A DISCUSSION OF IMPERIALISM
B.A., Concordia College, 1991
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fullfillment of
the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
has been approved
Austin, Dave (M.A., Political Science
A Discussion of Dominance and Imperialism in Interstate Relations
Thesis directed by Dr. Joel Edelstein
Political inequality is universal. States are not, nor will they be, equal
in their raw materials, natural resources, status, or physical strength. Imperi-
alism is an action resulting from this inequality.
Imperialism is a system of dominance in which one state attempts to
institute either direct or indirect rule over another state. It is a physical action
of one state upon another. This compliance is established and maintained
through a number of coercive levers, which include military, political, and
economic pressures. Imperialism is the policy of a state in its attempts at
establishing and maintaining external control over a people unwilling to
accept such control. It is an extension of power and influence of a nation over
Whereas theoretical explanations of imperialism are abundant, the
question to be asked is how a state proceeds in acquiring and maintaining a
dominant/subordinate relationship. What are the characteristics of such a
relationship? Johan Galtung provides a framework for such a discussion. He
talks of the characteristics and actions that are present in an imperialist/
dominant relationship. Not why imperialism happens, in the most basic and
obvious term: dominant states dominate because they can. Rather, Galtung
talks of how that dominance is achieved.
This paper discusses imperialism in the context of Galtung's work "A
Structural Theory of Imperialism". In it the author talks of the characteristics
and actions that arepresent in an imperialist/dominant relationship. Galtung's
assertions will be applied and shown to be present in two separate situations to
show how the actions of two supposedly opposing ideologies parallel each other:
the relationship of the former Soviet Union to its Eastern European counterparts
and the United States to the countries of Central America.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recom-
mend its publication.
1. Introduction A Discussion of Imperialsim..........................1
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe........................4
The United States and Central America..................7
2. A Structural Theory of Imperialism................................11
3. The Soviet Union...............................................16
Political Levers............................: 32
4. The United States......................................' ... 40
5. Conclusions................................................... 65
The United States and Central America -
The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe -
The Links That Bind...............................70
1. Annual Percentage Rates of Growth of GNP............................ 28
2. Trade Between U.S.S.R. and Member Countries..........................30
3. U.S. Intervention in the Caribbean Area..............................43
4. Total Exports for 1929 ,........................................... 44
5. Central American Soldiers Trained in School of
Americas and in U.S................................................. 54
6. Central American Percentage of Trade with United
States 1980-1990 ................................................... 59
7. Total Dollars of Coffee and/or Bananas to Total
Aggregate Exports................................................... 67
8. In Dollars Total Amount of Trade with the
United States....................................................... 68
A Discussion of Imperialism
Imperialism is an interaction between two or more states. This
interaction is characterized by an asymmetric relationship, a system of
unequal exchange in which one participant, the dominant state, is
favored relatively or gains more than the other, subordinate state(s).
This is not to say that a weaker state has no benefit from the presence of
a strong one. Relations may be maintained in order to protect
territorial rights or internal stability (Bogdan and Preda,1988). That
security, though, often comes with a price of dependency and loss of
Political leaders are hesitant to publicly identify the existence of
imperialism. Recognition of its existence would go against
international norms on state sovereignty and promote imperialistic
For the United States to claim or grant such rights
would amount to condoning intervention and the
violation of state autonomy, thereby undermining
the foundations of international society. For the
Soviet Union acknowledgment of an
understanding about [imperialism] would be to
suggest that it act in its own interests rather than in
keeping with those of socialist solidarity
The agreement, therefore, among dominant states is understood but
unspoken. They do not wish to give themselves, or formally allow
others, the rights and status that an imperialistic relationship would
What are the consequences of this type of relationship? On the
positive side, Kaufman (1976), Keal (1983), and Bogdan and Preda (1988)
agree that such an understanding between dominant states promotes
an increase in international stability and is an aid to international
order. Kaufman (1976) talks of order as implying a certain degree of
predictability in economic and political relations, making it possible for
members of a society to plan their future. This type of order implies
stability, a departure from radical change, or the maintaining of the
status quo. Dominance facilitates stability in that it diminishes the
possibility of conflict within the international system. The uncertainty
of conflict within a region is removed as it is understood that one great
power is responsible for the security and order of the region, removing
that area from external confrontations.
Keal (1983) asserts that relations between states within a region
are stabilized by the mere presence of a dominant force. For example,
historical conflicts such as the interstate rivalries, that were present in
Eastern Europe during the pre-World War II era, primarily dealing
with border disputes and treatment of foreign peoples, although not
totally dissipated, no longer reach the point, of conflict (Rothschild,
1993). This is due to the presence of the dominant state within the
region. There exists a recognized hierarchy with the subordinate states
attempting to act in accordance with what is perceived to be the
dominant state's wishes. Order is therefore established and
maintained by actual dominant intervention or the threat of
intervention. Keal (1983, 200) states the definition of order as "a
political arrangement of stable possession maintained by periodic
intervention to remind errant states of the existence of a hierarchy."
Conversely though, the argument exists that in an attempt to achieve
international order, long-term internal security is often sacrificed. In
attempting to maintain stability, or the status quo, a .dominant state is
in essence fostering instability or disorder. The type of aid and
intervention utilized by dominant states helps to maintain short-term
stability, but also expands internal instability. The maldistribution of
not only wealth but also of political power that is found within the
subordinate states eventually leads to a breakdown of order, as the
disadvantaged strive for economic and social justice, possibly resulting
in revolutionary movements and a breakdown of societal stability. In
this scenario, stability leads to instability.
A discussion of imperialism requires an institutionalized
meaning, a working definition. Theoretical explanations are plentiful.
This includes imperialism as a territorial view, a means of empire
building with nationalism the guiding force and achievement of "great
power" status the desired end. This view went with those countries
who deemed it as their God-given right, their destiny, to impose their
system on the "lesser" peoples. Other prevalent theories discuss
imperialism in economic terms, such as those of traditional Marxist
views, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, and Hobson. In slightly differing
aspects, each view imperialism as the natural progression of the
capitalist economic system.
This paper's working definition will center on Johan Galtung
and his theory of imperialism, specifically his work titled "A Structural
Theory of Imperialism." The author does not deal with why the
imperialistic relationship exists, but rather how it is established and
maintained. Galtung writes of "inter-" and "intra-" state relations. He
talks of states being divided into two district groups, center and
periphery nations. The center nation is the dominant of the two (or
more), while the periphery nations make up the subordinate states.
Concurrently, within each state are similar groups, center and
periphery societies. The center consists of the internal ruling
government or elite and the periphery is made up of the masses or
general public. It is the interaction of these four groups that are the
basis for Galtung's definition of an imperialistic relationship. While
no theory is all-encompassing, his discussion of imperialism will be
shown to encapsulate two separate, but surprisingly similar,
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
A series of events in the early to mid-1900s established the
Soviet Union as the center/dominant state within Eastern Europe.
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the rise of Marxism/Communism
along with the end of World War II, and the subsequent division of
Europe established the U.S.S.R. as the lone superpower in a region of
subservients. Invaded from the west in 1812, 1914,1919, and finally by
Nazi Germany in 1941, Stalin insisted that the Eastern European states
be made up of "governments friendly to the Soviet Union" (Feinberg
and Pastor, 1984, 42). Being anticommunist by class and anti-Russian
by tradition, the ruling elites of the Eastern bloc were not particularly in
favor of the Soviet system, meaning that Moscow had to import a
revolution from above into each system. Imposing Communist party
rule was the intent, with the rationale given by Stalin:
. .This was not as in the past. Whoever occupies a
territory also imposes on it his own social system
[as far] as his army can reach (Feinberg and
A transfer of political power throughout the region soon resulted in a
program of forced political and economic integration and duplication
of the Soviet social structures. At the end of the war Moscow was
occupying or dramatically influencing each state along its western
borders and was intent on creating the buffer zone that it had
The end of World War II and the subsequent agreements by the
great powers at Yalta brought with it the creation of the Soviet sphere
of influence. The infiltration of Soviet dominance into its eastern
neighbors was by no means a given. States such as Tito's Yugoslavia
resisted the Soviet intrusions and do not fit well into Galtung's
blueprint. But there are others that clearly do: Hungary in 1956,
Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Poland in 1981 are all examples of
countries attempting to break away from Moscow's reach and typify the
problems faced by the Soviet Union in attempting to maintain
Under Stalin the Soviet Union would be the natural nucleus for
the proletarian movement. International relations were to be
nonexistent as the U.S.S.R.'s interests, concerns, and decisions would
be an extension of the worldwide proletarian movement:
. . The Communist Party of the Soviet Union has
always proceeded from the fact that 'national' and
international problems of the proletariat of the
U.S.S.R. amalgamate into one general problem of
liberating the proletarians of all countries from
capitalism, and the interests. . in our country
wholly and fully amalgamate with the interests of
the revolutionary movement of all countries into
one general interest of the victory of the socialist
revolution in all countries (Aspaturian, 1967, 163).
As the center of the Communist organization, protection of the Soviet
base was the most prominent objective and devotion to the Soviet state
was required. Stalin's new emphasis was stated in the "Program of the
Comintern" in 1928:
. . the U.S.S.R. inevitably becomes the base of the
world revolutionary movement. ... In the
U.S.S.R., the world proletariat for the first time
acquires a country that is really its own. . In the
event of the imperialist declaring war upon and
attacking the U.S.S.R., the international proletariat
must retaliate by organizing bold and determined
mass action and struggle for the overthrow of the
imperialist governments (Aspaturian, 1967, 218).
Communist parties in other countries such as the Eastern bloc were
relegated to subordinate positions, manipulated to enhance the goals of
the Soviet state. This was shown in the mentioned Comintern and in
Stalin's notion of proletarian internationalism:
... A revolutionary is he who without evasions,
unconditionally openly and honestly. . is ready to
uphold and defend the U.S.S.R. An internationalist
is he who unconditionally, without hesitation and
without provisos, is ready to defend the U.S.S.R.
because the U.S.S.R. is the base of the world
revolutionary movement, and to defend and
advance this movement is impossible without
defending the U.S.S.R. (Aspaturian, 1967, 218).
After World War II, as Communist parties seized control of the Eastern
European countries, the Soviet Union no longer held the position as
the only existing communist state. The policy of proletarian
internationalism was therefore transferred from controlling not only
the parties but the states as well. As satellite leaders began to place the
interests of their individual states above those passed down from
Moscow, the Cominform was established, ostensibly for mutual
discussion among states. In reality, Stalin utilized.the organization to
keep party leaders in line and subordinate to Moscow, since loyalty to
the Soviet Union was considered the utmost priority. Once again
interference in the internal affairs of the satellite states at Moscow's
discretion was justifiedjustification that would become all too
obvious to the U.S.S.R.'s Eastern bloc neighbors.
The United States and Central America
Because of their proximity to the United States, the Central
American countries have felt the full brunt of Washington's
imperialistic tendencies. Over the years the United States had been
able to establish what LaFeber (1993) calls a neodependent relationship
with the countries within the region. The Monroe Doctrine and its
subsequent corollaries effectively established those countries as a
sphere of influence for the United States, an area in which the United
States has held a position of unquestioned superiority.
