Fidel Castro and Kim Il-sung were not the only ones to thrive on the Cold war Soviet-American standoff.ZUMAPRESS/Global Look Press, Getty, Robert Pastryk/Pixabay/Global Look Press
“Workers of the world, unite!” says the Communist Manifesto of 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Since devoted Marxists – the Bolshevik Party, later the Communist Party – came to rule Russia in the 20th century, they never forgot the motto of the ideological teachers, promoting and supporting any government in the world that showed any sign of building a socialist state.
After the Cold War broke out in the late 1940s and the USSR challenged the Western capitalist countries led by the U.S., dominance in the world became even more critical. Moscow spared no expense, military help, or armaments in assisting the self-proclaimed socialists. Unfortunately, later many of these countries failed to repay the loans the USSR gave them to boost their economies. So, who were these non-payers?
Fidel Castro sees off Leonid Brezhnev after his visit to the Republic of Cuba, 1974.Eduard Pesov/Sputnik
Moscow gave Cuba tons of credits that helped to improve the Cuban education and healthcare systems, also providing the country with oil, food supplies, and technical equipment. In return, Cuba supplied cane sugar in a great amount to the USSR – and, more importantly, championed communism. Cuba sent its troops to fight as volunteers in the conflicts in Angola or Ethiopia, always supporting the pro-Soviet party.
Leonid Brezhnev meets with Syria's Hafez al-Assad, 1974.Vladimir Musaelyan/TASS
Syria’s debt reached $13 billion by 2005, and the same year Vladimir Putin wrote off $10 billion. In return, Syria promised to give some preferences to Russian businessmen working in the country, but now it seems effective economic cooperation is postponed for a while.
Leonid Brezhnev and chairman of the Mongolian Council of Ministers Yumjaagiin TsedenbalMikhail Kuleshov/Sputnik
Anyway, the number of credits that Moscow gave Ulaanbaatar was $11.4 billion – unsurprisingly, the not-so-prosperous state in East Asia failed to give the credits back. In 2003, Russia wrote off $11.1 billion. Mongolia eventually repaid $300 million and later Russia cleared several smaller debts.
Nikita Khrushchev (2nd right), Leonid Brezhnev (right), and North Korea’s President Kim Il-sung (3rd right) greet the friendship rally in Moscow, 1961.Sergei Preobrazhensky/TASS
Since the USSR and the U.S. de-facto divided Korea into two states after WWII, the North supported the USSR and remained one of Asia’s socialist bastions. Even though in the 1970s Kim Il-sung implemented the ideology of Juche, which meant “relying on its resources” and forgoing Soviet-style Marxism, it didn’t stop Pyongyang from taking money both from Moscow and Beijing.
In total, North Korea owed the USSR $11 billion – and failed to pay it, especially after the economic collapse and famine that hit the country in the 1990s. As usual, Russia wrote off 90 percent of North Korea’s debt in 2012.
Leonid Brezhnev welcomes Le Duan, the First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Vietnam, at the airport, 1975.TASS
Add to this other credits and loans, Vietnam owed $11 billion to the USSR – and in 2000, Russia wrote-off most of the debt: $9.5 billion. Unlike several other countries in this list, Vietnam now has economic ties with Russia and trade is rising ($5.3 billion in 2017).
There is no doubt that the Cold War cost the world a lot but who started it? In fact, Russian and American historians still argue - and we have a text about it.
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