The Soviet Union Around the World


The USSR was actually involved in all the countries in this image.

In the 1950s and 1960s, relations between Communist and Russia, former allies against western imperialism, began to deteriorate.There were several causes behind this. The biggest factor was conflict over nuclear weapons. China wanted to develop nuclear weapons similar to Russia, but Khrushchev was hesitant to help China. Additionally, China was appalled by Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization reforms, and thought that Russia was ‘too peaceful’ in regards to Western imperialism. The deterioration of the two biggest Communist nations led to a schism in the Communist world between Pro-Soviet and Pro-Chinese communism. Though Soviet Communism, with its use of military and economic aid, would come to be the bigger influence.

Also during this time, the USSR began a campaign to spread its influence countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Despite China’s attempt to supersede the USSR as the leading Communist nation, Khrushchev achieved many foreign policy successes due to his willingness to provide Third World countries with military and economic aid. The most significant of these being the close ties established with the Castro government after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Cuba’s sudden turn towards Communism after the revolution eventually led to the Cuban Missile Crisis that caused the world to hold its breath.

On the other side of the world in Vietnam, the USSR was engaged in a hot conflict against the United States. Vietnam, torn in two, was receiving aid from both the USSR in the north and from the United States in the south. The USSR was to eventually win this battle over the United States, who went into Vietnam to contain the growing Communist threat. Divided Vietnam was reunited under a communist government while the United States fell into an anti-war disillusionment.

Elsewhere in Asia, The USSR was also engaged in the conflict between India and Pakistan in 1966. In what was later to be known as the Second Kashmir War, the cause of the conflict between India and Pakistan was territorial disputes over the Kashmir region. The conflict led to India shifting its allegiance towards the Soviet Union, who supplied India with much of its military armaments, and away from the United States, who did little to aid India despite its assurances that it would do so. On the other side, Pakistan shifted its alignment towards China, who, mirroring the USSR and India, supplied Pakistan with military weapons and technology. Despite the conflict being ended by a ceasefire ordered by the United Nations, it’s widely considered that India emerged as the victor.


The Soviet Union wasn’t as successful in the Middle East, where it was a supporter of the Arab states against their conflict with Israel. Israel had won by a landslide and took control of territories in the Arab states of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the Six-Day War of 1967. In 1973, Israel,with the support of the United States, once again decisively won over Egypt and Syria in the 19-day Yom Kippur War. This conflict led to a near-conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, both of whom heavily aided their respective countries and led to high tensions between the two nations. Tensions rose as the ceasefire ordered by the United Nations on October 22 quickly broke down under the growing tensions between the US and the USSR. However a second ceasefire was issued on October 25 which successfully ended the war. Egypt, enduring two losses despite the support of the Soviet Union, moved away from the Soviet sphere, though Syria still choose to be allied with the Soviets.

The tendrils of Soviet Union influence was felt not only in the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East, but in Africa as well. In Ethiopia, the Soviet Union supported a marxist military council in their overthrow of their Emperor, Haile Selassie. Later on, the USSR would aid Ethiopia in their war against Somalia, who would come to be backed by the United States, in 1977. The Soviet Union also aided Angola and Mozambique, colonies of Portugal, in their war for independence.

Closer to home, Soviet intervention in the Prague Spring reforms in Czechoslovakia resulted in political disaster. Alexander Dubcek, who was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, sought to give more rights to the citizens and more freedom to the media in Czechoslovakia, partial decentralization of the economy, and to divide the country into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. The reforms did not sit well with the Soviets, who, after failed negotiations, sent in 200,000 troops and 2,000 tanks to occupy the country. The occupation led to protests not only in Czechoslovakia, but in other countries, Communist parties, and within Russia.The actions of the Soviet Union caused a third schism to appear in the Communist world. The communist groups in western Europe, disillusioned by the actions of Soviet Russia, decided to break away from Soviet communism and form their own ‘Eurocommunist’ ideas.

1968. During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovaks carry their national flag past a burning Soviet tank in Prague. Photo from "CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting"

1968. During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovaks carry their national flag past a burning Soviet tank in Prague.
Photo from “CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting”

The conflict between the United States and Russia was truly a global conflict that touched nearly every part of the world. The Soviet Union sought to spread Communism by aiding those countries that were engaged on conflicts of their own. Where one went, the other followed: The Soviet Union, trying to spread Communism, and the United States, trying to stop its spread. Later on, the United States would take advantage of the deteriorated relationship between China and the Soviet Union, and establish their own relations with China to counter Soviet Communism, the bigger of the two evils between pro-Russia and pro-Chinese Communism.



Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 3

This entry was posted in November, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Soviet Union Around the World

  1. jenniferh says:

    Informative post on the steps taken to spread and control communism throughout the world by all of the different power players. It is strange to think about the US making the choice to support the Chinese with all of the anti-communist sentiment in the country at the time.

  2. A. Nelson says:

    Some good points in this post, which takes a global view of Soviet influence beyond the Soviet Union. It’s important to pay attention to the details, even in a broad-brush stroke analysis such as this one. Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968, for example comes from a much different place than the decision to engage in the Middle East. And while the US saw “relentless expansion of Communism” as the key motivator for Soviet actions, the Soviets had their own view of the US’s ideological and geopolitical agenda.

  3. jslattery says:

    I think it’s interesting that we pretty much were at war with the Soviet Union, despite never actually fighting directly against Soviet forces. I think that people don’t realize just how close to WW3 we came because of the Cuban missile crisis.

  4. ccubberly says:

    I like how you mentioned how the USSR was a more prominent Communist ally due to there foreign aid programs. Cuba and Vietnam especially were recipients of this aid and by being so this led to conflicts with the United States. China helped Korea during the conflict of the 1950’s between North and South, but later saw a too powerful North Korea as less of an ally and more of a competitor.

Comments are closed.