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Soviet Union


Since the late 1960s, when the Soviet Union was about to achieve nuclear parity with the United States, Soviet military support for the global task of promoting Marxism-Leninism intensified. Hoping that the attainment of strategic parity with the United States would deter the latter from interfering with Soviet international activism, the Soviet Union set out to aid and abet the forces of socialism and "national liberation" worldwide.

Soviet doctrine called not only for nuclear and nonnuclear capabilities to fight a world war but also for adequate conventional forces to support the "external function" of the Soviet armed forces in defense of "socialist gains" and of the fighters for world revolution. Two components of the "internationalist duty" of the Soviet armed forces emerged: "socialist internationalism," the defense of socialist countries allied to the Soviet Union; and "proletarian internationalism," the assistance given to "wars of national liberation" in the Third World.

Soviet spokesmen have emphasized repeatedly that the Soviet Union does not believe in the "export of revolution" but opposes the export of "counterrevolution," i.e., actions by Western powers that would hinder the historic progress of socialism. In the l970s, combating "counterrevolution" became part of the "internationalist duty" of the Soviet armed forces.

The Soviet Union has attempted, not always successfully, to reconcile Marxist-Leninist doctrine with state interests. Soviet leaders have tried to satisfy doctrinal requirements while pursuing the military and foreign policies of the Soviet state. Projected worldwide, Marxism-Leninism evolved from a purely revolutionary ideology into an ideology rationalizing the actions of a superpower. Often state interests were a more reliable guide than ideology to understanding Soviet actions.

Data as of May 1989