGADEN and SOMALIA, hitherto Soviet allies and communist, suddenly lost Soviet support.
In the Portuguese colonies of ANGOLA and MOCAMBIQUE, communist independence fighters (MPLA, FRELIMO) were supplied by the Soviets with arms. The USSR avoided to get involved directly, and had Angolans support the independence fighters instead. After both countries gained independence in 1974 and the communists had taken over, they now faced independence fighters supported by South Africa (UNITA, RENAMO); USSR and Cuban engagement continued. In 1979, Soviet troops, at the invitation of the country's president, invaded AFGHANISTAN (they executed the president immediately after arrival, giving credibility to the invitation). They established a socialist administration, now facing numerous rebel groups which were supported by the USA and Pakistan. In 1979 Vietnamese troops occupied Cambodia (Vietnam being a Soviet, Cambodia a Chinese ally) and installed a pro-Vietnamese government (and also ended the "Killing Fields").
US president Jimmy Carter announced the West would boycott the 1980 summer olympics to be held in Moscow. In return, the Soviet block would boycott the summer Olympics to be held in Los Angeles. The cold war had turned colder again; Afghanistan turned out to become "Russia's Vietnam". US president RONALD REAGAN intensified US arms investment (STAR WARS etc.). Yet eben higher expenses for arms development and production were to overextend the USSR's supplies.
Leonid Brezhnev died in 1982. He was succeeded by YURI ANDROPOV (1982-1984) and CONSTANTINE CHERNENKO (1984-1985), men in their high sixties resp. early seventies when they came into office; under them there was no change in policy.

Leonid Ilytch Brezhnev, Biography from Artnet
Brezhnev. A Stagnation Age Leader, by Roy Medvedev, Part I, Part 2, Part 3
DOCUMENTS Lists od General Secretaries of the Communist Party, from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
SALT I Treaty, May 26th 1972, from Brookings Instritution
SALT II Treaty, June 18th 1979, from Atomic Century
CSCE Final Act, Helsinki, Aug. 1st 1975, from Hellenic Resources Network
Brezhnev-Doctrine, Speech held Nov. 13th 1968, from CNN Cold War Page; Brezhnev Doctrine, from Modern History Sourcebook
Agreement Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Prevention of Nuclear War, 1973, from Nuclear Files

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 8th 2004

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