Cuban Foreign Policy: Joint Objectives In Angola CSC 1984 SUBJECT AREA Foreign Policy CUBAN FOREIGN POLICY: JOINT OBJECTIVES IN ANGOLA Submitted to Rudolph V. Wiggins, Ph.D. In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for Written Communications The Marine Corps Command and Staff College Quantico, Virginia Major T. P. Sullivan United States Marine Corps April 6, 1984 OUTLINE Thesis Statement: We should realize that the objectives of Soviet and Cuban military operations are likely to be shared and joint in nature rather than dictated by the patron state to the client. I. Introduction A. Angola as an Example for Today B. Brief History of Angolan Intervention II. The Soviet Objectives in Angola III. The Cuban Objectives in Angola IV. The Case for Joint Objectives and Vulnerabilities V. Conclusions CUBAN FOREIGN POLICY: JOINT OBJECTIVES IN ANGOLA Few Marines would fail to state that Cuba is the major trouble- maker in the Western hemisphere. Unfortunately, there are also very few who would say that Cuba is not a complete puppet of the Soviet Union in all Cuban foreign affairs. This is simply not true, and a review of the history of Cuban foreign policy successes, especially in Angola, will point to definite Cuban and Soviet joint foreign policy objectives that defined the roles of both parties. Because of our growing involvement in the affairs of Central America, it is very important for us to understand that the objectives we are likely to be in opposition with are indeed joint, and not dictated from the Soviets to the Cubans. The best example of the Cubans and Soviets working for a set of joint objectives is found in the Cuban military intervention in Angola during 1975. Angola is one of the wealthiest countries in terms of natural resources in all of Africa. Its geographical location establishes its territorial influence over many of the other states in the region. Angola has abundant mineral resources including large oil deposits. It also produces diamonds and coffee for export. The United States maintained a policy of supporting the Portuguese colonial power in Angola through the early 1970's, even though the winds of liberation movements had been blowing in Angola for some time. In early 1961 a number of anti-colonial uprisings shook the sleepy Portuguese into an awareness that something had to be done in order to maintain their security. They sent their Army and the DGS, the Portuguese intelligence service, into Angola where they were able to create a temporary stability. The Army soon tired of its role, however, and the Portuguese coup in April 1974 removed from its ranks the last vestiges of the will to continue the fight, and set the stage for the civil war in Angola that followed in 1975. Three factions went to war over the right to control Angola in the wake of the Portuguese coup. The most successful was the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which continues today to fight the second faction, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The third, U.S. supplied and supported, was the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), headed: by Rolden Roberto. Foreign powers increasingly became involved. The United States, through the CIA, authorized a grant of $3,000,000 to the FNLA. The Soviet Union supplied the MPLA with arms. Cuba, which had been involved in Angola with the NPLA since the early 1960s was, by the spring of 1975, actively training MPLA guerrillas. The bulk of the Cuban combat troops arrived after major South African attacks in the late fall of 1975. Since then, the MPLA government has relied on the support of the Cuban troops for the majority of its security requirements. The troops that the Cubans have provided have been used in many ways. Some were used directly, and disasterously, against the South African forces in the fall of 1975. They were also used to train the MPLA forces for both the continuation of the civil war against its in-country rivals, and later, to protect the country against destabilization by neighbors. Although there is general agreement on what the benefits of Cuba's military intervention into Angola were, there is some confusion in the international affairs community over the objectives of the intervention. This confusion seems to occur because of the propensity of many to see the use of the Cuban troops solely as a proxy force for achieving Soviet strategic goals. This case can be supported, but it takes too simplistic a view of the intervention to be of great value. The fact is that Cuban foreign policy is global in reach, not simply that of a client state of the Soviets. Both Soviet and Cuban objectives were considered prior to the execution of the intervention. The intervention was a joint venture because of the political realities that all three parties (including the MPLA) faced. The Soviets and Cubans shared the targets for reaching their respective objectives to varying degrees. The main targets were the U.S., South Africa, Zaire, and the FNLA and UNITA. These factions were targeted in an attempt to halt direct opposition to the MPLA. In each case, the use of Cuban troops, either as Soviet proxy forces or acting solely in Cuban interests, had direct applications on perceptions of the utility of the intervention. One of the reasons that the Cuban troops were often seen as acting entirely for Soviet objectives is stated by Fontaine: The creation of dependent Marxist regimes in