Developing World during the Cold War

How did the sides break down? I know in the Middle East Egypt was a Soviet client, and Israel was a US ally. In Africa Angola was communist. And of course Cuba in the Americas. What about everyone else?

Most of Latin America was dominated by strongly anti-Communist military regimes, especially in the 1970s.

In the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen (which was two countries for a while) were generally pro-Soviet and Jordan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia were generally pro-American.

TY Nemo! (and **Colibri **;)) I assume Lebanon was pro-West?

Practically every country in southeast Asia had a communist insurgency problem. Those in Indonesia and Malaysia died out. That in Vietnam took over. The Philippines can’t get rid of its own and has one of the oldest commie insurgencies in the world.

The pattern of leadership were all the same. Strongmen, US-leaning a-holes like Park Chung Hee, Lee Kwan Yew, Soeharto and Ferdinand Marcos. They and their cronies controlled the major business conglomerates and suppressed individual freedom.

Unlike the prosperity and human liberty they enjoyed under the regimes of Pol Pot, Kim Il-sung, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Enver Hoxha.

A bunch of countries chose not align with either the West or the Soviet bloc.

Of course, at the outset of the Cold War much of what is now the developing world was still colonies. Decolonization really got going at around the same time as the Cold War started to heat up, and much of the conflict was driven by the question of whether the newly independent colonies (and other poorer nations) would remain allied with the western powers (including their former masters) or if they would align with the communist world.

This is what the term “third world” refers to. The first world was the western democracies, the second world was the communist bloc and the third world was everyone else-- mostly poor mostly former colonies and considered up for grabs ideologically. The term is pretty much obsolete now, but has proved evocative enough to remain in common usage.

Guatemala had leftist governments in the late 1940s and early 1950s, until the CIA engineered a coup against President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. After that Guatemala was under the control of right-wing military regimes.

Likewise in Iran the nationalist President Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown in 1953 in a coup supported by the CIA and MI6 after he tried to nationalize the oil industry, and was replaced by the pro-Western Shah.

South Africa (the government) was pretty firmly in the “Anti-Soviet” camp. The majority of the people themselves, not so much.

One thing to keep in mind was that the Communist world was not unified. Countries like Mongolia and North Vietnam were aligned with the USSR but largely at odds with China.

Under Nasser it was. Under Sadat it switched to the US.

Conversely, Ethiopia leaned western under Haile Selassie, but a pro-Soviet coup ousted him in 1974.

A good book on this subject is The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World by Chris Andrew &Vasili Mitrokhin 2005


The Soviets felt that the third world was where communism would triumph. After all, look at all the brutal governments sponsored by the US. How could the huddled masses not be longing to break their yokes and live in a workers paradise? The problem was that Soviet foreign aid was not that great and, like the US, didn’t take into account things like corrupt administrations taking it all for the benefit of the oligarchy. Just about the only foreign aid that has been successful for the Soviets in most of the third world were AK-47s and RPG-7s. Much of the rest was stolen, broken, lost, or left to rot.