By the end of the 19th century American foreign policy had
reached a turning point. Up until 1898 the United States had focused
inward; after 1898 the country looked to expand. It was the Spanish
American War which highlighted this shift in vision. The country of
Cuba had long held an attraction to Americans and when fighting
broke out in 1895, support was easily mustered. President Cleveland
was unwilling to join the fray against Spain, but the election of
Republican William McKinley in 1896 brought about a shift in
American policy (Perkins, 1966, 41). The loss of the Maine in a Havana
harbor and Spain's lack of expediency to grant concessions to the three-
day ultimatum established by the President led to a congressional call
to war (Kiernan, 1978, 100). The war itself was short-lived and rather
one sided with its after effects seemingly strengthening the American
belief of its destined place in international relations. The Washington
Post, on announcing Dewey's first strike on the Spanish fleet in the
Manila Bay, Philippines, stated, "The guns of Dewey at Manila have
changed the destiny of the United States. We are face to face with a
strange destiny and must accept its responsibilities. An imperial
policy!" (Deconde, 1978, 318). McKinley followed with the passage of a
treaty annexing Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. His
justification for these endeavors emphasized the belief in Manifest
The president himself defended his policy in
September 1898 with a reference to 'obligations
which we cannot disregard.'. . he called on
Americans to be faithful to the trust which
civilization puts upon us.'. . McKinley claimed for
the United States a right and duty to establish
colonies, help 'oppressed peoples,' and generally
project its power and influence into the world. . he
described control of the Philippines, Cuba, and
Puerto Rico as a 'great trust' that the nation carried
'under the providence of God and in the name of
human progress and civilization.' He reassured
doubters with the claim that 'our priceless
principles undergo no change under a tropical sun.
They go with the flag' (Hunt, 1987, 38).
In a discussion regarding the fate of the Philippines, McKinley spoke of
praying for divine guidance which resulted in an American duty:
And one night late it came to me this way. . That
we could not give them back to Spainthat would
be cowardly and dishonorable.. that we could not
leave them to themselves-they were unfit for self
governmentand they would soon have anarchy
and misrule over there worse than Spain's was;
and that there was nothing left for us to do but take
them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift
and Christianize them (Deconde, 1978, 321)
The United States actions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, asserts Hunt (1987), emphasized the evolved American belief
that the path to national greatness, that would hold true well into the
twentieth century, was through commercial prosperity, territorial
expansion, and military security. The developing belief in the
maintenance of the status quo fueled by the Cold War and the
perceived need to contain communism helped to create a
paternalistic/possessive attitude. The protection of American interests
and substance of the U.S. position within international affairs was of
foremost priority. This shift is acutely described by Brzezinski (1965)
when he states:
. . The Wilsonian approach dominated American
thinking about international affairs. . Only then,
as a result of hard experience, did Americans slowly
come to accept the proposition that foreign policy
involved the manipulation of social and economic
forces within other nations as well as the
management of relations among nations (58).
For this project, this notion is beneficial in two aspects, it highlights the
evolutionary process of the American political beliefs and it states the
American ideology after World War I, protection of American national
"A STRUCTURAL THEORY OF IMPERIALISM"
In Galtung's definition, an imperialistic relationship is made
up of a number of participants. There exists both a 'horizontal
relationship" which is to say a hierarchical interaction between center
and periphery states and a "vertical relationship" within both the
dominant and subordinate state. In his "A Structural Theory of
Imperialism", (1990), Galtung establishes imperialism as a relationship
between center (Dominant) and periphery (subordinate) states and of
center and periphery societies within those states:
Imperialism. . is a sophisticated type of dominance
relation which cuts across nations, basing itself on a
bridgehead which the center in the Center nation
establishes in the center of the Periphery nation, for
the joint benefit of both (261).
Imperialism consists of a relation between two nations so that
there is a "Harmony of Interest" between the center in the center
nation and the center in the periphery nation. Interest here is defined
by Galtung as the states' goals:
It may perhaps be measured by using such
indicators as income, standard of living in the
usual materialistic sense, but notions of quality of
life would certainly also enter, not to mention
notions of autonomy (262).
Each party, in some form, benefits by the interaction of the two nations.
The center of the dominant nation benefits in the ability to utilize the
wealth and resources found in the subordinate state, while the center
in the periphery nation benefits in its ability to maintain its standing or
position of power within the periphery nation. Backed by the military
and economic dominance of the dominant/center nation, the center in
the periphery is assured of its dominant place in intrastate relations.
There also exists a "Disharmony of Interest" within the
periphery nation to a degree greater than is found in the center nation-
disharmony meaning that there is a disparity between parties. That is
to say that there exists a large and widening gap of standard of life
between the center and the periphery in the periphery nation than
exists between the center and the periphery in the center nation.
Similar to this, there exists a disharmony of interest or disparity
between the periphery in the center nation and the periphery in the
periphery nation. At the core of these relationships is the question of
who is benefiting. In Galtung's model, the center and the periphery in
the center nation both benefit from the interaction with the periphery
nation as does the center in the periphery, while the periphery in the
periphery nation is the "exploited" class.
Since imperialism is based on the interaction between states, that
interaction holds particular characteristics. Relations between the two
states begin as asymmetrical or hierarchical, there is an established
order. The exploitation of and exportation of goods from the
periphery to the center, with the center nation being the only one of
the two benefiting from the exchange, is the common starting point.
Time may bring about a change in the relationship as the center nation
may begin to make token payments to the periphery, coinciding with
the rise of the center within the periphery. In this interaction between
the two nations, the center nation always benefits. Association among
periphery nations is limited while association between periphery
nations and other center nations is obsolete. That is to say that
interaction with states outside the sphere or bloc is monopolized by the
center, or dominant, nation. Periphery nations are sealed off, excluded
from international relations.
The distinction must be made between the differing types of
imperialism dependent upon the type of exchange. Galtung presents
differing forms of imperialism which may or may not be present. The
focus here will be on economic, political, and military.
Economic imperialism entails a manipulation of a state's
economic organizations and relations. The internal and external
trading patterns and goods of the periphery state are controlled by the
. . the tendency for Periphery nation (is) to have
only one or very few primary products to export. .
A territory may have been exploited for the raw
materials most easily available and/or most needed
in the Center, and this, in turn, leads to a certain
social structure, to communication lines to the
deposits, to trade structures, to the emergence of
certain center groups (Galtung, 272).
Trade of the periphery state is concentrated with the dominant or
center nation, while the center nation is free to trade in any amount
with any other nation. This combination leads to an economic
dependency of the periphery on the center. The periphery is reliant on
the center to purchase the periphery product while the periphery
depends on the center for its supply of goods. The dominant state,
through various coercive measures, does not allow other economic
relationships to exist.
Political imperialism is an easily recognizable concept. The
center nation decides who the periphery "leaders" are and then plays
the role of decision maker for itself and the periphery nation(s). The
degree of subjugation is dependent upon the nations involved, varying
from totalitarian rule to a wide degree of autonomy afforded to the
subordinate state. Decisions or mandates are passed down as
"assistance" or through "consultation" with the center nation:
The Center nations possess some superior kind of
structure for others to imitate and which gives a
special aura of legitimacy to an idea emanating
from the Center. Thus structures and decisions
developed in the Fatherland of Socialism serve as
models by virtue of their place of origin, not by
virtue of their substance (275).
Military imperialism is almost as clear as political imperialism
and can-be tied to the aforementioned economic aspects. The economic
center naturally becomes the military center as:
. . only they have the industrial capacity to develop
the technological hardware and also are often the
only ones with the social structure compatible with
a modern army. He who produces tractors can
easily produce tanks, but he who delivers oil cannot
defend himself by throwing it in the face of the
The subordinate state is reliant upon for its physical safety the
dominant for its military capabilities and stands in fear of its military
superiority. Direct military intervention is the last stage, or resort, of
military dominance. When all other components of Galtung's
imperialistic relationship have failed or broken down, the dominant
state is reliant on sheer strength to over power the subordinate.
The next two chapters attempt to apply this theory of
imperialism to two distinctly different situations: the relations between
the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and between the United States
and Latin America. With two clearly different political systems and
political ideologies, a comparison of the actions of the U.S.S.R. and the
United states, the dominant states, will show that the actions of the
states constitute, by Galtung's definition and the description of the
dominant/subordinate state characteristics discussed above, attempted,
but not wholly successful, acts of imperialism on their subordinate
THE SOVIET UNION
The countries of Eastern Europe became part of the Soviet
sphere of influence by the westward march of the Red Army at the end
of World War II. By 1948, through direct and indirect pressures, the
governments of Eastern Europe were made into carbon copies of the
Soviet Union. Planned economies, forced trading patterns, police
repression, and military occupations were all prevalent and established
by obedient local Communist parties. In addition, since the 1950's
multilateral agreements, such as Comecon and the Warsaw Pact,
bound the nations to the Soviet Union.
.. According to Brzezinski (1967), the Soviet Union had a number
of objectives in pursuing the Communist takeover of Eastern Europe:
(1) denying the region to states hostile to the U.S.S.R. and potentially
threatening its security; (2) making sure that firm control over the
internal political systems in the individual countries remained in the
hands of leadership friendly to Moscow; (3) utilizing the region's
resources for the purpose of supporting Soviet postwar economic
recovery and development; and (4) taking advantage of Eastern Europe
as a convenient jumping-off point for a possible offensive against the
The question arises as to how the Soviet Union enforces its
dominion over its Eastern European allies, protecting its military,
political-ideological, and economic security. Galtung's modes of
imperialism fit well into the Soviet model as military superiority
resulted in varying degrees of success in political and economic
assimilation. By its intervention in Czechoslovakia and Hungary the
U.S.S.R. let it be known throughout the region that it would not
tolerate any deviance from the party line. The leading role of the
Communist Party within each state, the establishment of the Warsaw
Pact, and Comecon established unbreakable ties to Moscow.
Militarily, each Eastern European state was subservient to and
reliant on the Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact provided the U.S.S.R.
with any possible justification it needed to interfere in a state's actions.
Eastern European officers after World War II were trained within the
Soviet Union and were then chosen to fill important governmental
posts within their home states. Just as military training came from the
Soviet Union, so to did military supplies.
The Council of Mutual Economic Assistance, or Comecon,
played a similar role to the Warsaw Pact. Originally created to promote
economic integration and bloc cohesion, the organization actually
assisted in keeping its members separate and reliant upon the Soviet
Union. Multilateral arrangements were frowned upon because the
region's imports and exports were to flow through the Soviet Union.
This helped to instill a reliance on Soviet goods and the Soviet market.
Military levers' of influence can be exerted in differing forms,
through either direct intervention or coercive dependence, both of
which the Soviet Union used in attempting to keep its satellite states
subordinate. Two prime examples of the use of direct Soviet military
force to protect their imperial interests are the invasions of Hungary in
1956 and that of Czechoslovakia in the Prague Spring of 1968. In both
cases, the standard dominant/subordinate relationship had broken
down, as the Soviet Union was forced to use intervention to maintain
the dominant position.
Victims of the Stalinistic purges, Hungary's leadership and
population could not be placated by the minor economic and political
concessions offered up by the Khrushchev regime after Stalin's death.
Political instability became evident in the Spring of 1955 as moderate
Hungarian Prime Minster Imre Nagy was expelled from the Hungarian
Communist Party by Moscow. Nagy had attempted to implement a
number of reforms to revive Hungary's failing economy:
. . He (Nagy) was installed...with the
assignment...(of) turning the economy and the
polity toward the so-called New Course-promoting
living standards, consumption, wages,
decollectivisation... artisanal private enterprise,
administrative decentralization, popular
participation, educational liberalization, lawfulness,
amnesty, and religious toleration (Rothschild, 1993,
His plans, though, were sabotaged by Party Secretary, Matyas Rakosi,
Nagy's successor after his removal in April of 1955. Rakosi by no
means commandeered the popular support of the state's intellectuals
and workers that Nagy had enjoyed. His calls for a return to the
doctrine of Stalinism fell on apprehensive ears. Dissent turned into
open disobedience, and forced Moscow into action.- Still sensitive to
the Poznan workers riots that had taken place in Poland, Rakosi was
forced to resign and a new Central Committee formed (Rothschild,
1993, 158). The post of first secretary was filled by Erno Gero, an ally of
Rakosi and political opponent of Nagy. This token replacement did
nothing to dispel the popular discontent as demonstrations began to
take place with continued growth in size. Demonstrations on the 23rd
of October precipitated the first wave of the Soviet invasion. That
evening Nagy was reinstated by the Central Committee as prime
minister, but Gero remained as first secretary. During that same night
G. Marosan, a member of the Hungarian Politburo, requested direct
military aid from Moscow to help dispel the public demonstrations.
