The Third World War

DISCLAIMER: this isn’t about World War III.


In the 1960’s, the USSR and United States were engaged in the Cold War.  One of the “battles” of this conflict was the struggle for influence in the Third World countries; a battle that the Soviet Union dominated.  But how did they manage to gain such positive relationships where the United States could not?

The Soviet Union was seen as the ‘good guy’ in this dimension of the war by the Third World, as they were anti-imperialist, supported the struggle for independence, and supplied these revolutionary countries with weapons and financial assistance to carry out their plans.  The United States represented the imperialist west that dabbled in foreign affairs and caused the problems that the Soviets were now helping to fix.

At the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in 1964, Che Guevara spoke on behalf of Cuba.  His anti-imperialism sentiment was explicitly stated as he called for peaceful coexistence among all nations, not just international superpowers.  However, he spoke very highly of the Soviet Union, as if they had done no wrong.  It was very clear that his opinion of the United States was equivalent to that of a ‘carnivorous animal that feeds on unarmed people’.  The Third World had great reason to think poorly of western nations at the time, but his high regard for the Soviet Union was suspicious.

While the Soviet Union did not engage in colonialism as the west did, they were much sneakier when seeking influence with Third World countries.  They practiced imperialism in a much less invasive way.  Rather than taking over the government of a developing nation, they aided them with weapons and money, thus winning positive influence.

Guevara and other revolutionaries might not have noticed or cared that the Soviet Union was sneakily winning influence just like the United States was trying to, just in a different way.  Either way, the Soviet Union won the “Third World” War against the United States in the 1960’s through subtle, sneaky tactics.

Third World Friendships
Che Guevara At The United Nations


Filed under Uncategorized

5 Responses to The Third World War

  1. Eric

    I did not think about that in the context you suggested. The US was always very front with its motives stating exactly what its intent was, while the Soviets usually followed the logic of support through finances abroad. Now if we look at today the chinese are doing the exact same thing, they are very present in Africa rebuilding their infrastructure and economy. They like the Soviets are winning the “third world” battle.

  2. Kelsey Shober

    First of all I liked your little disclaimer at the top. This was a well thought out post on a point of view that most of us are reluctant to take. Here in America, we grew up being told that we were the “good guys” and rarely acknowledging our foreign policy flaws. The world rarely gets to hear a perspective from the “third world”, and I like that your post did just that. Also- I think that this ties well into some Cold War aspects. For example, the US was held in pretty high favor in Western Europe following World War II in part because of the money and rebuilding offered through the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan involved aid, not the take over of governments that followed during the Cold War years. I think that in addition to aid, the Soviet Union offered something else that the United States did not, and really could not: the alternative way of life. Since the Soviets were really the flagship communist state, they were seen to less prosperous or “third world” countries as big successes and in turn something that they could aspire to. The United States was preserving the capitalist status quo of sorts. The third world countries, no matter what kind of government change that occurred were simply more attracted to this alternative way of life because it was something that they stood a chance at succeeding in. It would have been really tough for a country to just rise up through the ranks and effectively compete with a capitalist country. Thanks again for the perspective in your post.

  3. elundquist

    This is an interesting perspective to take, and it really makes sense once you think about it. In it’s time as a world power, the U.S. has typically been pretty open and up front about its intentions as far as its domestic affairs go, and that has bled over into its foreign affairs as well. The Soviet Union on the other hand, has typically been secretive and acted “behind closed doors” in creating domestic policy, so it makes sense that they would do the same in its foreign policy. To outside countries, I can see how this mad the Soviet Union more appealing than the U.S., because, as you pointed out, they would not openly try to go in and take control, but would try to win over the support of these third-world countries by providing aid. Whether they realized it or not, third-world countries who accepted this aid from the Soviet Union were essentially allying with them.

  4. wilkins

    The USA was certainly damaged by its involvement in Vietnam. The shift from Europe to the Third World was an interesting one. The spheres of influence were settled fairly early in Europe. Arguably much interest in the Third World between the two superpowers was due to oil. Like the arms race and the space race, the same happened for oil, particularly in the middle east.

  5. Ben Wolfenstein

    Communism is practice has contradicted its message with its actions. Soviet and other communist leaders spoke out against imperialism time and again and framed imperialism with Western capitalism. But the Soviets were arguably the worst imperialists during the Cold War. Although the U.S. propped up violent dictators and discredited any free election that put communists in power, the Soviet Union ran a ring of satellite countries in Eastern Europe that it had captured from the Nazis during WWII. These states had their own leaders but in reality were controlled by Moscow. Soviet politicians rising through the ranks usually had a period where they held a position in one of the satellite states. The Soviets put down any proposed change to their status quo, even if it required the military–memorably the Hungarian crisis of 1956. And in 1980 they really gave up the ruse of anti-imperialism when they invaded Afghanistan. I don’t view their “sneaky imperialism” through aid necessarily terrible. It was bad for the U.S. that communist parties in Third World countries were receiving aid from the Soviets but the worst part of Soviet policy in this “Third World War” was the false anti-imperialist rhetoric that was so contradicted by their actions that it drove some of their allies, such as Yugoslavia and China, away.

Leave a Reply