Published February 1976 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Russia's African Failures The Soviet Union's involvement in the civil war in Angola has not only pointed out the weaknesses in the policy of detente, but also has highlighted t h e shortsightedness of Russia's foreign policy. Through the tragic Vietnam experience, the United States learned the futility of trying to buy, either through massive military aid or direct military intervention, influence in the underdeveloped world. Yet, Russia persists in its attempts at interference, military and politically, in Angola's internal affairs. Ironically, the Soviets' previous adventures in Africa--adventures which consistently resulted in failures-should have been lessons enough to convince Russia to stay out of Angola. For instance, in the Congo-now called Zairethe Soviets sent military supplies to rebel forces in 1960, only to have the rebels defeated despite the heavy Russian investment. The Soviets also underwrote the government of Ghana for several years, but were thrown out when a coup overturned the government in 1966. Another Russian setback was suffered last year in Mozambique, when, after the Soviet-backed group took power, the Russians were denied the military bases and political influence they had demanded. The U.S.S.R. experienced similar rebuffs in Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, and the Sudan without ever gaining a single ally in Africa. Thus, even if the Soviet supported faction in Angola- through the massive infusion of Russian military equipment and Cuban "volunteers" - should win control of that small nation, it is likely that Russia itself will have won nothing in the long run. That is not to say that the United States should let the Soviet involvement in Angola go unnoticed. Through diplomatic channels, world pressure should be brought to bear in an attempt to get all foreign powers out of that civil war. And America which is now engaged in ~ policy of detente with Russia should let the Soviet leaders know in no uncertain terms that their actions in Angola are jeopardizing the future of detente. If detente is, in fact a policy of cooperation between the two super powers, then the Soviets should heed our warning and stop fueling the fires of civil war raging in Angola. But if Russia continues to supply one of the warring factions there, the chances are that it will eventually learn that African nationalism, and not Soviet communism, will be the dominant force when the conflict has ended.