Subsequently, Soviet troops rolled in and fighting broke out between
the Red Army and Hungarian rebels for the next five days. A cease-fire
was negotiated by Nagy after a reorganization of the government.
Nagy was once again placed in charge along with Central Committee
member Janos Kadar, but the peace was only temporary. Nagy quickly
raised Moscow's ire by including in the new government
noncommunists Bela Kovacs and Zoltan Tildy (the two were members
of the Smallholders party) (Keal, 1983, 117), but that paled in
comparison to his actions on October 30. In attempting to instill
popular reforms, Nagy announced a new era in Hungarian politics, a
restoration of the multiparty system and the establishment of a
coalition government among; the Social Democrats, the Smallholders,
National Peasants, and Communist Parties. His days were numbered,
though, upon the declaration of Hungary's intentions to renounce its
participation in the Warsaw Pact and claim its neutrality. Soviet troops
made their return to Budapest on the fourth of November, removing
Nagy and establishing the pro-Soviet government of Janos Kadar.
After his ouster, Nagy attempted to find refuge in the Yugoslavian
embassy but was eventually turned over and executed.
Intervention in Czechoslovakia, in August of 1968, had its
foundation laid earlier that year with the forced resignation of Antonia
Novotny as first secretary of the Communist Party. His successor,
Alexander Dubcek, entered with a popular call to reform. Dubcek was a
believer in the party apparatus, spending a total of 15 years as a student
of the Communist doctrine in Moscow, and he was an ally of the
Czechoslvak intellectuals who were consistently pushing the country
toward a pattern of liberalization. Whether or not this was his
intention seems irrelevant, as the intellectual elite of the republic
pushed for radical change. Taking into account lessons learned from
the past, Dubcek attempted to highlight Czechoslovakia's commitment
to the Soviet Union:
. . soon after coming to office, he [Dubcek]
emphasized the loyalty of the Czechoslovak
Communist Party (CPCz) to Marxism Leninism
and to the socialist principles of internationalism
Tensions were stirred, though, with the release of "The Two Thousand
Words," a publication indicting the past two decades of repressive
Communist "party dictatorship" calling for more .reform and a little
more elbow room through a gradual separation from the Soviet Union
(Rothschild, 1993, 171). Criticism came in all forms as members of the
Warsaw Pact along with the Soviet Union quickly condemned any and
all attempts to stray from the path to socialism. The Soviet Union
unequivocally stated that, as allies of the CPCz, they would not hesitate
to act if the dominant rule of the state Communist Party were
threatened. This Soviet promise came to pass as Soviet and Warsaw
Pact troops amassed along Czechoslovak borders in late June. Direct
military occupation was forestalled as Warsaw Pact representatives and
Czechoslovak leaders met in Bratislava and issued a joint release
which stated that the bloc was based on the principles of equality,
respect for sovereignty and national independence, territorial integrity,
and fraternal mutual aid and solidarity (McKenzie, 1966). It was with
this statement that Moscow had its justification for invasion, as Dubcek
implied that political reforms would continue:
. . the indispensable caution necessary on the part
of the Prague government to implement the radical
reforms was overwhelmed by popular support and
pressures for rapid liberalization (Kaufman, 1976,
At this point Brezhnev drew the line, stating that the Soviet Union
would not tolerate the fall of a fellow socialist country. Professor S.
Kovalev, in an article in the Soviet publication Pravda, paraphrased
what would become known as the Brezhnev doctrine:
. .Communists in fraternal countries of course
cannot tolerate that the socialist states remain
passive, referring to an abstract notion of
sovereignty, once they learn that there is a risk that
antisocialism is reborn in the country.... When the
counter revolutionary elements in Czechoslovakia
attacked the foundations of socialism, they
undermined the bases of independence and
sovereignty of the country. A formal attachment to
the nation's right to self-determination would in
the concrete circumstances in Czechoslovakia have
meant freedom to 'self-determination', not for the
toiling masses but for their enemies (Dawisha, 1990,
Brezhnev gave Prague the option of doing away with the rising
pluralistic system or suffering the consequences. Dubcek choose the
latter. On the night of August 21, 1968, the Soviet tanks returned to
Czechoslovakia. Just under 25 years earlier they had entered as
liberators, but this time they assumed the role of the oppressor and
created "the ultimate political pressure" (Gerner, 1982, 35). What has
been labeled the Prague Spring marked the start of approximately
twenty years of political apathy and continued economic stagnation.
The above descriptions are examples of the Soviet Union's
willingness to forcefully export its political ideology on its unfortunate
neighbors. But military influence did not come exclusively though
through intervention. While being the most visible, direct
intervention was only a small part of Soviet military superiority.
Arms sales, military alliances, and contact among military officers
helped to secure a dependent relationship within the Soviet bloc. The
Warsaw Pact was one tool that was used, and proved to be one of the
most effective. In a response to the NATO alliance of the Western
powers, the region formed its own military alliance. The pact was a
commitment by its members to consult on all matters of mutual
interest and required a state to provide any and all necessary assistance
in the development of socialismbasically a forgone conclusion in the
postwar era, as the Pact itself did little more than legitimize the system
already in place. Moscow had utilized the pact for justification of
intervention (as discussed above), to integrate the forces within the
bloc, and to justify a military presence within its neighbors' borders. In
all cases, integration with the Soviet Union meant taking a subordinate
role in the region's state of affairs. After the Warsaw Pacts
establishment, Eastern European regimes accepted the Moscow
argument that "successful intelligence and counter intelligence against
NATO required the fullest possible cooperation between the Soviets
and their East European allies" (Dawisha, 1990, 101). This meant the
establishment of foreign bureaus of both the Committee for State
Security, or KGB, and the military's Main Intelligence Directorate, or
GRU, as well as Soviet troop buildup within a state's borders.
Ostensibly, these institutions were meant for monitoring the West's
military maneuvers. In fact, their actions were also directed toward
internal surveillance. Any type of independent communications or
troop movement by a host country would be recognized and closely
monitored by Moscow's "representatives." Their presence created the
convenient excuse for the presence of Soviet intelligence offices used
for the monitoring of the occupied countries party actions and
governmental functions (Rothschild, 1993; Dawisha, 1990). Any
opposition to their presence could be quickly dispelled by the presence
of the Red Army.
As both Rothschild (1993) and Dawisha (1990) assert, the Soviet
military presence would not be capable without the consent and actual
support of the Eastern European elite and intelligentsia. This support
had been created through the selection and training of those political
elite in the Soviet Union in the years soon after World War II. That
training helped to instill a pro-Soviet attitude, to penetrate into
subordinate militaries, and to allow Moscow to filter out those officers
who would be cooperative and helpful in their intelligence efforts.
Most of Eastern Europe's leaders were hand picked by Moscow and
filled key governmental posts:
. . pro-Soviet deputy ministers, and two-check
employees frustrated the efforts of the
(Czechoslovakian) Dubcek leadership to liberalize
the system. The existence of this network explains
why, on more than one occasion, Dubcek was
awakened by calls from Soviet leaders angrily
complaining of some activity or publication about
which Dubcek himself had not yet been informed
(Dawisha, 1990, 102).
To secure this type of coordination throughout the bloc, no Eastern
European military training was allowed to develop independent of the
Kremlin's control. Eastern European troops trained with Soviet troops
within a common doctrine or strategy, for each high command
European official there was a Soviet counterpart acting in a supervisory
role (Rice, 1986, 248). With no attempt to maintain any type of national
identity, troops were expected to fight as one unit alongside Soviet
troops, with pressure added to the Eastern Europeans to specialize in
one or a few military tasks. This type of interaction appears to have
been an effective tool of containment:
. . The account goes on to proclaim that the form
gives Soviet commanders and soldiers a chance to
get to know their Czechoslovak counterparts
personally. 'This is far more effective than brief
conversations or short meetings.' The ability of
forces that are so thoroughly penetrated to resist
Soviet invasion is very limited (Rice, 1986, 249).
As training had come from above, so too did military supplies. All pact
armies, with the exception of Romania, were supplied entirely with
Soviet military equipment. None of the Eastern European states held
any type of substantial defense industry. Some types of manufacturing
were found in a few states: Polish shipbuilding; East German optics and
electronics; and Czech and Hungarian small arms factories were all
present but their output palled in comparison to the Soviet Union. In
general, the Soviet Union spent between 12 and 15 percent of its GNP
on defense while its Eastern European counterparts spent 6 percent
(Dawisha, 1990, 105). This type of dependence, along with the military
integration between the Soviet Union and Eastern European satellites,
helped Moscow to double-lock the military institutions of its satellite
Before World War II much of Eastern Europe was economically
underdeveloped. As much as 80 percent of the population was living
in non urban areas and was employed in agriculture, allowing much of
the area to be self-sufficient in food supply with little need for
manufactured goods (Starr, 1982, 240). Foreign trade within the block
after the war quickly fell into Galtung's pattern of imperialism as the
Soviet market filled the void left by Nazi Germany and as Eastern
Europe found itself isolated from Western markets. From this point
on, Eastern Europe would remain under tight Soviet control. To
achieve this end, parallel to the Warsaw Pact's intent of creating
military and political cohesion, the Council of Mutual Economic
Assistance (CMEA or Comecon) was developed ostensibly to promote
economic integration and cohesion among the bloc countries. CMEA's
intentions are stated in its original charter:
. . assist, through the unification and coordination
of the efforts of the member countries of the
council, in the planned development of the
national economies in the speeding up of economic
and technical progress in the countries, [and] in
raising the level of industrialization of the
countries with less developed industry. .
(Hutchings, 1987, 24).
In reality, in its early years Comecon had little to do with
cooperation or integration. Because Poland, Czechoslovakia, and
Hungary had all expressed a desire to take part in the United States's
Marshall Plan, Comecon was created in response to the perceived
Western threat and to legitimize the ongoing political transformation.
Economic ties at the outset were decidedly bilateral and one-sided,
benefiting the Soviet Union. From 1949-1954 Comecon ventures were
limited to bilateral trade agreements between the Soviet Union and its
organizational members (Brine, 1992). Economic growth during this
stage was considerable. Between the years 1947 and 1950 the annual
growth rate was an average of 23.5 percent with exports increasing by
35.2 percent yearly. This growth, though, is attributed to the economic
expansion of the Soviet Union and Eastern European access to the
Soviet market. Czechoslovakia, for example, increased its exports to
the U.S.S.R. by 92.2 percent (Kurth, 1986) This statistic was similar
throughout the region. Prior to World War II the region did 90 percent
of its trade with the West, which after World War II, the regions
imports and exports were redirected to the Soviet Union (Zwass, 1989).
This increase in trade and industrialization resulted in a dramatic rise
in the gross national product of the Eastern European states but:
... To a considerable degree, however, the increase
has been achieved by deliberately restricting
consumption. The rates of gross investment have
allegedly reached 25 percent of the total income.
Sustained emphasis on heavy industry, especially
for defense purposes, and inadequate investments
for agriculture have merely accentuated the
structural imbalance that has arisen at the expense
of the general standard of living (Starr, 1982, 302).