Africa, at small expense and little risk, is patently to the advantage of the Soviet Union, particularly if Moscow's strategic position is thereby enhanced. In this endeavor, Cuban troops serve as convenient instruments. Since Cuba is not formally a member of the Warsaw Pact by a self-avowed participant in the "non-aligned movement," Cubans are more "acceptable" to superpower military presence on their continent.1 Vanneman and James list two probable objectives for the Soviets in their intercention in Angola: One Soviet objective in Southern Africa, in general, is access to its enormous reserves of raw materials. As one Soviet spokesman put it: "Africa holds a leading position in the world both in reserves and output of many kinds of raw material. The deposits of some of the minerals in Africa are unique, most of which are concentrated in Southern Africa.2 The second goal that Vanneman and James put forth is that of denying the access of other powers to these resources: Soviet planners are acutely aware of the strategic value of retarding the access of the United States and China to raw materials in the Third World. The Soviet Press and Radio Moscow continually harp on the strategic value of Southern Africa's raw materials, suggesting that China seeks to exploit them just as other so-called "imperialists" are doing now.3 The fact that Africa seems to be the last major source, outside the borders of the Soviet Union and China, of many important industrial raw materials has been important in the formulation of Soviet goals for Angola and all of Africa. From a worldwide position, this focus on the ability to garner raw materials is discussed by Van Rensburg. Although his work is concerned solely with South Africa, it is instructive to review his comments. He states: It is also becoming clear that competition for supplies of raw materials will play an increasingly important role in the economic development of nations and in the balance of power. This realization has contributed materially to shifting the emphasis in the conflict between East and West. The Soviet Union has come to appreciate that the supply of industrial raw materials represents a major vulnerability of the industrialized nations of the West. They have intensified their efforts to gain points of leverage with respect to the lifelines of supplies to the West, initially by diplomatic and economic means, but lately, in a more direct and aggressive fashion.4 Thus, the evidence is clear for the involvement of the strategic goals of the Soviets for the region and the Angolan intervention. In summation of this point Bissel states: While the revolutionary tradition of the Soviet Union in Africa has much to build upon, there exists a new song in the wind that sounds distinctly different from the Internationale. Some Soviet policymakers call not for the revolution and disruption, but rather for influence and regularization. There are influential leaders that argue for working with the power centers that exist, rather than destroying them with a Marxist faith in the future of the dialectic. The Soviet empire builders are leaving their tracks in Africa, and recent years have provided abundant evidence of their existence.5 Indeed, evidence suggests that a major portion of the Soviet objectives in Angola revolved about two specific, but long range, goals. The first was the Soviet desire to gain access to Angola's natural resources, and the second was to provide a springboard from which their naval forces could threaten the Western mercantile sea route called "the Cape Route." Some authors have stated that another important Soviet consideration was the limitation of Chinese influence within the emerging third world countries of Africa. It is more probable that such a limitation was to be a natural result of a hoped for Soviet exclusive domination in this region. This has been especially true since the emergence of the MPLA as the winner of the Angolan Civil War. The extent to which the Soviets were willing to intervene in Angola is, perhaps, the best measure of the importance that they placed on the attainment of these goals. In 1975, the Soviets supplied $300 million in aid to the MPLA. This accounted for an increase, in a one year period of $246 million over the previous total for 14 years. The assistance that the Soviets rendered to the MPLA consisted mainly of arms, ranging from the AK-47 rifle up to and including medium tanks. This aid was effective in making the MPLA formidable on the battlefield, but also almost entirely dependent upon the Soviets for military hardware and repair parts after the war. Thus, it seems that the Soviet and Cuban intervention in Angola could be looked upon as a coordinated effort to attain strategic Soviet goals. The Soviets supply the military equipment, the economic support, and strategic direction for the forces involved. The Cubans supply the Soviets with an acceptable surrogate "foreign legion" for this type of action and provide tactical direction and direct action roles for the MPLA. As Vanneman and James stated: Angola is an example of a graduated, relatively low cost, carefully orchestrated expansion of Soviet influence; it is a limited military confrontation, a proxy war. As such, it is a model for Soviet strategic planners to analyze and adapt elsewhere. It is virtually a new instrument of Soviet foreign policy.6 Further support is provided by Crocker, who stated in defense of the