Created: 3/13/1969

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SUBJECT: The Soviets and Black Africa: New Approaches and tbe African Response


The decline of prcspects for Ccarcunlst -ori ented radicalism ln Africa has apparently led Moscow to seme shifts of emphasis ln Its approach to black Africa. Moscow now seems unwilling to depend so heavily on such allies as Nkrumah, and may have moved Africa somewhat farther down on Its order of priorities. Hew tacticsore extensive diplomatic presence and some new aid and training overtures to tbe African military elite. The new Soviet approach to Africa is more varied than the old, but still contains inherent contradictions. Though the USSR now portrays itselfespectable and friendly great power, it has not abandoned its cultivation of assets for political subversion.

The African elite tends to view Soviet Ideology ar. irrelevant, and is still culturally attuned to the West. Moreover, this elite, though eager for aid from the USSR or any other source, is growing more nationalistic and suspicious of foreigners. Even If new leftist leaders emerge, as seems likely, we doubt that the Soviets will find them easy to Influence or control.

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Free the Scviet Angle

a decade of grappling with the problemsAfrica, the USSR la still casting about forapproach to the African elite. ood dealSoviet Investment in black Africa went down thethe sudden overturn of friendly regimes in Ghana The Soviets, despite prolonged cultivation ofthrough economic and military aid,scholarships, and political tutelage, bar,permanent impact and had failed to create aof pro-Moscow devotees.

One result of these coups seemed to be ain Moscow that the Soviets still did notAfricans. Soviet African experts appear unsure ofapply Marxisg-Lenl.nlan to African societies and"revolutionary-democratic" single-party states inare likely to be unstable even with Soviettbe Soviets are still feeling their way, andtactics In Africareater degree ofcaution.

Apparently ln an effort to learn more about the Africans and to expand contacts with them, the Soviets are building up thef their black African embassies, even ln insignificant countries. For example, the Soviet embassies in Sierra Leone, Dahomey, and Cameroon each have overccredited diplomatic personnel, as well as the usual complement of wives, chauffeurs, and Janitors. They are demonstrating their willingness to deal amicably with regimes currently in power, regardless of their political leanings. Thus they are working with Chad's Tcmbalbaye and Senegal's Senghor, who are among tbe most conservativeAfrican stateaten. Tbe Soviets have also expanded their already generous scholarship and travel programs. They are using less arm twisting and fewer subversive schemes than

in past years and are portraying themselvesespectable benevolent great power. Their policies have not, however.

changed so much as to eliminate the conflict between open

diplomacy and subversion.

k. Moscow is currently stressing military aid and trainingonvenient and inexpensive way to increase its Influence in block Africa. The USSR has always been less concerned than the Western powers about arms build-ups in

Africa and, indeed, haa exploited Western reluctance to meet some of the sore extravagant African arcs requests. In recent years, the Soviets have provided substantial military aid to Nigeria and Somalia. Moreover, they apparently encourage requests in both countries for additional aid. In addition, the Sovieto have offered military aid to Congo (Kinshasa) and Ethiopia, key countries new largely dependent on US support but uncertain of future US policies. In each case, Moscow la demonstrating its willingness to deal with relatively pro-Western regimes that have shown little interest in following the "non-capitalist road to development". Each has something of interest to the Soviets: Nigeria, Congond Ethiopia their size and potential wealth, Somalia Its long Indian Ocean coastline and its suitability for utillration by Soviet space scientists,

5- In addition to government-to-governoent activities, the Soviets are trying to establish personal contacts with the military elite in black African states. This makes some sense in view of the current vogue of military coups, which have thrust African officersozen or so presidential palaces. oviet military technicians served in blackn Somalia alone. oviet

attache (the second In black Africa) has recently been assigned to Nigeria. Moreover,lack Africans are receiving military training in the USSR. Of course, Moscow stillong way to go to match the influence of the former metropoles on the African military elite, but it is clearly trying.

6. On the other hand, the Soviets have been much less forthcoming on requests for additional economic assistance ln the last few years.1* The Soviets have stopped offering massive lines of credit and have been much more careful


about committing funds, even to apparently feasible projects. Like many Western creditors, they have had trouble collecting Ou their debts. They do not want to spend money on projects with uncertain political benefits. In Nigeria, for example, despite signing an agreement for economic cooperation last November, the Soviets have yet to come through with any significant commitments. This stands in sharp contrast to the speed with which the Soviets responded to Nigeria's request to buy arms.

he USSR extended to black Africa credits and grants worthillion;t furnished Just overillion.

From the African Angle

Soviet presenceecent phenomenonAfrica. The African elite. Western orientedand training, tend to look upon the Sovietswith unfamiliar habits and language. Tothis is an advantage, for those fed up withinfluence and receptive to some radical ideas

find theresh, promising alternative to the West. The Soviets, quick to take advantage of this reaction, cultivate the restless ones in labor unions, civil service, the army, and elsewhere. Young, impressionable types are offered scholarships; older ones are given trips to the USSR.

is still too early to tell if Moscow ismoney's worth out ofr so blackcurrently on scholarship in the USSR. But itnoting that the Soviets tend to accept studentsacademic qualifications, many of whom cannot make Some arc pulled aside for politicalfew who have already returned to their hometo nave been converted to the Communist cause. with some of the visible accomplishments of socialism.

many students are critical of the racial prejudice and restrictions they meet ln Soviet society and resentear or twoanguage virtually useless to them back home. Moreover, they are not usually as well trained to pursue thoir vocations (mostly the civil service) as those educated in the Western tradition. n Kenya and Ghana, students returning from the USSR haveifficult time finding jobs because prospective employers are suspicious of their Soviet connections and unimpressed with their qualifications, especially ln technical fields.

