During the cold war, Africa was probably the smallest concern of both the superpowers. The Afro-superpowers relationship has often been reduced to the sterile formula of African independence versus superpower imperialism. Actually, African leaders often had a certain freedom of action as they were not insignificant to the United States and the Soviet Union.
With the exception of the Horn, Africa was certainly not one of the most strategic and disputed regions of the World. In the second half of the 1970s, superpower interest in Africa grew, mainly because the Soviet Union was challenging the USA through the Third World, but never did they consider committing their own troops in Africa as they did in Afghanistan and Vietnam.
US-Africa relations were apart from the rest of the US-foreign policy as, from the Presidency of JFK, an Assistant Secretary of State was assigned special responsibility for Africa. In the Soviet Union, Afro-Soviet relations remained within the control of the foreign ministry but there really was little interest towards this relation. The Ogaden crisis in 1977 is probably the only time that Africa had a real impact on the superpowers' relations.
[...] At one point, the supply of weapons became too complex to control. Africa in the post-Cold War world At the end of the Cold War, the import of arms to Africa instantly dropped and the previous emphasis of the major actors in the international system in the maintenance of existing states and boundaries likewise disappeared. There was little hope for African regimes of getting external assistance to help resolving internal conflicts. In this respect, the end of the cold war helped to resolve conflicts as there was [...]
[...] Some countries turned to the USSR for a while but when the reason for this commitment faded, these states reverted to the relationship with the West that had been created by history, language, culture and economic need. The militarization of Africa's external relations The rapid if short-lived expansion of Soviet involvement in Africa from the mid-1970s reflected a breakdown in a significant number of African states of the incumbent regime's capacity to control its territory and maintain itself in power with a minimal actual use of force. [...]
[...] The United States had a relatively free access to most of the continent, thanks to its close links with former colonial powers. Enjoying from the advantages of the status quo, the United States was, however, correspondingly unable to challenge it, or consequently to provide an effective alternative to incumbent ex-colonial powers. The Soviet role The Soviet Union has often been regarded with suspicion by African leaders who feared a potential source of subversion. The Afro-Soviet relationship was, however, a means for Africans to get away from traditional linkages established under colonial rule. [...]
[...] - The USSR was an active partner in the struggle for liberation, often supporting movements fighting against colonialism or white minority rule. - An attractive ideology that appealed to the state-centered interests of African leaders, although implementing true socialism would have been impossible. Socialism was a means for African leaders to justify their hold on the economy and the single party system. - The Soviet Union was a great supplier of armaments and shared its military expertise. It never engaged any of its troops on the field but it helped Cuban troops in Africa with logistical back-up. [...]
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