Does the USSR Have a 'Grand Strategy'? Reinterpreting the Invasion of Afghanistan

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This essay examines the question of Soviet intervention in the Third World. It begins by discussing recent theories of Soviet strategy, including those which hold that the USSR has a grand strategy of expansion in the Third World, as well as the less alarmist views of George F. Kennan. The influence that these debates have had on American foreign policy, and their significance for the recent revival of the Cold War, is discussed The essay then attempts to test these theories, using the Soviet Union's December 1979 invasion of Afghanistan as a case study. The essay describes, at length, Afghanistan's internal politics and foreign relations from the eighteenth century until the present The historical discussion, which emphasizes the post-World War II period, relies primarily on US government documents. The essay concludes, based on the information presented, that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan reluctantly, and that it did not invade primarily in order to expand its influence. It also concludes that the USSR has not gamed major strategic advantages from its occupation of Afghanistan. Finally, the essay reconsiders the theories of Soviet strategy, and notes that the facts of the Afghan case generally contradict the 'grand strategy' theorists, while they support the views of Kennan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-379
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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