chapter  16
21 Pages

Foreign and defence policy

Soviet foreign policy was dominated by the concept of peaceful coexistence. The term, coined by Lenin at the close of the Russian Civil War, passed through three main stages. From the end of the Civil War to 1944 the Soviet regime was primarily concerned with defensive peaceful coexistence, notwithstanding adventures in Mongolia and the conquests allowed by the NaziSoviet Pact of 1939. The Soviet regime was concerned primarily with its own survival, and competition with capitalist states did not necessarily mean war with them. From 1944 to 1985 Soviet foreign policy was characterised by an expansive peaceful coexistence, in which policy was stamped by an expansionist dynamic, although this does not mean that every opportunity for expansion was taken or exploited. With the coming to power of Gorbachev in 1985 the third and final phase of Soviet foreign policy was co-operative peaceful coexistence whereby the Soviet regime planned to develop in parallel with the Western capitalist system while retaining the essential features of its alternative and, Gorbachev hoped, equally vibrant modernity. One essential feature of co-operative peaceful coexistence was the relaxation of bloc discipline entailing, among other things, the dissolution of Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe and an exit from the war in Afghanistan.