Soviet domination over the objectives of the intervention, and in opposition to Bender's view of Cuban policy objective domination: Equally perplexing is Bender's view of the Soviet-Cuban relationship. He does not deny that the Cubans are Soviet proxies, but merely accepts Angolan hints of Cuban autonomy. But where is the evidence, and how significant is Havana's own mission, as opposed to Moscow's for African and Western interest? Whether Cuban ardor for sub-Saharan soldiering is genuine is irrelevant, when such activity is utterly dependent on Soviet logistics. Each partner has something indispensable to offer the other: Cuban offers Moscow greatly expanded direct influence in African politics and reduced social and racial friction in host countries; Havana reaps ideological and tangible rewards in exchange. But what useful purpose is served by masking Moscow's lead role and by romanticizing Havana's Angolan entaglements?7 Cuban history is certainly not remarkable for its successes in foreign military involvement. This leads scholars who wish to support a Cuban orientation to the intervention in Angola into some difficulty. Although exporting the revolution has always been a tenet of Cuban policy, Angola gave the Cubans their first chance to attempt to export Castro's brand of communism outside the western hemisphere. As such, it represents the first chance in many years for us to examine Cuba's foreign policy and the use of their military forces to support it. Discussing methods by which the student can delineate Soviet and Cuban objectives, Bender states: Most Americans assume that the Cubans in Angola and elsewhere in Africa are little more than proxies for the Soviet Union. Rarely is any distinction made between Soviet and Cuban interests, goals, and actions in Africa. As a result, the Cuban presence in any part of the continent is generally perceived as a setback for the United States in its global competition with the Soviet Union. So much national attention has been focused on a perceived Soviet- Cuban threat in Africa that many have forgotten some larger, more important questions plaguing U.S.-Soviet relations. Even if it could be established that the Cubans are nothing more than the Soviet proxies, for example, the problem of how to act toward Soviet-backed regimes or movements in the Third World would remain.8 Domininquez, writing on Cuban foreign policy states that Cuba has always had a "big countries foreign policy", and says that the first tenant of that policy is the maintenance of the revolutionary government. He states: The survival of revolutionary rule remains the foremost objective of their foreign policy. And I think it would today be widely accepted--as it was not, at least in American capitals in the 1960s--that it was the practical imperative of survival, considerably more than ideological affinity, that made the Soviet connection as strong as it was from the outset.9 Domininquez further states: Instead, the Revolutionary government (of Cuba) sacrificed short- run internal welfare to its principle aim: the survival and consolidation of its own kind of political regime.10 Thus, at least one purely Cuban objective was probably the maintenance of power of the Castro government in Cuba. This would seem to be a very self-evident claim. In order to maintain his position internationally, Castro had to ensure his domestic power was unchallenged. He had to maintain the image of the Western hemisphere's leading revolutionary if he was to remain the leader of the third world nations' struggle for independence from the superpowers. By showing that he was willing to expend his most valuable resource, his people, in a struggle for an emerging nation halfway across the world, he proved his support for revolutionary solidarity at home and internationally. Castro has used the presence of his troops in Angola as the strongest possible signal to other countries of the Third World that he would support, militarily and economically, those countries that were responsive to his ideas of revolutionary solidarity. Castro's international position as a leader in the Non-aligned Movement was at first enhanced, and then tarnished, by the Angolan intervention because of the awareness of Cuban reliance on Soviet assistance. Without Soviet supplies, aircraft, ships, and support to the Cuban economy, there would have been no or very few Cuban troops in Angola. Even when the Soviet support is considered, however, one cannot overlook Castro's desire to further advance his position in the Third World through his Angolan ventures. As Halperin states: Nonetheless, to assume that Castro was acting under Soviet orders, or simply paying back part of his enormous debt to the Soviets, fails to account for a significant factor in his motivation. The Revival and expansion of Cuba's (and Castro's) world role, unprecedented among small Third World states, was its own reward.11 By 1980, the involvement of Cuba in Angola had led to the entrench- ment of Cuban military forces throughout those portions of the country that are under the government of the MPLA. These military forces have been reported to be as many as 16,000 combat troops with 4,000 advisors and technicians. In addition to the military forces, Cuba has also supplied medical personnel, teachers, and industrial technicians who are effectively in command of the day-to-day operations and key functioning of the country. The motivations