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Romania and the Third World during the heyday of the détente


All Warsaw Pact countries developed intense relations with Third World countries during the 1970s, following in Moscow’s footsteps, allegedly supporting the struggle against Western imperialism while making profitable arms deals. One Warsaw Pact country, though, saw things differently: it was both American and Soviet imperialism that had to be fought off. This paper reassesses the origins and nature of Romania’s Third World policy in the context of the Soviet–American détente of 1972. Détente was perceived in Bucharest as a risk to the country’s independent foreign policy and a consolidation of the existing bipolarity which is why Romania tried to mobilise small and medium states of the Third World in a fight against hegemony and underdevelopment. Although they adhered to the developmental debates and tried to join the Group of 77, the Romanians viewed underdevelopment not necessarily in structural terms but rather as a product of political obstructions exerted by the superpowers. Refusing the take the Soviet side in the Third World, Romania tried to convince Third World leaders that unity and cooperation among the ‘unprivileged’ were a shield against foreign interference and a guarantee of development.

Keywords: Communism, development, hegemony, foreign policy, bipolarity


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