The increase in GNP was short-lived and of little benefit; Kurth (1986)
asserts that the system was unable to continue on its industrialized
path to the production of consumable durables, thus leaving the region
with a large buildup of heavy industries, a lack of energy to run them,
X able 1. Annual Percentage Rates of Growth of 1970-1988 GNP
Country 1 9 70-75 7 5-80 80-85 8 6 8 7
Czech. 3.4 2.2 1 .4 2. 1 1 .O
B ulgaria 4.5 1.2 0.9 4.8 00 o
East Germany 3.5 2.4 1.8 1.5 1.8
Hungary 3.4 2.3 0.9 2.2 1 .O
Poland 6.6 0.9 1.2 2.7 -1.7
Romania 6.2 3.9 2.0 5.8 1 1
X otals 4.9 2.0 1 .4 3 .O O. 1
Source: Alton, X., "East European GNP's, Domestic Pinal Uses of Gro
Product, Rates of Growth, and International Comparisons ', Joint
Economic Committee Pressures for Reform in the East European
Economies. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989,
Vol. 1, P.81.___________________ ________________________________
and a lack of infrastructure and market to sell whatever is being
produced. Table 1 highlights the continuing pattern of falling GNPs.
Soviet subsidies were used along with economic
ties to sustain the bloc's economic structure. One
study concludes that in the years between 1971 and
1980, the Soviet Union had transferred resources
valued at just over $80 billion to the region. Less
sensational figures were produced by The Rand
Corporation in a report of the U.S. Department of
Defense. The report states that trade subsidies to
Comecon members came to an average of $4.63
billion per year (Sicker, 1988,231).
While the Soviet economic influence was clearly substantial,
even dominant, it was never able to reach Galtung-like proportions.
Galtung talks of a monopoly in regards to a center nation's economic
relationship with a periphery nation. Multilateral relationships with
other periphery nations are nonexistent and ties with other center
nations inconceivable. With the change in Soviet leadership the
Soviet presence was influential but not all-encompassing. In 1953, after
Stalin's death, the new Russian leadership attempted to make
Comecon more active. Whereas Stalin had purposely attempted to
keep contact between states to a minimum, Krushchev encouraged
multilateral treaties. The constant weakening of the political
cohesiveness of the bloc required a deeper and irreversible
commitment to multilateral economic relations:
The first of the new cooperative techniques
theoretically involves the participation of almost
all CMEA members. Such activities as the
'Friendship' oil pipeline, the 'Peace' electrical
power distribution system. . the CMEA bank, and
the 'Intermetall' steel community are good
examples (Starr, 1982, 245).
Remarkably, the U.S.S.R. in some cases did not even play a major role
in collective actions:
A joint operation. . 'Intermetall [was] established
by an agreement signed in July 1965. Although the
signing took place at Moscow, the USSR was not a
charter member, the original signatories being only
Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary (Starr, 1982,
Bilateral agreements and joint projects, sans the U.S.S.R., became
almost commonplace: Polish/Czech cooperation on the manufacturing
of farm tractors, East German and Polish production of steam boilers,
and Polish/Hungrarian joint coal mining excursions are all examples
of periphery cooperation that would be absent in Galtung's imperialist
relationship as the bloc countries were no longer isolated from each
other, or those outside of the region(Lavigne, 1974).
Table 2 displays trading patterns within the bloc between 1956 .
and 1974. Trade with the Soviet Union made up anywhere between 27
percent and 54 percent of a periphery nation's trade. While that
percentage is significant, when compared to the percentage of trade
with the developed western countries, it loses some of its magnitude:
the percentage of Western imports averaged in the upper 20 percent
range and rose as high as 39.5 percent in Romania.
Table 2. Trade Between U.S.S.R. and Member
Countries of Comecon
Share of the U.S.S.R
trade of Comecon
Share of CMEA
countries in U.S.S.R
Country 1950 55 60 71 1950 55 60 71
Alb ania 50 40 54 0.5 0.3 0.6
Bulgaria 52 47 53 54 5.1 3.8 5.6 8.7
Hungary 27 22 31 34 6.5 4.0 5.0 7.0
Poland 27 32 30 35 13.9 11.1 7.8 10.7
G.D.R. 40 38 43 38 10.6 15.2 17.7 14.6
Romania 52 45 40 25 7.8 7.4 4.8 4.0
Czechoslovakia 28 35 34 33 13.0 11.5 11.5 10.2
Source: V.P. Sergeev, Problems
Comecon Countries, p. 228
of Economic Rapprochement between
The telltale sign of the lack of Soviet imperialism in the bloc's
economies was the influx of Western capital and increasing Western
debt. The first five-year plan to allow for a small Western debt was
Poland from 1971 75. The country had hoped to subsidize a
modernization of its industry with imported Western capital goods
and to build up an international export industry. An economic boom
in the West and an easing of tensions in the late 1960s favored
economic expansion as Western exports to the West exploded.
Between 1971 and 1974 exports to western nations increased from $7.5
billion to $19 billion and western imports rose from $8.4 billion to $24
Total Polish foreign trade turnover grew very
rapidly in the years 1972-75, reflecting the massive
imports of capital goods on credit. . Polish trade
was most West-oriented in 1975. The proportions
diverged widely for imports and exports; almost
half of the former coming from the developed
West in 1975; by 1980 the Western share was just
over one-third in both directions (Wallace, 1986,
The Western trade deficit, which was nominal at first, rapidly
expanded in the early 1980's and is a story in itself. For this discussion
its mere existence clearly highlights a Western presence within the
Eastern European economic system and a failure to reach Galtung's
definition of economic imperialism.
The period from 1947-1953 proved to be a time of high
Sovietization, entailing dramatic changes within the bloc's domestic
institutions and policies. State governments were relegated to
implementing policies passed down from Moscow. This "revolution
from above" or the "cult of personality" resulted in a number of social
and cultural changes (Dawisha, 1990; Gati, 1990; Hutchings, 1987).
Stalin's influence seems to have been always present. Pictures and
statues of "the Great Liberator" were found throughout Eastern Europe
as he began his process of Sovietization throughout the region. The
most influential cultural change was the all-encompassing
implementation of a single political model, patterned after the Soviet
Union. This by no means meant an immediate Communist monopoly
on political power. The transfer to Communist Party dominance came
in three stages. In the years directly following World War II, the
region's Communist Parties directed their efforts toward creating
coalition governments between Agrarians, Social Democrats, Liberals,
and others. This was to help to rebuild the region after the Nazi
occupations. In the following period, the coalition governments were
replaced by Communist rule under the guise of coalition governments.
Participation was relegated to those non-Communists who would toe
the party line. Both the first and second phases were due partially to an
attempt to appease the Western powers. The final stage was the
completion of a Communist-dominated, subordinate state (Gati, 1990).
Arbitrary rule of the leadership, political subordination, and purges of
any opposition were characteristic. This was evident from 1950
through 1951 when a conflict between Czechoslovakian Church leaders
and the Communist government led to espionage and treason trials for
the prominent religious leaders, which continued through March of
1951 and was expanded to a number of opposition political leaders.
The second element of Sovietization was the Soviet conception
of inter bloc relations:
. . While bilateral treaties signed after the war gave
the appearance of an emerging interstate system, in
fact Stalin did not view his relations with the bloc
as being in the domain of international politics.
Rather he saw relations with these countries as an
extension of domestic Soviet politics (Dawisha,
The socialist countries were prevented from developing any
substantial ties between each other. Interstate channels of
communication were severely underdeveloped. A number of
multilateral organizations were created at this time, but their main
function was to establish tighter Soviet control, as Soviet foreign
ministries in each state ran countries as if they were colonies of the
Culturally, Sovietization was known as "Zhdanovshchina"
(Gati, 1990), named after Andrei Zhdanov, Moscow's ideological
representative to the bloc. The period was noted for its introduction of
"socialist realism." Literature, music and art work were to focus on the
positive works of the party:
. . Writers and artists-whom Stalin had called 'the
engineers of human soul'-were told to produce
works featuring 'positive heroes' the people would
want to emulate. The positive heroes worked hard
for the common good and admired the wise Stalin
(Gati, 1990, 21).
The Cominform was created in 1947 supposedly for the open exchange
of ideas and views, but realistically to continue the ideological
The principle known as democratic centralism provided the
hierarchical structure for the bureaucratic system.
. . Communist parties thereafter copied the Soviet
experience, giving them the same pyramidal top-to-
bottom structure and creating within all parties the
same powerful full-time corps of party cadres to
control the weaker, democratically elected bodies of
party members (Dawisha, 1990, 89).
This gave rise to the Nomenklatura system, the party's ruling elite, .
which in turn allowed the party in each country to control the
appointments of all key party and government positions.
The third principle, and the one that maintained the most
control, was the required leading role of the Communist Party. This
policy, which was ingrained in the constitutions of all the countries
within the bloc, gave the party the right to fully staff any and all offices,
educational institutions, and military and police forces. The party
could control all activities, staffing, and censoring of the media,
establishing its presence over all facets of life.
It must be stated that Soviet policy toward its subordinate states
was not a constant, but rather there had been a series of transitions.
What changed was Moscow's willingness to allow political and
economic diversions on the path to Communism to enhance bloc
cohesiveness and unity. What remained unchanged was the
commitment to bloc endurance and the unchallenged rule of the
Communist Party. Overt direct Soviet rule ended with Stalin's death in
1953. Under Georgii Malenkov and Nikita Khrushchev the region
went through a de-Stalinization process, in which more emphasis was
placed on multilateral relations. The key to Soviet control was found
in the relations among the state Communist Parties. This emphasis
was established by Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev in his
statement of November 12, 1968:
The CPSU has always advocated that each socialist
country determine the concrete forms of its
development along the path of socialism by taking
into account the specific nature of its national
conditions. But it is well known, comrades that
there are common natural laws of socialist
construction, deviation from which could lead to
deviation from socialism as such. And when
external and internal forces hostile to socialism try
to turn the development of a given socialist
country in the direction of restoration of the
capitalist system, when a threat arises to the cause
of socialism in that country--a threat to the security
of the socialist commonwealth as a wholethis is
no longer merely a problem for that country's
people but a common problem, the concern of all
socialist countries (Sicker, 1988, 13).
Loyalty to the party came first; everything else followed.
Relations of this type were based on a number of precepts
established by Moscow. Socialist internationalism found its rebirth in
the 1968 Brezhnev Doctrine, the definition of Internationalism being
"... the acknowledgment that the socialist bloc's greatest strength lay in
its class based unity" (Dawisha, 1990, 86). It was then up to the separate
countries to promote the Socialist ideals, sacrificing their own personal
and nationalistic interests. Since the Soviet Union was the model of
socialism, the doctrine, in essence, required Soviet approval of any type
of reform. And although Moscow was the senior partner, it was up to
all the states to promote the unity of the region (Dawisha, 1990; Gati,
In the postwar era, Soviet policy toward its Eastern European
counterparts took on some distinct patterns. These include the
collective rise of the Communist Party, a threat and reliance upon
Soviet military structures, and a forced dependence on the U.S.S.R. for
economic survival. Once the U.S.S.R. bound its satellites states
together within the Warsaw Pact and the Council for Mutual Economic
Cooperation, and confirmed its overwhelming military strength
during the 1956 Hungarian invasion, the region was tied into a Soviet
sphere of influence.
