Africa Notes: New Soviet Priorities in Africa - April 1991
April 29, 1991
For a succession of decades after 1957, when the Soviet Union entered the African political arena by establishing diplomatic relations with newly independent Ghana, the Kremlin leadership self-righteously blamed every Third World policy failure on the inability of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs bureaucracy and its academic consultants to formulate and implement a "scientifically based strategy in Africa."
Although it is true that a coherent set of strategic guidelines was never established for dealing with Africa, an old-fashioned brown strongbox in the Africa department of the Foreign Ministry contains a yellowing heap of "strategies" (at least five of which this author helped prepare) submitted by scholarly institutions over the years.
To understand why none of the proposed strategies were ever fully implemented, one must take into consideration the traditional Marxist-Leninist vision of the Third World's (and specifically Africa's) global role. African countries were seen as "a natural ally of the world Communist movement in the struggle against world imperialism." Ideology, much more than politics or economics, motivated Soviet support for African decolonization in the 1960s and Moscow's pursuit of diplomatic relations with newly independent states.
It took the Soviet Union almost 30 years to recognize that much of what was happening in Africa could not be fitted into the grand ideological design and to adopt pragmatic criteria (such as efficiency, profit, and mutual interest) for judging relationships with various African nations. (See "Four Soviet Views of Africa" by David E. Albright, CSIS Africa Notes no. 72, May 1987.)