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The 'new thinking' and Soviet intervention in Third World regional conflicts : the case of Angola and Ethiopia Tettey, Wisdom John


Since Gorbachev entered the Kremlin, there have been dramatic changes in Soviet foreign policy. One area in which these changes, enshrined in the 'new thinking,' have had a tremendous impact concerns regional conflicts. This study analyzed the impact of the changes on the Angolan and Ethiopian conflicts in which the USSR was deeply involved. It also assessed the Soviet response to the two situations, following the emergence of the 'new thinking,' to determine its uniformity or otherwise. The changes in foreign policy led to Soviet disengagement from the two conflicts. The practical manifestations of the 'new thinking's' prescriptions did not, however, emerge until sometime in 1988 -- three years after the reforms were enunciated. The reasons underlying Soviet retrenchment in these areas included the desire to seek political solutions to regional conflicts, the deideologization of interstate relations, the new emphasis on mutually beneficial economic alliances, and the avoidance of superpower confrontation. The Soviets, thus, put pressure on their clients to make them seek peaceful solutions to the conflicts. Such pressures took the form of troop and military experts withdrawal, curtailing military assistance, etc. Moscow also extended overtures to the factions fighting its clients in order to solicit their cooperation. However, whereas the Southern African and Ethiopian-Somali conflicts were eventually resolved, the civil war in Ethiopia escalated and culminated in a violent overthrow of the government in Addis Ababa. Soviet moves towards a negotiated peace in Southern Africa were quicker and firmer than those concerning Ethiopia. This was due, partly, to the fact that until 1988 Ethiopia still held more strategic value for Moscow than did Angola. Furthermore, the military situation deteriorated faster for the MPLA than it did for the Mengistu regime. The Angolan government was also more receptive to the peace process than was Addis Ababa. On the whole, the study concluded that the 'new thinking' caused significant reversals in Soviet intervention in the two regional conflicts. It was noted, however, that while Moscow used similar policies to promote peace in the two areas, these differed in terms of detail and timing. It is the contention of this study that, in the future, the Soviet Union is unlikely to intervene in regional conflicts to defend Marxist-Leninist client regimes and movements, and to project its power. Its involvement in the Third World will rather take the form of expanding ties with more advanced developing economies, from which it can derive benefits.

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