Galtung talks of military dominance in a dominant/subordinate
relationship. He says that the center is able to manipulate the
periphery through either the threat or actual use of military force or
through a reliance of the subordinate on the dominant for protection
or arms. Both cases were present in the Eastern bloc. When its
position of authority appeared to be questioned or threatened the
U.S.S.R., on more than one occasion, used its overwhelming military
superiority to quell any discontent. Moscow's rule was questioned by
both Nagy in Hungary and Dubcek in Czechoslovakia and both learned
that there was no straying form the path to socialism. Nagy was
removed quickly after instituting political reforms, which included a
return to a multiparty system and renouncing Hungary's participation
in the Warsaw Pact. Similarly, Czechoslovakian calls for a gradual
separation from the Soviet Union and its questioning of Communist
rule could not and would not go unanswered.
Military influence did not come solely through intervention.
Arms sales and military alliances helped to extol Moscow's hold on the
region. In response to NATO, the Warsaw Pact was formed. The Pact
stated that members would consult on matters of mutual interest and
that assistance would be provided ton ensure that no country would
stray from the development of socialism. Membership was not
optional. Moscow utilized the pact to maintain a military presence
within each country and to create a reliance on Moscow for military
This presence would not have been capable without the Soviet
infiltration of each state's government bureaucracy. As an example, for
each Czechoslovakian government official there coincided a Soviet
official. Perhaps the most crucial element used by the Soviet Union
was the ability to co-opt or replace oppositional political leaders. The
Soviet climb to power came in three stages. The creation of a
multiparty coalition government was the common starting point as
the Soviets shared power with opposing political groups. Next
followed the co-optation of the opposition. While they were sill
present, opposition from the Soviet Party line was well known to be
detrimental to one's existence. The final stage came in total Soviet
domination. Oppositional party members were purged and their
leaders either executed or exiled. After the fall of any opposition all
other modes of dominance were significantly more effective.
Efforts at economic coordination and integration in Eastern
Europe were of a coercive nature. While between 1945 and 1948 some
autonomous development of individual national economies was
permitted, the whole of the early postwar period was mainly
characterized by repeated Soviet intervention and exploitation. The
chief methods consisted in transfers of goods and services which the
Soviet state had acquired in war reparations from Germany and the
Eastern European states, the imposition of bilateral trading patterns,
and the Soviet purchase of raw materials at prices considerably lower
than at world market value. In January of 1949 the establishment of
Comecon brought with it a call for economic collaboration. Members
were to coordinate economic plans and divide productive forces
according to the natural materials in each nation. This type of
organization assisted in instilling a dependence on Soviet raw
materials and the Soviet market. Ostensibly created to promote the
area's economies, Comecon was used in the central planning of each
state's economic "development" under Moscow's guidance. Stalin
utilized the organization to keep the Eastern bloc states separate and
isolated. All the areas economic agreements were bilateral treaties
with the U.S.S.R. as multilateral contacts were discouraged. And while
the Soviet Union was able to exert a great deal of control over the
region, its reach was not all encompassing as Eastern Europe
established economic ties with fellow bloc countries, and even Western
nations. Increases in both exports and imports to the West and a
growing Western debt highlight the U.S.S.R.'s inability to establish at
least an economic imperialistic relationship.
THE UNITED STATES
The basis for the United States foreign policy towards its Central
American sphere of influence can be traced to the early 1800s and the
invocation of the Monroe Doctrine. President Monroe's 1823
deceleration that the new world was now off-limits to the old world
powers was considered a non colonization principle and established
the United States as the region's protectorate:
The American continents by the free and
independent condition which they have assumed
as henceforth not to be considered as subjects for
colonization by any European powers (Gil, 1971, 61).
At the time, the policy was more symbolic than substance. European
intervention throughout the 19th century was generally overlooked as
a number of European interests were developed within the regions:
the extension of British Honduras's boundaries by Britain; British
seizure of the Falkland Islands in 1833; and Spain's re annexation of
Santo Domingo were all clear cases of violations of the Monroe
Doctrine. In reality, the fledgling union could proclaim its Monroe
Doctrine but was in no position to take on any type of military
endeavor against its historic adversary, Britain and her mighty fleet.
The doctrine was more of a prelude or prediction by a young state
assured that their place as a world power was eminent, serving notice
to Britain and all of Europe of the United States's intentions for the
region. In time, any attempt by a European power to extend its
influence in the Western hemisphere would be considered and
impediment to the peace and safety of the United States. The Doctrine
as well played a part in the mindset of Latin America. It let it be known
that the United States was willing to exert its military and economic
force in the area at its own discretion to secure and protect its perceived
The bite in the Doctrine came in the early 1900s with President
Roosevelt's corollary. U.S. expansion had reached a peak in the 1800s.
The war with Spain at the close of the century resulted in the
acquisition of Puerto Rico, and the implementation of the Platt
Amendment, in relation to Cuba, in 1902 established the United States
as the islands protectorate. Great Britain's influence steadily declined
as U.S. expansion increased and as the United States began establishing
itself as the only hegemonic power within the region. In December,
1904 Roosevelt increased and legitimized the Yankee presence
establishing the United States as the exclusive judge of Central
American affairs with his corollary to Monroe's Doctrine (McCall, 1984,
21). Latin America was now solely the responsibility of the United
States which could intervene in the internal affairs of the region at any
time. The president's assertions were as follows:
If a nation shows that it know how to act with
reasonable efficiency and decency in social and
political matters; If it keeps order and pays
obligations it need fear no interference from the
United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an
impotence which results in a general loosening of
the ties of civilized society may in America, as
elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some
civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere
the adherence to the Monroe Doctrine may force
the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant
cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the
exercise of police power (Gali, 1971, 71).
The United States would now intervene in Latin America, on behalf of
European powers, for the sake of collecting debts or maintaining
internal security. The U.S. policy was simple; under the pretext of
limiting European influence, the United States undertook a program
of economic imperialism and political subjugation, behind the wall of
Roosevelt's "big stick" policy continued well into the Taft
administration. Preventing European economic interest from playing a
part within the area coincided with a growing policy of promoting U.S.
economic interests. This was achieved through the entrenchment of
U.S. financial and banking institutions within Central American
nations. Known as "dollar diplomacy," the policy, which began under
Taft, was well stated by President Coolidge's Secretary of State Charles
... A confiscatory policy strikes not only at the
interests of particular individuals, but at the
foundations of international intercourse, for it is
only on the basis of the security of property validly
possessed under the laws existing at the time of its
acquisition that the conduct of activities in helpful
cooperation are possible... It is the policy of this
government to make available friendly assistance
to promote stability in those of our sister republics
which are especially afflicted with disturbed
conditions involving their own peace and that of
their neighbors (McCall, 1984, 23).
This promotion of financial assistance was aimed at eliminating
European financial activity and securing the regions market for the
United States. Economic growth, which had its roots in the late 1800s,
was now unrestrained. Table 3 demonstrates the number of times the
United States military played a direct in role in the stability of the
region at the turn of the century.
Table 3. U.S. Intervention in the Caribbean 1898-1934 Area
Cuba 1898-1902, 1906-1909,1912, 1917-1922
Dominican Rep. 1912, 1916-1924
Mexico 1914, 1916-1917
Nicaragua 1909-1910, 1912-1925 1926-1933
Source:Harold Molineu U.S. Policy Toward Latin 1990 pg. 51 America.,
Economic prosperity for the region resulted in financial wealth for the
United States and its investors. Direct investment in the region had
doubled in the years from 1919 to 1929, reaching a total of just over $251
million. By the end of the 1920s the United States had surpassed
Britain and Germany as the region's leading market. Within 13 years,
1916-1929, as Guatemalan total exports increased by 67 percent, her
exports to the United States rose by more than 150 percent. These types
of numbers were comparable throughout the region. For Honduran
exports the numbers were 800 percent and 600 percent and for
Nicaragua, 37 percent and 100 percent. The necessity for the American
market in regards to Latin American goods is self-evident (LaFeber,
Those same exports were made up primarily of one or two cash
crops which, conveniently for the United States, were largely
controlled by U.S. investors. Table 4 displays the amounts of each
country's total exports for 1929 and the crops that primarily make up
their totals. The full extent of U.S. involvement is immense. U.S.
investors controlled most of the railways, in Guatemala, the utility
company (American and Foreign Power, owned by General Electric),
one-15th of the total land, and the nation's leading bank. This type of
region. United Fruit
owned the rail
almost all the
land which produced $21 million of Honduras's total $25 million in
exports. In Nicaragua, United Fruit and Atlantic Fruit owned over
300,000 acres of farmland as U.S. interests in turn controlled the mines,
railroads, banks and the lumber industry. In El Salvador, the largest
financial institution was owned by investors in San Francisco and
bonds formerly owned by Britain were now controlled by New York
Banks (LaFeber, 1993, 63).
The Monroe Doctrine and its subsequent corollaries established a
precedent in the relations between the United States and its Latin
American neighbors. It initiated U.S. involvement in the region and
legitimized, from the U.S. view, any unilateral action on its own
behalf. It created an ideological lever over the governments of the
area. The United States clearly stated that it was willing and able to
intervene within the region when it saw fit.
presence was, once again, typical within the
Table 4. Total Exports For 1929
Country Total Banana Coffee
Costa Rica $18. $5. $12.
El Salvador $18. $17.
Guatemala $25. $3. $19.
Honduras $25. $21.
Nicaragua $11. $2. $6.
Source: Walter LaFeber, Inevitable
Revolutions., 1993, pg. 63_____________
The military relationship between the United States and Central
America can be broken down into distinguishable components:
intervention and integration/dependence. Both types of relationships
have been utilized by the United States. Both are effective in their own
ways in that they are employed to keep the region subordinate to the
U.S. so as to maintain stability within the region.
Direct military interventions in Guatemala in 1954 and in the
Dominican Republic in 1965 are two examples of the United States's
willingness and ability to exert its military advantage over the region to
protect U.S. interests. A brief description of the two events follows as
does a discussion of Central American military dependence on the
Democratic elections were first held in Guatemala in December
of 1945 with the election of Juan Jose Arvelo as president. Arvelo's
administration was committed to a number of broad social reforms
including competition among political parties, free speech and press,
labor union organization, land reform, and foreign invest control
(Molineu, 1990, 57). While supportive of the democratic reforms,
Washington was concerned with any type of land reform, wary of any
program that resembled an attack on private property or resembled
communist intentions. To complicate matters the company that
would "suffer" most through any type of land redistribution would be
the United Fruit Company, which held a considerable amount of the
country's agricultural land. By 1953 the government, then led by
Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, under the Agrarian Reform Bill of 1952 had
seized 210,000 acres of unused UFCO land. This seizure had included
some monetary compensation for United Fruit but:
. . The company had been victimized by its own
practice of undervaluing its property. The
government was paying United Fruit $2.99 per acre;
the company had originally paid $1.48 per acre and
now wanted $75.00 per acre (Molineu, 1990, 59).
UFCO took its case to Washington, which needed very little prodding.
Fears of a communist insurgency in the region pervaded the
Eisenhower administration and was aided by UFCO propaganda and
the support of CIA Director Allen Dulles and his brother Secretary of
State John Foster Dulles, both of whom had personal ties with United
Fruit. With the containment of communism an imperative in the
Cold War era, intervention into the Guatemalan state of affairs was
Selected and funded by Washington, Carlos Enrique Armas and
his followers were based and trained in Nicaragua. A propaganda
campaign was initiated, focused at the Guatemalan population in an
attempt to discredit the Arbenz regime and "give the impression that
the liberation force possessed considerable might and numbers"
(Molineu, 1990, 61). The subversive strategy appeared to have been
working as the Guatemalan military attempted to disassociate itself
With CIA planes and U.S. pilots providing air cover, Armas's
forces crossed the Guatemalan/Nicaraguan border on June 18, 1954.
His touted invading force actually never reached more than 400 men.
