Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


The Soviet Union has taken an active role in the UN and other major international and regional organizations. At the behest of the United States, the Soviet Union took a role in the establishment of the UN in 1945. The Soviet Union insisted that there be veto rights in the Security Council and that alterations in the Charter of the UN be unanimously approved by the five permanent members (Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States). A major watershed in Soviet UN policy occurred in January 1950, when Soviet representatives boycotted UN functions in support of the seating of China as a permanent member of the Security Council. In the absence of the Soviet representatives, the UN Security Council was able to vote for the intervention of UN military forces in what would become the Korean War. The Soviet Union subsequently returned to various UN bodies in August 1950. This return marked the beginning of a new policy of active participation in international and regional organizations.

For many years, the Western powers played a guiding role in UN deliberations, but by the 1960s many former colonies had been granted independence and had joined the UN. These states, which became the majority in the General Assembly and other bodies, were increasingly receptive to Soviet "anti-imperialist" appeals. By the 1970s, the UN deliberations had generally become increasingly hostile toward the West and toward the United States in particular, as evidenced by pro-Soviet and anti-United States voting trends in the General Assembly. Although the Soviet Union benefited from and encouraged these trends, it was not mainly responsible for them. Rather, the trends were largely a result of the growing debate over the redistribution of the world's wealth between the "have" and "have-not" states.

In general, the Soviet Union used the UN as a propaganda forum and encouraged pro-Soviet positions among the nonaligned countries. The Soviet Union did not, however, achieve total support in the UN for its foreign policy positions. The Soviet Union and Third World states often agreed that "imperialism" caused and continued to maintain the disparities in the world distribution of wealth. They disagreed, however, on the proper level of Soviet aid to the Third World, with the Soviet Union refusing to grant sizable aid for development. Also, the Soviet Union encountered opposition to its occupation of Afghanistan and the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia and got little support (as evidenced by Third World abstentions) for its 1987 proposal on the creation of a "Comprehensive System of International Peace and Security."

The Soviet Union in the late 1980s belonged to most of the specialized agencies of the UN. It resisted joining various agricultural, food, and humanitarian organizations of the UN because it eschewed multilateral food and humanitarian relief efforts. During 1986 Western media reported that East European and Asian communist countries allied with the Soviet Union received more development assistance from the UN than they and the Soviet Union contributed. This revelation belied communist states' rhetorical support in the UN for the establishment of a New International Economic Order for the transfer of wealth from the rich Northern Hemisphere to the poor Southern Hemisphere nations. Partly because of ongoing Third World criticism of the Soviet record of meager economic assistance to the Third World and of Soviet contributions to UN agencies, in September 1987 the Soviet Union announced that it would pay some portion of its arrears to the UN. This policy change also came at a time of financial hardship in the UN caused partly by the decision of the United States to withhold contributions pending cost-cutting efforts in the UN.

During the Gorbachev period, the Soviet Union made several suggestions for increasing UN involvement in the settlement of superpower and regional problems and conflicts. Although as of 1989 these suggestions had not been implemented, they constituted new initiatives in Soviet foreign policy and represented a break with the stolid, uncooperative nature of past Soviet foreign policy. While the basic character of Soviet foreign policy had not yet changed, the new flexibility in solving regional problems in Afghanistan, Angola, and Cambodia, as well as problems in the superpower relationship, indicated a pragmatic commitment to the lessening of world tensions.

*  *  *

Information on Soviet ideology and general foreign policy orientations can be found in Erik P. Hoffmann and Frederic J. Fleron's The Conduct of Soviet Foreign Policy; William Welch's American Images of Soviet Foreign Policy; and William A. Gamson and Andre Modigliani's Untangling the Cold War. Institutions and personnel involved in the formation and execution of Soviet foreign policy are discussed in Robbin F. Laird and Erik P. Hoffmann's Soviet Foreign Policy in a Changing World; Seweryn Bialer's The Domestic Context of Soviet Foreign Policy; Vernon S. Aspaturian's Process and Power in Soviet Foreign Policy; and Jan F. Triska and David D. Finley's Soviet Foreign Policy. Soviet foreign policy toward various regions of the world is treated in Robbin F. Laird's Soviet Foreign Policy; Richard F. Staar's USSR: Foreign Policies after Detente; Seweryn Bialer's The Soviet Paradox; Adam B. Ulam's Expansion and Coexistence, The Rivals, and Dangerous Relations; and Alvin Z. Rubinstein's Soviet Foreign Policy since World War II. Regional focuses on the Third World include Jerry F. Hough's The Struggle for the Third World; Andrzej Korbonski and Francis Fukuyama's The Soviet Union and the Third World; and Carol R. Saivetz and Sylvia Woodby's Soviet-Third World Relations. Soviet foreign policy focusing on specific regions is analyzed in Christopher D. Jones's Soviet Influence in Eastern Europe; Herbert J. Ellison's Soviet Policy Toward Western Europe; Donald S. Zagoria's Soviet Policy in East Asia; Ray S. Cline, James Arnold Miller, and Roger E. Kanet's Asia in Soviet Global Strategy; Ramesh Thakur and Carlyle A. Thayer's The Soviet Union as an Asian Pacific Power; Cole Blasier's The Giant's Rival; Alvin Z. Rubinstein's Soviet Policy Toward Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan; and Robert O. Freedman's Soviet Policy Toward the Middle East since 1970. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of May 1989

Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents