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Soviet Union

Chapter 10. Foreign Policy

ONCE A PARIAH DENIED DIPLOMATIC RECOGNITION by most countries, the Soviet Union had official relations with the majority of the nations of the world by the late 1980s. The Soviet Union also had progressed from being an outsider in international organizations and negotiations to being one of the arbiters of Europe's fate after World War II. In the 1970s, after the Soviet Union achieved rough nuclear parity with the United States, it perceived its own involvement as essential to the solution of any major international problem. The Soviet Union's effort to extend its influence or control over many states and peoples has resulted in the formation of a world socialist system (see Glossary) of states whose citizens include some one-fourth of humanity. In addition, since the early 1970s the Soviet Union has concluded friendship and cooperation treaties with a number of Third World states. For all these reasons, Soviet foreign policy is of major importance to the noncommunist world and helps determine the tenor of international relations.

Although myriad bureaucracies have been involved in the formation and execution of Soviet foreign policy, the major policy guidelines have been determined by the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The foremost objectives of Soviet foreign policy have been the maintenance and enhancement of national security and the maintenance of hegemony over Eastern Europe. Relations with the United States and Western Europe have also been of major concern to Soviet foreign policy makers, and relations with individual Third World states have been at least partly determined by the proximity of each state to the Soviet border and to Soviet estimates of its strategic significance. Despite domestic economic problems, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who became general secretary in 1985, has emphasized increased Soviet participation in international organizations and negotiations, the pursuit of arms control and other international agreements, and the reinvigoration of diplomatic, political, cultural, and scientific initiatives in virtually every region of the world.

Data as of May 1989