Soviet and Western bloc competition in the less developed world and the collapse of Détente

Douglas Rivero, Florida International University


The purpose of my dissertation was to examine the competition between the U.S.-led Western bloc and the Soviet bloc in the less developed world during Détente. I assessed whether or not the Soviet bloc pushed for strategic gains in the less developed world in the middle-to-late 1970's and whether this contributed to the U.S. decision to abandon Détente in 1979. I made the attempt to test the international relations theory of balance of threat realism (Walt, 1992). I accomplished the test in two ways. First, I measured the foreign aid allocations (military and economic) made by each respective bloc towards the Third World by using a quantitative approach. Second, I examined U.S. archives using the process-tracing/historical method. The U.S. archives gave me the ability to evaluate how U.S. decision-makers and U.S. intelligence agencies interpreted the actions of the Soviet bloc. They also gave me the chance to examine the U.S. response as we evaluated the policies that were pushed by key U.S. decision-makers and intelligence agencies. On the question of whether or not the Soviet bloc was aggressive, the quantitative evidence suggested that it was not. Instead, the evidence found the Western-bloc to have been more aggressive in the less developed world. The U.S. archives also showed Soviet actions to have been defensive. Key U.S. decision-makers and intelligence agencies attested to this. Finally, the archives show that U.S. officials pushed for aggressive actions against the Third World during the final years of Détente. Thus, balance of threat realism produced an incorrect assessment that U.S. aggression in the late 1970's was a response to Soviet aggression during Détente. The evidence suggests structural Marxism and domestic politics can better explain U.S./Western actions. The aggressive foreign aid allocations of the West, coupled with evidence of U.S. decision-makers/agencies vehemently concerned about the long-term prospects of the West, strengthened structural Marxism. Domestic politics can also claim to explain the actions of U.S. decision-makers. I found extensive archival evidence of bureaucratic inter-agency conflict between the State Department and other intelligence agencies in areas of strategic concern to the U.S.

Subject Area

American history|Modern history|International law|Russian history

Recommended Citation

Rivero, Douglas, "Soviet and Western bloc competition in the less developed world and the collapse of Détente" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3381976.