Soviet Union Table of Contents
Soviet goals in Southeast Asia included the containment of China, the introduction and maintenance of Soviet influence, and the reduction of United States influence in the region. As of 1989, the Soviet leaders had been only partially successful in attaining these somewhat contradictory goals and policies. The Soviet acquiescence, if not support, for the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia in December 1978 resulted in the elimination of the proChinese leadership of Cambodia. However, the Soviet posture regarding the occupation, along with the growing Soviet military presence in Vietnam, alarmed several ASEAN states and led to closer intra-ASEAN political, and even military, cooperation and to expanded ASEAN contacts with the United States and other Western countries. The Soviet Union also unsuccessfully urged the elimination of United States bases in the Philippines. However, the Soviet policy of improving ties with the Ferdinand Marcos regime in 1986 backfired when Marcos was forced from power.
A Soviet policy of stressing bilateral ties with individual ASEAN states, rather than multilateral relations, which would strengthen ASEAN as an organization, began to have some success in the late 1980s. After Gorbachev came to power, bilateral contacts with the ASEAN states increased as part of the Soviet leader's revised Third World policy, which emphasized relations with the newly industrialized countries, nonaligned states, and other capitalist-oriented states and improved contacts with Asian countries in general. In March 1987, Foreign Minister Shevardnadze visited Australia and Indonesia as part of this reorientation, and in late 1988 he visited the Philippines. In July 1987, Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad of Malaysia visited Moscow, and in May 1988 Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda of Thailand also visited.
The major Soviet success in Southeast Asia was the close political, economic, and military ties it established with Vietnam, which became a full member of Comecon in 1978. Although economic assistance to Vietnam was a heavy drain on the Soviet economy, Vietnam provided raw materials and thousands of laborers for work on Siberian development projects. Militarily, Cam Ranh Bay was the largest Soviet naval base outside the Soviet Union, allowing the Soviet Union to project increased power in the South China Sea. Politically, Vietnam aligned its foreign policy with that of the Soviet Union, and Vietnam was considered by the Soviet Union as a "fraternal party state" and as part of the "commonwealth of socialist states."
In mid-1988 Vietnam announced the withdrawal by the end of 1988 of 50,000 of the 100,000 Vietnamese troops occupying Cambodia, with all troops to be withdrawn by 1990. This withdrawal, publicly endorsed if not implemented at the urging of the Soviet Union, allowed the Soviet Union to attempt to improve relations with the ASEAN states and China.
Data as of May 1989