COMECON and the “Global South”: the Logic of the Cold War and Commercial Interests in the Period of “Peaceful Coexistence” (1960s — 1970s)
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COMECON and the “Global South”: the Logic of the Cold War and Commercial Interests in the Period of “Peaceful Coexistence” (1960s — 1970s)
Publication type
Mikhail Lipkin 
Affiliation: Institute of World History RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow

The article touches the issue of economic interactions between the “Eastern Bloc” and the “Third World” countries in 1960s — 1970s. It is based on analysis of new evidences from the funds of COMECON, State Committee of Economic Ties of the USSR (GKES) and the State Economic Council of the USSR, stored in the Russian State Economic Archive in Moscow. The author separates 2 periods in the history of global rivalry in the “Third World”: from the end of 1950s to mid-1960s and from the second half of 1960s to the end of 1970s. The competition is analysed from the two perspectives: the global vertical institutions (the Permanent Commission on Coordination of Technical Assistance in COMECON and etc.) and the horizontal layer: initiatives and activities of COMECON member countries and the practice of their external trade organizations in the “Global South”. The author comes to the conclusion that in 1970s one marks the rise in pragmatic reasoning and coordination of “technical assistance” to the less developed countries despite of the ongoing hidden ideological scramble between the two systems. As a working hypothesis which demands additional verification on the basis of a wider range of archives he advances a thesis that unlike the American programs of “aids” the socialist projects were less egocentric and obviously less coordinated. Unlike American technical and financial services, which overpassed the socialist ones both in size and rigidity of binding them with payment in US dollars and placement of orders in the USA, the socialist “assistance” often took the shape of exchange of commodities, payment by raw materials, using not hard currency and generally meant more investing into development of local infrastructure and personnel. It was aimed at growing up new industrial culture on the spot, export of industrialization together with the planning economy, rather than putting the “Global South” in subordinate position. The philosophy of aid politics was different. For COMECON member states in 1970s the issue of long-term stable economic relations with the “Global South” was seen as a factor of survival and higher speed of development for their economic programs. It was not only an opportunity to get deficit raw materials but generally to diversify export flows and balance the passive trading balance with the West by the trade boom with the South. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, GDR even more than the USSR pushed for their own interests the move towards the South. They were the drivers of further development of the “world system of socialism” and implementation of new hybrid forms of widening the COMECON sphere of influence in the “Global South”.

economics, finances, currency, export, technology, COMECON, CMEA, global South, Third World, developing countries, Cold War, détente, ideology, USSR, USA, Czechoslovakia, GDR, People’s Republic of Poland, United Arab Republic, Iran, external trading organizations, world energy crisis
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