January 14

This Day in History

Cold War

Jan 14, 1980:

United Nations vote "deplores" Soviet intervention in Afghanistan

In a crushing diplomatic rebuke to the Soviet Union, the U.N. General Assembly votes 104 to 18 to "deplore" the Russian intervention in Afghanistan.

The resolution also requested the "immediate, unconditional and total withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan." The immense margin of victory for the resolution indicated the worldwide disapproval for the December 1979 Soviet invasion and installation of a pro-communist puppet regime in Afghanistan.

The General Assembly's resolution had no direct impact on the Soviet Union's actions. Russia had earlier vetoed a similar resolution introduced in the Security Council. However, the size of the General Assembly vote and the nations that voted for the resolution indicated that Cold War world politics might be changing. Non-aligned nations (nations in the United Nations that claimed "non-alignment" with either the West or the communist bloc) and other Third World nations voted 78 to 9 in favor of the resolution (28 others abstained or were absent).

Even the fiery rhetoric of the Cuban delegate (Cuba presided over the non-aligned nations) failed to sway many voters to defeat the proposal. "We know," he declared, "the historic role of the Soviet Union and of United States imperialism." Several representatives from Asian, African, and Latin American nations—nations that had traditionally maintained a more or less neutral attitude toward the East-West conflict—did condemn the Soviet action in Afghanistan.

The resolution was a victory for U.S. diplomats, who had been pushing for a statement from the international organization denouncing the Soviet invasion. The successful and overwhelming passage of the resolution indicated that Cold War alignments were perhaps undergoing an important and far-reaching alteration. Many of the so-called non-aligned nations and Third World countries were appalled by the Soviet action and drew closer to the United States. With the Cold War itself destined to last another decade, U.S. relations with such nations would take on more significance than ever before.

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