behind the Angolan intervention cannot be laid to either the Soviets or the Cubans as sole proprietor. There is little doubt that the Soviet goals had to be met in order for the Cubans to implement the intervention, but there were also strong motivations that were purely Cuban. The ascendency of the Soviet goals must be tempered by their long- range nature. There is no reason to suspect that the Soviets felt the intervention would directly, and quickly, provide them with the means of denying the mineral wealth of southern Africa to the West. The Soviets certainly thought that there was every reason to believe that in time their objectives could be met. Not only would their financial expenditures be minimal, but no combat personnel were to be involved, and by using the Cubans they could avoid a situation where they have to deal with the "Ugly American" syndrome that had begun to haunt them in their international endeavors, especially in Africa. With the MPLA and the Cubans dependent upon Soviet controlled shipping for supplys to the intervention, and also for keeping the government afloat, the Soviets secured defacto basing rights for their ships, and were thus able to project forces that could have a strategic mission much more rapidly into the waters of southern Africa. The Cubans have also been able to use the intervention to their advantage. They have sent a message to the Third World that has been heard. Castro's position at home has been strongly enhanced as is evidenced by the lack of a massive manpower drain during the "boatlift". Several analysts have said that the "boatlift" gave Castro an inter- national black eye. Yet, it is worth noting that the Cuban position at the last meeting of the Non-aligned Movement was the one that all the other nations waited for. The fact that the Cuban position was not necessarily adopted only points out that the Soviets were in disfavor, and cannot be considered as an absolute rejection of Castro. It may be a reflection of the stature of the Cubans in the Third World that the rest of the countries at the conference treated the Cuban position with such deference. Indeed, not only the other countries, but also the interenational press. The Cubans were successful in the attainment of their goal of exporting the revolution. It is interesting that in the Angolan intervention, the revolution was already over when the majority of the Cubans arrived. The Cubans were able to conduct the intervention without risking any international condemnation because they were there to protect the MPLA from outside aggression, not to start a revolution. The Cuban goals were assisted by allowing the MPLA to continue to build a revolutionary Marxist society under its tutelage and protection. Castro's domestic position improved because he was able to re-establish himself as the leader of the revolutionary movement in the Third World. Internationally, he reaped the same reward. The fact that the Cubans remain firmly entrenched in the day-to-day affairs of all levels of life in Angola indicates that the revolutionary drive of the Cubans in Africa is there to stay. Although all parties to the intervention have attained some of their desired goals, there has been one consequence that was both unforeseen, and probably unwanted. Kitchen outlines the problem when she states: The record, including that of Angola, shows that the Soviet policy in Africa is both opportunistic and cautious, involving close attention to signals and re-evaluation of the terms of the game at each step of the way. Some factors that impel Soviet caution: concern about the vulnerability of their own nationals to attack (as in Angola and Mozambique); recognition that the Cuban mystique would be seriously affected by conflict with an African host or by a major military defeat when acting in support of an African host; any situation in which Cuban and Soviet historical preferences do not mesh (the Eritrea secessionist movement in Ethiopia being the most notable thus far); any situation in which the significant leverages on the protagonists clearly rests with others, such as the key role of the front-line states in relation to the civil war in Zimbabwe; entanglements that risk becoming quagmires, especially in light of the Ethiopian experience. The vital importance of the Cubans to the Soviets--the-tail-wagging-the-dog syndrome--could become a great vulnerability; on a personal level, for example, Russians are far less adaptable and acceptable in African than Castro's envoys.12 Thus, the biggest drawback to the intercention is suggested to be the vulnerabilities it produced upon the Cubans. Those vulnerabilities can be substantiated further when one considers that the Cuban troops have never successfully faced a modern field army in battle. The small number of Cuban troops that opposed the South Africans in 1979 did not stop the South African battle groups as they marched on Luanda. The battle groups were stopped by the South African government after they realized that the U.S. would not back the venture and made it foolish to continue. The countries of the Third World only know about Cuban troop successes becuase there have been no major failures. This is perhaps the reasoning for the dismay over the new U.S. policy in San Salvador. There, the Cubans have been definitely identified as backing the anti-government forces, and they are now faced with the prospect of engaging the U.S. with its