Meeting an unexpected resistance of Guatemalan forces, the coup was
pushed back and was destined for failure had it not been for
Eisenhower's willingness to supply the insurgency with increased air
cover. Fearful that a massive strike was imminent, Arbenz stepped
down from the presidency on June 27, and Armas was subsequently
Dominican Republic 1965
The U.S. intervention into the political affairs of the Dominican
Republic is a prime example of Washington's willingness to intervene
in a country's internal affairs in an attempt to maintain order within
After supporting dictator Rafael Trujillo's regime for 25 years,
U.S. policy shifted in the waning years of the Eisenhower
administration. Overly sensitive after the rise of Castro, Washington
was wary of supporting an overly repressive dictator similar to Batista
in Cuba. Plans to aid opposition groups were formulated in early 1960
and pressure was applied for Trujillo's resignation. This support
continued after Eisenhower's term and into the Kennedy
administration. Support though, wavered after the failure in Cuba and
the Bay of Pigs. Regardless, Trujillo was assassinated, ostensibly
without U.S. support. This opened the door for Washington to
establish a pro-U.S. democratic regime. Elections were held in
December of 1962, resulting in the election of Juan Bosch who, after a
brief "honeymoon," quickly fell out of Washington's favor as he
attempted to distance himself from U.S. interests. A discouraged
United States led to an upheaval from Dominican business and
military leaders and Bosch's regime did not see the end of the year,
overthrown by Colonel Elias Wessin y Wessin in the early fall.
Bosh's successor, Donald Reid Cabral, attempted to reestablish
ties with the United States and gain control of a runaway economy and
disoriented military. It was the latter that brought about problems.
Reformist army officers joined Bosch's Democratic Revolutionary
Army (PRD) and stated their intentions of returning Bosch to power.
Fighting broke out as rebels attempted to regain power after Cabral's
resignation on April 25 of 1965. On the request of Ambassador W.
Tadley Bennett, President Johnson sent in the first wave of U.S.
Marines. On April 28, 450 troops landed to protect the lives of U.S.
citizens in Guatemala and supposedly not to intervene. This policy of
non-intervention did not last long: the "communist threat" was
invoked and the next wave of 4,000 troops were sent to Santo
Domingo. By May 10, 22,000 troops had been placed within the country
to counter a perceived communist insurgency:
. . The United States 'cannot, must not, and will
not permit the establishment of another
communist government in the Western
hemisphere. . The possibility of a communist take
over anywhere in the hemisphere would warrant
U.S. intervention (Molineu, 1990, 82).
In an attempt to legitimize its presence as a peacekeeping force, the
United States brought in the Organization of American States to get its
stamp of approval, hesitantly given when a modest OAS presence was
established. The administration's goals were realized as a provisional
government was established giving way to pro-United States candidate
The above accounts demonstrate the United States's ability to
use armed intervention to protect its own interests. While military
intervention is the most overt form of armed containment, the United
States has been able to develop a system of integration/dependency in
regards to the region's forces. Washington's ability to utilize the
institutions and relationships it holds within the area helped in
promoting and securing its own foreign policy agenda.
The creation of multilateral peacekeeping forces has allowed the
United States to legitimize its interventions and gain support from its
neighboring states. Such was the case with the Organization of
American States (OAS). Created at the Bogota Conference in April of
1948, the OAS was to establish a set of rules for the area by which states
were to abide in their dealings with fellow organizational states.
Included in the agreement were a series of principles:
.. .(1) the obligation to settle disputes by peaceful
means, (2) assistance to each other in the event of
external aggression, (3) the importance of
'representative democracy' to the 'solidarity of the
American states,' (4) the need for economic
cooperation, and (5) recognition of basic individual
human rights without regard to race, nationality,
creed, or sex (Molineu, 1990, 27).
Also included were Articles 15 and 16 which, in theory, should have
held direct repercussions for the United States. Article 15 states, "No
State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly,
for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other
State" (LaFeber, 1993, 95; Molineu, 1990, 27). This coincided with
Article 16, which focuses on indirect forms of influence: "No state may
use or encourage the use of coercive measures of economic or political
character in order to force the sovereign will of another state"
(Molineu, 1990, 27). From these articles it seems that the era of U.S.
unilateral intervention was coming to a close (along with Roosevelt's
"good neighbor" policy). Such was not the case. Washington was able
to maintain its right to intervene when the following passage was
included in the agreement: '"measures' could be 'adopted for the
maintenance of peace and security in accordance with existing treaties"
(LaFeber, 1993, 95)'. The U.S. was now able to count on the other
organizational states to assist in the fight against communist
insurgency (with friendly governments in most of Central America,
Washington was assured a majority). This became known as the
Miller Doctrine, laid out by Assistant Secretary of State Edward Miller.
In it, he states that the Monroe Doctrine is still in effect, but to fight
communism, action would now be taken multilaterally. He failed to
mention, though, that if OAS was unable or unwilling to act, the
United States still maintained the right to act alone.
From Eisenhower to Reagan and Bush, the United States has
taken a policy of offering massive amounts of military aid to those
leaders which appear to be subservient to U.S. interests. In the years
1950 to 1979, U.S. military support of the Central American nations
reached a total of $127 million. This figure ballooned to $176 million
between 1980 to 1982, and in 1984 alone the Reagan administration
proposed a $135-million aid package aimed primarily at El Salvador
and Honduras (Rice, 1986, 247).
In the 1950s the U.S. began its Military Assistance Program
(MAP), through which the United States has substantially aided in
their ability to control the regions political structure and quell popular
discontent (Etchison, 1975, 94). Signing bilateral military treaties,
known as Mutual Defense Assistance Pacts (MDAP), with its Latin
American neighbors, Washington attempted to build up the region's
internal defense capabilities to ward off any type of neighboring
communist threat. Those countries signing on were Nicaragua in
April of 1954, Honduras in May of 1954, and Guatemala in June of
1955. Received by these signatories was U.S. military surplus
equipment, primarily used in World War II and military training at
the Panama Canal Zone's School of the Americas, which will be
discussed below. The military aid policy under Eisenhower was
indiscriminate as to who would benefit. The only criteria appeared to
be that the receiver must have friendly relations toward the United
States and willing to fight the advances of communism (Etchison, 1975,
72). By 1954 a total of 13 Latin American countries were ruled by
dictators, including all Central American countries, with the exception
of Costa Rica. While this end was recognized by the administration, it
was considered the lesser of two evils as the U.S. supported Nicaragua's
Somoza while being wary of Costa Rica's Pepe Figueres. George
Kennan of the State Department, stated in 1950:
...The final answer might be an unpleasant one, but.
. we should not hesitate before police repression by
the local government. This is not shameful since
the Communists are essentially traitors. ... It is
better to have a strong regime in power than a
liberal government if it is indulgent and relaxed
and penetrated by Communists (LaFeber, 1993, 109).
What followed after Eisenhower was Kennedy's attempt to shift U.S.
policy toward favoring democratic regimes and exerting political and
economic pressures on dictatorial states (Etchison, 1975, 73). This was
shown in the administration's unwillingness to recognize the military
junta in El Salvador in early 1961. Political ties were reestablished once
it was agreed that elections would be held.
In 1961, Kennedy introduced his "Alliance for Progress." An
investment program, the Alliance was intended to bring about
socioeconomic reforms and result in political stability in the region.
The program was to promote economic reform by providing funds for
infrastructure improvement projects. In theory, the Alliance would
not be just another asymmetric aid program. Under the blanket of the
Organization of American States, a special committee was formed of
economic and political leaders to decide which projects would receive
Alliance aid and not all of the funds would come from the United
States. Under Kennedy's original plan, the United States would invest
$20 billion and Latin Americans would provide $80 billion from their
own resources (LaFeber, 1993, 150; Molineu, 1990, 29). From its
inception, whether desired or not, the Alliance was as much of an anti
revolutionary/communism tool as it was a development one. Forced
to swallow the Bay of Pigs in April of 1961, the focus in Central
America was now no longer on development but on security. Most if
not all aid was solely intended for military purposes. By 1963 security
projects dominated all elements of the Alliance as military aid
dramatically increased throughout the area:
. .U.S. military aid to the southern nations increased 50
percent a year over the monies granted under
Eisenhower. Guatemala received $5.3 million in military
assistance between 1950 and 1963, but $10 million from
1964 to 1967. The comparable figures for Honduras and
Nicaragua were equally startling: $2.6 million and $4.6
million for the former, and $4.5 million and $7.5 million
for the latter (LaFeber, 1993, 153).
Military ties were evident and strengthened with the
establishment of the Central American Defense Council (CONDECA),
which created political ties between Washington and the military
institutions within the region. The council was designed to act as a
collective security agreement for the region and attempted to integrate
the region's military forces by setting standards on uniforms and
insignias worn by Central American soldiers (Etchison, 1974, 65;
LaFeber, 1993, 153). In reality, there was little collective about it, the
hierarchy passed through all possible U.S. institutions before reaching
Central. America. Central American officers were to be trained at U.S.
. supervised military schools, such as the Southern Command's School
of the Americas. Rather than becoming a "civic action" program and
gaining the "affection and respect of the people" as asserted by the
Pentagon, the School of the Americas became known as the school of
the Golpes and its graduates as unwanted conquerors:
. .When a Mexican official learned that the United
States planned to give special training to Latin
American officers, he said, "Give me the names of
those first 60 students, and I'll pick your presidents
in Latin America for the next 10 years (LaFeber,
Table 5 displays the number of officers that received training at this
institution and in the U.S. The military did in fact hold political
motives as coups were prevalent throughout the region. Between the
years 1961 and 1966 the military overthrew a total of nine Latin
American countries, including Honduras and Guatemala (LaFeber,
1993, 154). Monies that had been intended for internal, middle-class
growth never reached their destinations and only reinforced the
decades-old class lines, as funds went into foreign investments and
oligarchical pockets. The program dramatically declined in importance
with Kennedy's assassination and Johnson's subsequent scale-down.
Military aid remained but economic aid took a sharp downturn.
Johnson's intent was unquestionable, "The old days, when they had
looked to the United States to solve their problems, had ended. We
would now be a junior partner in Latin American economic and social
development" (LaFeber, 1993, 161). Economic support dropped but the
Table 5. Central American Soldiers Trained in School of
and in U.S. under U.S. Military Assistance
Country United States Canal Zone Total
Costa Rica 33 496 529
El Salvador 200 1,077 1,277
Guatemala 656 1,920 2,576
Honduras 221 1,791 2,012
Nicaragua 693 3,704 4,397
Panama 48 3,282 3,330
Regional Total 1,851 12,270 14,121
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Military Assistance Facts.,
p. 13. In Etchison, 1975,
military influence remained constant as funding decreased from $500
million in 1967 to $336 million in 1969 (LaFeber, 1993, 158). By the late
1960s all that remained of Kennedy's plan was investment in private
(elite) interests, exacerbating class lines, and dependence on the
military for internal security. The Alliance which had been created to
promote stability had in effect pushed the region toward revolution.
Along with the military ties discussed above, the United States
has utilized a number of economic levers to further its advantage. The
most prominent and possibly most effective economic tool used by
Washington has been economic assistance or government-to-
government foreign aid. The outcomes of this type of aid are twofold.
Governments friendly to the United States are most often the
beneficiaries, and adversaries are most often the recipient of economic
pressure. Funding friends and applying pressure to foes is a useful tool
of foreign persuasion, but as Molineu (1990) states, this is not the only
advantage. Aid can also benefit the donor:
. . Economic assistance provides a means not only
for supporting friendly governments; more
importantly, it is a mechanism by which Latin
America's economic future can be tied to U.S.
economic interests (101).
Aid can be channeled toward development or investment that will
benefit U.S. economic interests.
A clear case of Washington's policy of "dollars for dictators" was
Nicaragua prior to the 1979 Sandinista revolution. From 1968 to 1978
no country received more United States economic aid than Nicaragua's
Somoza family. "U.S. generosity was partly intended as a reward for
the Somoza family's unswerving loyalty as a regional ally" (Landes and
Flynn, 1984, 141). U.S.-supported troop maneuvers in both the Cuban
Bay of Pigs and the 1954 invasion of Guatemala were launched within
Nicaraguan borders, as Nicaraguan troops themselves played a part in
the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic. While willing to
support the Somozan regime, Washington appeared to disregard how
the aid was used. As aid flowed into the country, those who needed it
most saw little. By 1976, Nicaragua held a $46-million trade surplus
and saw its gross national product grow to 8 percent. But rather than
using U.S. dollars for development, the Somozan family used them for
their own benefit, strengthening their family dominated financial
institutions and expanding their own economic empire. Between the
years 1950 and 1977, the country had the highest increase in agricultural
production, but the total landless rural labor force was more than 1,000
percent higher than it had been decades before (LaFeber, 1993, 226). In
1972, when an earthquake brought down much of Managua and many
of the country's villages, Washington responded with a $32 million aid
package to assist in reconstruction. Disorder engulfed the country as
Somoza's own National Guard joined the masses in looting. U.S.
troops were sent in by the request of U.S. Ambassador Turner Shelton.
When the dust settled only $16 million of the aid sent could be
accounted for (LaFeber, 1993, 227). It was this misuse of funds, meant to
promote stability, that ultimately led to the country's instability. U.S.
development plans did little to hold loyal the expanding rural poor,
who became the support base for the Sandinistas. As the FSLN threat
grew, so did the amount of U.S. counterinsurgency aid. Contradicting
his own human rights policy, President Carter supplied Somoza and
the National Guard with $2.5 million in military aid, choosing to
support the perceived lesser of two evils, Somoza over the Sandinistas
(LaFeber, 1993, 230), The policy was a simple one: extensively support
a repressive narrow-based regime that disregards the welfare of its own
citizens as long as that regime is friendly toward U.S. interests.
Along with supporting a friendly regime, U.S. economic
leverage can help to bring down an undesirable one. Once again
Nicaragua provides an example. After the overthrow of Somoza and
subsequent installment of the Sandinista government, debate centered
on how the economic leverage that had been established should be
utilized. The Somoza years had created dependency, and the need to
rebuild a war-tom economy placed the United States in a situation in
which its decisions would carry considerable weight. The debate
centered on whether to cut off the Sandinistas from aid or to attempt to
influence them with some type of aid package. The latter, temporarily,
won out as a $75 million aid package was approved in late 1980 (Landes
and Flynn, 1984, 148). The fear of the Nicaraguan revolution exporting
itself to other nations and the election of Ronald Reagan pushed the
United States away from a policy of foreign aid and toward a de
stabilization of the Sandinista regime. To achieve this, the U.S.
administration implemented a number of economic measures. In the
spring of 1981, Washington suspended any bilateral govemment-to-
government aid and at the same time ended credits for subsidized food
imports. U.S. pressure was applied on international banks to cease any
loans or credits to Nicaragua. The U.S. control of 35 percent of the
Inter-American Development Bank Fund (IDB) effectively gave it veto
power over any application for funds. Loans from the World Bank
were decreased as a result of a U.S. recommendation that Nicaragua
was "unsound." Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
funds were stopped as were Export-Import Bank trade financing. These
institutions had provided U.S. firms with insurance against any type of
nationalization by the host country. Without these guarantees any
venture in Nicaragua would prove risky. Another route taken was the
reduction in the sugar export quota in the spring of 1983 and the
cancellation of the final disbursement of a 1976 IDB loan which was to
be used -to build roads connecting small coffee farms. The economic
pressure applied proved to be halfway effective:
. . Junta Coordinator Daniel Ortega estimated that
U.S. imposed economic sanctions ranging from the
aid cut-off to the deep cut in the sugar quota had
deprived the country of over $350 million in 1983
(Landes and Flynn, 1984,152).
At the time though, the Sandinistas refused to give in to the pressure
exerted by Washington and in fact became more defiant as the
government attempted to diversify its trading partners.
Central American Percentage of Trade
with the United States 1980- 1990
Country Import Export
Costa Rica 45 percent 65 percent
El Salvador 40 percent 70 percent
Guatemala 39 percent 41 percent
Honduras 39 percent 50 percent
- Figures for Nicaragua result of embargo against
Source: Tom Barry, Central America Inside
Other forms of economic relations come in the shape of trade
between nations and foreign investment. A simple look at the
numbers for the region effectively portrays the economic dependence
that the United States holds over its Central American partners. Table
6 displays the percentages of imports and exports for each country in
relation to the United States. Except for Guatemala and the then
Sandinista regime of Nicaragua, each country exported over half of its
goods into the U.S. market.
In his work, Galtung asserts that in an imperialistic relationship
the center nation dominates the periphery. Such is the case with the
United States and the countries of Central America. U.S. policy in
Central America has been largely one of preserving the status quo. In
effect this meant a maintenance of established economic trading
patterns, in which the United States was the dominant partner of each
country in the region. Maintaining the status quo often meant
support for the local military and the occasional direct confrontation.
Direct military force was utilized in situations involving both
Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. The expropriation of banana
lands for agrarian reform in Guatemala and the perceived communist
threat in the Dominican Republic each initiated action from
Washington. In each respect either U.S. economic or political holdings
were threatened. In Nicaragua, U.S. marines landed in 1926 and didn't
leave for another seven years. In that time not only did they
reestablish a pro-United States order but assisted in creating the
Nicaragua National Guard whose job it was to maintain order
indefinitely. When the marines finally pulled out in 1933 the
command of the Guard went to pro-U.S. Anastasio Somoza.
The Truman Doctrine apparently was only applied when it was
needed to contain communism, hence the policy of supporting
authoritarian dictators such as Nicaragua's Somoza and the attempts to
create dependency. In order to support those friendly regimes, large
amounts of technical, economic, and military aid were spent to secure
the U.S. position on top of the region's hierarchical ladder. The
Truman Doctrine actually produced a convenient excuse for
intervention into Central American affairs. Wary of the reform-
minded president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in Guatemala, and fearful of
Communist insurgency into the area, the United States was very edgy
about any policy that appeared to be anti capitalistic. Such was the case
with the implementation of the Agrarian Reform Law which
redistributed land to the country's peasants to farm. Arbenz, to
Washington, was passing the communist "duck test":
The duck test works this way. suppose you see a
bird walking around in a farm yard. This bird
wears no label that says 'duck'. But the bird
certainly looks like a duck. Also he goes to the
pond and you notice he swims like a duck. Then
he opens his beak and quacks like a duck. Well, by
this time you have probably reached the conclusion
that the bird is a duck, whether he's wearing a label
or not (LaFeber, 1993, 116).
Arbenz had apparently crossed the line in securing 234,000 acres of
unused farmland from the United Fruit Company. With its ties in
Washington and its highly successful campaign of propaganda, United
Fruit was able to help push the U.S. government toward Guatemalan
While the most visible form, direct intervention is not the only
example of military dominance. The U.S. manipulation of the region's
military organization, agreements, and aid helped to establish
LaFeber's "neo-dependency." The exploitation of the Organization of
American States is a clear example. Ostensibly, the OAS was to limit
the U.S. ability to act unilaterally, but in fact did little to temper the
United States's ability to sway the flow of events. If the member states
were unwilling to assist multilaterally, the United States still
maintained the right to act on its' own accord.
Military aid has been a long-standing practice. Large amounts of
direct payments to friendly governments, and the lack thereof to
unfriendly dictators, has been an effective tool. While military aid
assisted in establishing dependency, integration helped in maintaining
it. From 1980 to 1984 U.S. military aid jumped from just over $10
million to $297 million (Landes and Flynn, 1984). The Central
American Defense Council attempted to set regional standards and
trained Central American officers at the School of the Americas. In
just over 20 years, from 1950 to 1972, more than 14,000 Central
American officers were trained either in the United States or at the
"School of the Golpes." In Guatemala, U.S. funding and training
created an institutional Guatemalan army:
The process had begun in the mid-fifties when U.S.
advisers took a rag-tag force and through
reorganization, the teaching of political as well as
military tactics, and the development of a
centralized communications and transport system,
created a mobile, more efficient army that had
growing institutional pride and allegiance. This
transformation explains why the military stood
ready to govern the country in 1963, and why the
United States accepted its rule (LaFeber, 1993, 170).
An unhealthy reliance on the U.S. market, a saturation of U.S.
companies, and dependence on U.S. economic aid has only exacerbated
the gap between center and periphery nations. The creation of
Kennedy's "Alliance for Progress" brought with it large amounts of aid
and U.S.-backed loans. Between 1961 and 1967 19 loans totaling $50
million were forwarded to Managua as was $50 million from the Inter-
American Development Bank as U.S. direct investment hit $75 million
in 1970. This influx of cash did not reap the desired benefits as the
diversification of the Nicaraguan economy never materialized:
Alliance dollars disappeared in agricultural projects
that almost solely benefited the oligarchy. Exports
rose 20 percent annually between 1960 and 1965, yet
imports rose so much faster that the country began
to pile up a large foreign debt. . The Alliance had
aimed at diversifying the economy, but the
oligarchy interpreted tat to mean the building up of
cotton instead of coffee production. The cotton
boom not only evicted small farmers from their
grain-producing lands, but make their labor less
necessary when mechanical cotton pickers
appeared. Most ominously, as cotton replaced grain
in many areas, the country turned from being a net
exporter to net importer of this staple food. The
Alliance was inadvertently helping the
Nicaraguans lose the capacity to feed themselves.
Economic aid was so immense that during the 1960s and 1970s U.S. aid
made up as much as 15 percent of Nicaragua's budget (Barry, 1991, 403).
The numbers are similar throughout the region and saw steady growth
over recent years. Between 1962 and 1980 the United States provided
over $2 billion of bilateral aid to the countries of Central America
(Feinberg and Pastor, 1984, 195). In 1978 economic aid for the region
stood at $86.9 million and in 1980 reached $228 million (Berryman,
1985, 62). At its peak in 1990, economic aid to the Central American
countries reached just over $1.3 billion (Barry, 1991, 43). In just four
years, from 1979 to 1983, economic aid to Honduras jumped from $29.1
million to $99.6 million (Ropp, 1984, 211). This type of money of
course came with some strings attached.
Imperialism is proactive, an action by one nation upon another.
It is a system, or rather an accumulation of dominant actions relating
to a defined set of actors. Each imperialistic relationship contains a
center and periphery nation and within each nation center and
periphery actors. The dominant actions of the center nation are used to
establish and maintain a hold over the centers of the periphery
nations. These actions are not random under this definition. Actions
of the dominant nation follow a certain pattern and each fall into a
specific category. This is clear when comparing the actions of two
markedly different nations whose actions appear to be strikingly
The United States and Central America
The most obvious lever utilized by dominant nations is military
superiority, with the most visible form being direct military
intervention an action that over the past century the United States has
been willing and able to use within Central America to establish and
maintain its dominant status. Interventions in Cuba, the Dominican
Republic, Haiti, Panama, and Nicaragua in the early 1900s
foreshadowed.U.S. action in the years to come. The invasions of
Guatemala in 1954 and the Dominican Republic in 1965 highlight
Galtung's discussion of military imperialism within the region. In
both cases, force was used to protect U.S. interests and to maintain a
center position within the periphery. In Guatemala, the U.S. position
was threatened when Arbenz attempted to instigate land reforms,
threatening U.S. holdings. In the Dominican Republic the perceived
communist threat culminated in a landing of U.S. marines.
