Soviet Union Table of Contents
According to Soviet theorists, the basic character of Soviet foreign policy was set forth in Vladimir I. Lenin's Decree on Peace, adopted by the Second Congress of Soviets in November 1917. It set forth the dual nature of Soviet foreign policy, which encompasses both proletarian internationalism and peaceful coexistence. On the one hand, proletarian internationalism refers to the common cause of the working classes of all countries in struggling to overthrow the bourgeoisie and to establish communist regimes. Peaceful coexistence, on the other hand, refers to measures to ensure relatively peaceful government-to-government relations with capitalist states. Both policies can be pursued simultaneously: "Peaceful coexistence does not rule out but presupposes determined opposition to imperialist aggression and support for peoples defending their revolutionary gains or fighting foreign oppression."
The Soviet commitment in practice to proletarian internationalism has declined since the founding of the Soviet state, although this component of ideology still has some effect on current formulation and execution of Soviet foreign policy. Although pragmatic raisons d'état undoubtedly accounted for much of contemporary Soviet foreign policy, the ideology of class struggle (see Glossary) still played a role in providing a worldview and certain loose guidelines for action in the 1980s. Marxist-Leninist (see Glossary) ideology reinforces other characteristics of political culture that create an attitude of competition and conflict with other states.
The general foreign policy goals of the Soviet Union were formalized in a party program (see Glossary) ratified by delegates to the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in February-March 1986. According to the program, "the main goals and guidelines of the CPSU's international policy" included ensuring favorable external conditions conducive to building communism in the Soviet Union; eliminating the threat of world war; disarmament; strengthening the "world socialist system"; developing "equal and friendly" relations with "liberated" [Third World] countries; peaceful coexistence with the capitalist countries; and solidarity with communist and revolutionary-democratic parties, the international workers' movement, and national liberation struggles.
Although these general foreign policy goals were apparently conceived in terms of priorities, the emphasis and ranking of the priorities have changed over time in response to domestic and international stimuli. After Gorbachev assumed power in 1985, for instance, some Western analysts discerned in the ranking of priorities a possible de-emphasis of Soviet support for national liberation movements. Although the emphasis and ranking of priorities were subject to change, two basic goals of Soviet foreign policy remained constant: national security (safeguarding CPSU rule through internal control and the maintenance of adequate military forces) and, since the late 1940s, influence over Eastern Europe.
Many Western analysts have examined the way Soviet behavior in various regions and countries supports the general goals of Soviet foreign policy. These analysts have assessed Soviet behavior in the 1970s and 1980s as placing primary emphasis on relations with the United States, which is considered the foremost threat to the national security of the Soviet Union. Second priority was given to relations with Eastern Europe (the European members of the Warsaw Pact; see Appendix B) and Western Europe (the European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization--NATO). Third priority was given to the littoral or propinquitous states along the southern border of the Soviet Union: Turkey (a NATO member), Iran, Afghanistan, China, Mongolia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and Japan. Regions near to, but not bordering, the Soviet Union were assigned fourth priority. These included the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Last priority was given to sub-Saharan Africa, the islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and Latin America, except insofar as these regions either provided opportunities for strategic basing or bordered on strategic naval straits or sea lanes. In general, Soviet foreign policy was most concerned with superpower relations (and, more broadly, relations between the members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact), but during the 1980s Soviet leaders pursued improved relations with all regions of the world as part of its foreign policy objectives (see fig. 14).
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents