December 14

This Day in History

Cold War

Dec 14, 1980:

CIA issues warning about Soviet arms sales to Third World nations

On this day, a CIA report claims that the Soviet Union delivered nearly $7 billion worth of military assistance to Third World nations in 1979, and made over $8 billion in arms sales during that same year. The study also noted that there were nearly 51,000 communist military advisors in Third World countries. The report indicated that the arms sales increased instability and chances for military conflict.

The CIA study portrayed an alarming growth in Soviet military assistance to the Third World, particularly to nations in the Middle East and Africa. According to the report, Syria, Iraq, and South Yemen were the primary recipients of aid to the Middle East while Angola and Ethiopia received most of the arms sold to Africa. Much of this assistance was in the form of sophisticated weapons such as MiG fighter-bombers and surface-to-air missiles. Almost two-thirds of the military advisors were Cubans whom Fidel Castro assigned to Angola. Despite this massive effort, the study concluded that, "Moscow has recruited few adherents to its ideology." Nevertheless, the economic advantages were significant. Together with an expanded program of economic assistance, Soviet arms sales to the Third World helped open markets and provide hard currency for the Russian economy. Soviet trade with the Third World increased from just over $250 million in 1955 to over $13 billion in 1978. In addition, the Soviets were able to obtain sources for natural gas (Afghanistan), oil (Iraq and Syria), and aluminum (Turkey).

The report ended on an ominous note, suggesting that Soviet arms sales to the Third World-particularly to the Middle East-were dangerously increasing instability and the chances for war. The report failed to investigate the impact of the $6 billion in arms sales the US made to the Third World.

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