Are we doing enough? US foreign policy and the Soviet nationalities, 1977-1984

Campbell, Christopher (2021) Are we doing enough? US foreign policy and the Soviet nationalities, 1977-1984. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Between 1977 and 1984, a group of policymakers inside the United States government attempted to harness the growing unrest among the Soviet Union’s ethnic nationalities, with the objective of undermining their geopolitical rival and serving America’s Cold War interests. These officials were motivated by long-standing beliefs about the nature of the Soviet system and the latent power of nationalism as a crucial vulnerability within the USSR. As the relative stability of the détente era passed, a more confrontational relationship emerged between the United States and the USSR. The growth of the global human rights movement and deep structural changes within the international system during the 1970s had opened up new opportunities for American policymakers to attack the internal legitimacy of the Soviet Union.

During the Carter administration, and with the blessing of the president, national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and a small cadre of hard-line officials began to focus on the internal nature of the Soviet regime and the domestic drivers of Soviet foreign policy. Through increased research and regular seminars, these officials hoped to improve awareness and knowledge of Soviet nationality issues inside the US government and explore ways to reach the ethnic groups inside the USSR. Radio broadcasting and covert book publication programs were a central part of this strategy, although these policies were never fully accepted as a central part of the administration’s Soviet strategy. In 1981, the incoming Reagan administration contained many individuals, such as Soviet expert Richard Pipes, who were highly sympathetic to these ideas. Reagan officials were eager to explore ways of assaulting the internal cohesion of the Soviet Union as an official objective of US foreign policy, in order to promote greater democratisation and pluralism within the USSR. As such, serious attempts were made to craft concrete policies which would exploit ethnic tensions inside the Soviet Union, before these concepts finally fell from favour in 1984.

This thesis explores these themes, offering an in-depth study of the Carter and Reagan administrations’ efforts to exploit the weaknesses of the USSR by manipulating the growing ethnic resentments within the Soviet system. These policies were driven by hard-line individuals in both administrations, figures who held long-standing beliefs that the US government should be doing more to undermine the USSR by embracing policies designed to stir up the Soviet nationalities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
E History America > E151 United States (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Swain, Professor Geoffrey and Unkovski-Korica, Dr. Vladimir
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82268
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2021 16:08
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2022 16:02
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82268

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