9- In those countries where Soviet Influence has been significant in the past, few of tho elite apparently turned to the USSR for ideological inspiration. They did, however, accept tbe material benefits of Soviet interest, andenough attachment to the socialist cause to keep the aid coming. So far as we can tell, auch elaborate, Soviet-sponsored Institutions as the Kwame ffkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science In Ghana, tho Higher Party School ln Mall, and tbe Polytechnic Institute ln Guinea failed utterly torop of ideologically committed African comnuiista. The largely foreign faculties had trouble

cccniunicating with the otudents and tended to quarrel among

themselves about ideological definitions. Similar problems

hindered the ambitious Joint Soviet-Ghanaian apparatus for conducting clandestine operations out of Ghana against other African countries. Moreover, the Soviets, by close association with the governments of Ghana and Mali, had placed themselves in an exposed position. Tbe Soviets were blasted as well as the overthrown leaders for the mess left behind. Consequently the disappearance of these governmentsonsiderable drop ln Soviet influence and prestige.

10. Even where regimes courted by the USSR are still in powerGuinea and Tanzaniathe Soviets have found little gratitude for their Investments and are unable to match the Communist Chinese in providing Ideological The local elite tend to ask what the Soviets have done for then lately. We see little -to suggest that Sekou Toure still seeks comfort and guidance from the USSR, though his

speeches are full of Marxist slogans and his state and party institutions are still based on the Soviet model. Apparently he has not overcome hl3 enduring suspicion of the Soviets,

who once tried to subvert teachers in his own party. Nyerere, unhappy with Soviet military training programs, Soviet


failure to provide economic aid on easy terms, and Soviet initiatives in Czechoslovakia and Nigeria, has turned out to be an especially unreliable friend. Moreover, he suspects Hoscow of encouraging his exiled political rival, Oscar Kasbona. Both Toure and Ryere re, currently Impressed by the Communist Chinese rhetoric, are devising methods of bringing the inert mass of peasantry into tbe political mainstream and ln the process hove borrowed slogans from the Chinese cultural revolution.

Host black Africann suspicious of

big powers, and some are developing distinctly xenophobic tendencies. ew Western oriented states, such as Togo and Niger, while wanting the economic benefits of Soviet aid, are especially wary of Communist subversion. Several have objected to the size of the Soviet diplomatic missions In tbeir countries. Ghana went so.far as to seize two Soviet fishing trawlera on charges that the ships bad intruded into territorial waters and their crews wero meddling in Internal affairs. Ghanaians claimed that tha crews were plotting to restore Nkrumah and detained them for several months despite mounting protests from the Soviet government.

Tlie Outlook

Nationalism is likely to remain the dominant theme ln African politics as in African attitudes toward the outside world. In so far as the African elite will be susceptible to foreign influence, we think they will probably remain culturally attuned to the West and not very attracted to or Influenced by Soviet ideology. Though willing to accept aid from anyone, the elite will not be of much service to Moscow unless they become much more disillusioned with the West than they are today. Any further deterioration in African relations with the West will improve Sovietto extend their influence. For example, the Soviets are winning friends among Nigerian civil servants by offering more support to the war effort than tbe West, and havesome influential Nigerians that Westerners simply cannot help being neo-colonialist.

Current Soviet aid policies will probably not win the USSR many new friends among the African elite. TheIn economic aid will be resented, especially in those countries to which it has been of major importance in the past. Soviet scholarship programs seen unlikely to gain


suddenly the relevance they have lacked for the last ten years. On the otber hand, Moscow aay have better luck finding support among the young military elite because of the stepped-up military aid and training efforts. In an age when military coups seem Inevitable, the Soviets may see some friends take power, if onlyhort time.

Ik. In addition to thuse efforts, the Soviets will probably continue to support some clandestine organizations even in those countries, such as Ethiopia, where they are trying to improve relations with the government. Similarly,


they will likely persist in supporting individuals, whom they believe to be ideologically sympathetic, even when these men are ln the ranks of the local opposition. This, however,isky business. In gambling that such clandestine support will produce friendlier governments, Moscow would risk alienating leaders it has been wooing.

15. Should new African radicals come to power over the next few years, with or without Soviet clandestine support, Moscow would be tempted to claime volut 1ooory-democratic" leaders, despite temporary reversals, were back


for good. But the Soviet tendency to rely too heavily on such types is likely to prove as embarrassing in the future as it has ln the past, largely because black Africanis growing along with xenophobia. Once in office, African leftists tend to be more African than leftist. Such radicals would not necessarily be very susceptible to Soviet guidance or even follow policies pleasing to the USSR. Much depends on whether or not the Soviets learn to accept Africans as they are and stop trying to squeeze themarxist-Leninist mold.



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