While it may not have been the original intention the U.S.
proximity, interests, and investments within Central America created
an economic dependency on the former by the latter. The region's
economies, which remained consistently dependent upon external
forces, helped to reinforce the prevailing class and political system.
This pattern, along with transitional and program failures to produce a
stable middle class, encouraged the highly volatile history that makes
up Central America.
The class structure that was a product of Spanish colonization
only grew more distinct as the years passed. A small economic and
political class ruled much of the area supported by both U.S. military
and economic aid. Following Galtung's pattern this center in the
periphery would benefit and prosper from the relationship with
United States and the uneven distribution of resources, while a
disproportionate majority of peoples lived in poverty. This separation
grew even more distinct as foreign investment entered the countries,
creating its trademark of one- or two-crop export economies. The
export product, which was often either coffee or bananas prior to
World War II or cotton, sugar, and beef after the war, in most cases
replaced the domestic products of corn and beans, displacing many of
the former small landholders and their families. The area's economies
were dependent on these one or two crop exports. Table 7 shows the
dependence on coffee and banana compared to total exports. This
dependence made the countries vulnerable to international market
demand and prices, primarily as dictated by the United States. Periods
of international economic crisis often led to regional crisis and
Table 7.Total Dollars of Coffee and/or Bananas to
Total Aggregate Exports
Total Ex. Coffee Banana
Costa Rica $18 Mill. $12 Mill. $5 Mill.
El Salvador $18 Mill. $17 Mill.
Guatemala $25 Mill. $19 Mill. $3 Mill.
Honduras $25 Mill. $21 Mill.
Nicaragua $11 Mill. $6 Mill. $2 Mill.
Source: Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions,
1993, Page 63.
The Great Depression is a prime example of the regions strong
economic reliance on the United States. In the late 1920s and early
1930s the U.S. economy was in a shambles, with Central America's
following close behind. Costa Rica saw its total exports cut to just over
$4 million; in El Salvador the result was a decline in demand and
drastic reduction in prices for Salvadoran exports. This led eventually
to social unrest. Laborers' wages were driven even lower than their
pre-1928 years in an attempt by the economic elite to cushion
themselves from the loss of revenues. Those pre-1928 wages provided
for just enough for the bare necessities (LaFeber, 1993, 65).
Another example of outside influences on the internal
economic stability can be found in the concurrent and post-World War
II years. In 1939 Washington and Central American officials
implemented a number of trade agreements that would ensure the
United States access to Central American markets. Indirectly tied to
those agreements was the arrangement that goods would be available
far below international prices. This was connected to the
Table 8. In Dollars Total the United Amount of States Trade With
Total Exports Exports to U.S.
Costa Rica $32 Mill. $25 Mill.
Guatemala $50 Mill. $45 Mill.
Nicaragua $27 Mill. $20 Mill.
El Salvador $46 Mill. $35 Mill.
Honduras $20 Mill. $14 Mill.
Source: Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions, 1993, Page 93.
hope, from Central America, that the region would receive preferential
treatment in the postwar era. Those hopes were quickly dashed. Most
of the U.S. aid was sent overseas in attempt to help to rebuild Western
Europe under the Marshall Plan. Washington had been able to fix the
system in its favor by first setting price controls during the war to keep
prices down so funds could be diverted elsewhere, and in the post war
by restoring the free market after the war to raise the profits on their
exports. The revenue that entered the region soon dried up and the
five countries found themselves once again locked into their pattern of
dependence upon the United States. Table 8 shows the total amount of
exports leaving the area and details the large amount destined for the
United States. On the subject of imports:
... the United States supplied 82 percent of
Guatemala's [imports] (compared with 40 percent in
1938), nearly three-quarters of El Salvador's (it had
been 44 percent in 1938), and about 80 percent of
Costa Rica's (compared with 46 percent in 1938
(LaFeber, 1993, 93).
These figures leave little doubt that neo-dependency was a dominant
lingering ideology throughout the region.
The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
"The Links That Bind"
The threat of action or use of force proved to be a strong
deterrent as the Soviet Union held its periphery nations in check.
Whereas it seems clear that economic influence rose and fell, the threat
of and reliance on the Soviet military remained a constant. The 1956
invasion of Hungary and the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia are
examples of Moscow, the center of the center nation, coercing and
maintaining the center in the periphery. In Hungary, the attempts by
Imre Nagy to reinstall a multiparty system and withdraw from the
Warsaw Pact drew Moscow's ire resulted in an eventual assault by the
Red Army. The situation was similar in the Prague Spring of 1968.
The Czech leadership, under Alexander Dubcek, called for a gradual
separation from Moscow and the Communist Party line. This
culminated in the creation of the Brezhnev Doctrine and the invasion
of Prague in August of 1968.
The first action of Moscow was to assume governmental control.
This was achieved, as Galtung documents, through a gradual
dissipation of oppositional parties. As an example, the communist
insurgency into the domestic front of Czechoslovakia followed the end
of World War II. Immediately after the war the party received about 35
percent of electorate support, joining the Czech Populists, National
Socialists, and Social Democrats in governing under the title of the
National Front. The communist insurgence was slow in comparison
to its Eastern European counterparts:
... the Czechoslovak Communists nourished a
widespread impression. . that they were different
from other Communists, patriots first and
foremost, evolutionary reformers, and reliable
partners in the national coalition government
(Rothschild, 1989, 91).
This rosy scenario, though, was not to last. The party began to assert
itself. Feeling threatened by the Marshall Plan and the failures of their
French and Italian brethren, Moscow began to assert pressure on its
satellite parties to assume more positions of power. Fearful of losses in
the 1948 elections, the communists manipulated the ballot making the
election one on the National Front as a whole, rather than on each
party's membership. Perhaps symbolically, officials of the other parties
resigned. Their symbolism was lost in the communist show of power
as they replaced each official with one of their own:
'The question of power' in Czechoslovakia was
thus resolved not quite in the manner that the
Communists had planned, but as the result of their
deft exploitation of a simmering crisis that their
enemies had brought to a boil. . The way in which
it occurred in February 1948 was formally quite legal
but not electoral; and although the takeover had
indeed been bloodless and free from overt violence,
the latent threat of force by the Communist-
controlled police, army, and 'people's militia' was
surely decisive (Rothschild, 1989, 95).
By mid-1948 the infiltration was complete with the establishment of
the communist government under Klement Gottwald.
Czechoslovakia provides another example of a country that was
transformed from a developing, flourishing economy to an
underdeveloped, stagnant system as a result of the externally imposed
political ideology. The Soviet Union, the Council for Mutual
Economic Assistance (CMEA) or Comecon, and the Warsaw Pact
provided the framework for the nature and extent of Czechoslovakia,
and the rest of the Eastern bloc countries' economic activities. The
Soviet manipulation of the controls of Comecon so that other states
would become increasingly dependent on the U.S.S.R. was successful
in most cases. As an example, many vital products, key to
Czechoslovakian industry, come from the Soviet Union. 96 percent of
the petroleum used in Czechoslovakia, 68 percent of the iron ore, and
41 percent of the cotton utilized is all supplied by the Soviet Union,
giving the U.S.S.R. a large amount of leverage:
...(USSR imports) represented almost 36 percent of
Czechoslovakia's foreign trade. Consequently the
USSR is in a favorable position to exert economic
pressure that should guarantee support by
Czechoslovakia when and if required. Without
petroleum and iron ore, Czechoslovakia would
find it difficult to operate its industries and its
transportation system (Starr, 1982, 91).
This type of Soviet influence was typical throughout the region. From
30 percent to 45 percent of all foreign trade of each bloc country is with
the Soviet Union, while just about 60 percent of Soviet trade is with
Once the Soviets gained the foothold in Eastern Europe, they
attempted to build the economies and trading relations for their own
benefit. While the control of trade was useful for the military and
political control of the bloc, counter to Galtung's model in which the
center nation always benefits, at times it was actually
counterproductive for the Soviet economy:
. . During the remainder of the 1950s and 1960s, as
well as during the first half of the 1980s, the
positive and negative aspects of trade fell much
more evenly on the two sides, although the size of
the Soviet economy and Soviet predominance in
determining pricing mechanisms and other CMEA
structures worked to the advantage of Moscow
The Rand Corporation, in a study for the Department of Defense,
concluded that the Soviet Union spent an annual average of
approximately $5 billion in trade subsidies and credits (Dawisha, 1990,
199). Inter-bloc relations, as well as trading relations with the West,,
undermined the Soviet attempts at economic imperialism, which
while still significant, were unable to reach Galtung like standards.
The above ties to the U.S.S.R. made up the process of satelization
and Sovietization for Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union's neighboring
states were bound together through organizations like the Warsaw Pact
and Comecon as key domestic decisions were made in Moscow rather
than Prague or Warsaw. The region's internal political economic and
social structures were then patterned after Soviet-set standards. The
links that were established by the Soviet Union to Eastern Europe
bound the former to the latter.
Galtung's model makes it clear how closely the foreign policy
actions of the United States and the U.S.S.R. toward their respective
spheres of influence paralleled each other. As Triska (1986) asserts,
each utilized similar strategies and techniques in an attempt to
continually compete, neutralize, or defeat the other. Some authors
refute such a claim:
In foreign policy few, if any, current comparison-
makers have found or even sought any meaningful
likenesses between the two countries. . one may
find numerous differences in their political
instrumentalities and environments, not to
mention differing geopolitical and historically
determined circumstances (Weeks, 1970, 22).
But clearly, as the above comparison shows, the actions of both center
states toward their periphery nations are similar and move towards
proving Arbatov's assertion that "both states, for all their differences in
social structure and all their profound ideological and political
contradictions, do have. . areas of parallel or coincident interests [or
action]"(1974, 8) those interests being a mutual understanding of
international competition with its counterpart.
While their actions are similar, the discussion above shows that
the U.S. and U.S.S.R. levels of imperialsim, according to Galtung's
model varied in degree. A pattern has been shown in that a center
state is able to manipulate another by dominating political, economic,
military, and cultural spheres, creating in basic terms a relationship of
power. Military superiority has led to direct military intervention on
more than one occasion and in separate time periods. When there is a
perceived threat to their political or economic standing, the United
States and U.S.S.R. have utilized their military superiority to maintain
order and the established hierarchy among their periphery nations.
Military ties have been established where both center nations provide
their periphery counterparts with either military aid or supplies.
Economically, the periphery nations find themselves reliant on the
centers' monetary aid and economic markets. The formation of
Comecon in the Soviet bloc and the establishment of one- or two-crop
economies in the Banana Republics have fostered a reliance of the
periphery on the center, a reliance which the dominant states have
been all too willing to exploit. This dominance, though, in one case
does not reach Galtung's theory of imperialism. Whereas both the U.S.
and U.S.S.R. were clearly the economic center among peripheries, the
U.S.S.R. did not achieve Galtung's definition of economic imperialism.
Unlike the U.S., the Soviet Union, while being able to establish itself as
the economic center, was either unable or unwilling to maintain an all
encompassing economic position over Eastern Europe. Comecon,
which under Stalin was utilized to keep the Eastern European nations
apart, in its later years actually fostered mulitlateral agreements, sans
the Soviet Union. As discussed in Chapter 3, Eastern European nations
were allowed to establish economic ties with the Western nations, and
in some cases built up a sizable debt. These two points are in direct
contrast to Galtung's view of an omnipotent economic center nation.
While a dominat/subordinant relationship is clear in both cases, the
clear in both cases, the United States, under Galtung's definition, fits
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