monolithic military power. A major Cuban military withdrawal or defeat in Angola would almost certainly adversely affect both the Cubans and the Soviets in both Africa and Central America. All-in-all, the military intercention in Angola must be considered a short and long term success when measured against Soviet and Cuban objectives. The possiblility that their stunning success has set them up with an equally stunning vulnerability has yet to be proven. However, the transience of the positions of the opposing factions in the events in El Salvador indicate that the Cubans and Soviets have addressed that possibility. If the only measurement of the effectiveness of the intervention can be a determination of how it has supported the original objectives, then the Cubans and Soviets were indeed successful. The targets of their direct objectives left the area or ceased their opposition to the NPLA. Cuba retains its leadership position in the Third World, and Castro remains strong at home. The Soviets were able to exploit U.S. and Western weaknesses, and have also gained the use of Angolan port facilities from which they can threaten Western supply routes around the cape. As shown, it is easy to find the strategic goals of the Soviet Union in their involvement with Angola. Although it is easy to dismiss the Cuban involvement as completely subordinate to the Soviets, a very strong case is made for Cuba's own strategic goals dictating their role in Angola. The importance of discussing the joing nature of the goals for Angola is the nature of events now unfolding in Central America. Constant attempts of foreign policy pundits to lay all the blame for insurrection at the bands of either the Soviets or the Cubans can be dangerous and misleading. Angola gives us a solid case for a successful attainment of joint objectives that will probably serve as a guideline for many for many years to come. As Marines, we should always seek to gain the best possible knowledge of our adversaries. Making the mistake of seeing Cuban military involvement as directed solely by the Soviet Union could prove to be fatal. FOOTNOTES 1Roger W. Fontaine, "Cuban Strategy in Africa: The Long Road of Ambition," Strategic Review, (Washington, D.C., United States Strategic Institute, Summer 1978), p. 19. 2Peter Vanneman and Robert James, "The Soviet Intervention in Angola: Intentions and Implications," Strategic Review, (Washington, D.C., United States Strategic Institute, Summer 1976), p. 97. 3Ibid, p. 95. 4W.C.J. Van Resnburg, "Africa and Western Lifelines," Strategic Review, (Washington, D.C., United States Strategic Institute, Spring 1978), p. 42. 5Richard E. Bissell, "Soviet Interests in Africa," Soviet and Chinese Aid to African Nations, edited by Warren Weinstein and Thomas H. Henriksen, (Praeger, New York, N.Y., 1980), p. 6. 6Vanneman and James, "Soviet Intervention in Angola," p. 95. 7Chester A. Crocker, "Making Africa Safe for the Cubans, "Foreign Policy, (Washington, D.C., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Summer 1978), p. 31. 8Gerald J. Bender, "Angola, the Cubans, and American Anxieties", Foreign Policy, Summer 1978, p. 4. 9Jorge I. Domingque, "Cuban Foreign Policy", Foreign Affairs, (Baltimore, Council on Foreign Relations, Fall 1978), p. 84. 10Ibid, p. 83. 12Helen Kitchen, "Eighteen African Guideposts", Foreign Policy, (Winter 1979-80), p. 73. BIBLIOGRAPHY Official Publications Angola, Hearings before the Subcommittee on African Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Relations on U.S. Involvement in Civil War in Angola, January 29, February 3,4, and 5, 1976, United States Senate, 94th Congress, 2d Session, Washington, GPO, 1976. Watson, Thomas H. The Angolan Affair: 1974 - 1976, Maxwell Air Force Base, Air War College, 1977. Books Stockwell, John. In Search of Enemies - A CIA Story, New York, Norton, 1978. Carter and O'Meara, Southern Africa in Crisis, Ontario, Canada, Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd., 1977. Seiler, John. Southern Africa Since the Portuguese Coup, Boulder, Co., Westview Press, 1980. Weinstein, Warren and Henriksen, Thomas H., Soviet and Chinese Aid to African Nations, New York, Praeger, 1980. Marcum, John. The Angolan Revolution, Volume II, Exile Politics and Guerrilla Warfare (1962-1976) Cambridge, Ma., The MIT Press, 1978. Mohamed A. El Khawas and Barry Cohen. The Kissinger Study of Southern Africa, National Security Study Memoradum 39, Westport, Conn., Lawrence Hill, 1976. Burchett, Wilfred and Roebuck, Derek. The Whores of War, Mercenaries Today, New York, Penquin Books, 1977. Western Massachusetts Association of Concerned African Scholars. U.S. Military Involvement in Southern Africa, Boston, South End Press, 1978. Magazines Van Rensburg, W.C.J., "Africa and Western Lifelines," Strategic Review, Spring 1978. Bender, Gerald J., "Angola, The Cubans, and American Anxieties", Foreign Policy, Summer 1978. Dominguez, Jorge I., "Cuban Foreign Policy", Foreign Affairs, Fall 1978. Fontaine, Rodger W., "Cuban Strategy in Africa: The Long Road of Ambition," Strategic Review, Summer 1978. Kitchen, Helen, "Eighteen African Guideposts", Foreign Policy, Winter 1979-80. Crocker, Chester A., "Making Africa Safe for The Cubans," Foreign Policy, Summer 1978. Vanneman, Peter and Martin Janes, "The Soviet Intercention in Angola: Intentions and Implications," Strategic Review, Vol. IV, Summer 1976.
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