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Socialist Countries Face the European Community

Soviet-Bloc Controversies over East-West Trade

Suvi Kansikas

In the early 1970s, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) began to revise its trade policy towards the outside world. It needed to counter the European Community’s bid to implement its Common Commercial Policy and thereby change East-West trade practices. Foreign trade priorities became at once a crucial issue on the socialist countries’ political agenda. The key question was whether they would have to open their system to the global economy – and bear the consequent pressures and competition that this decision entailed. Based on newly declassified archival sources, this study shows how the East European states were able to lobby their positions towards the USSR within the CMEA. The pressure from its allies forced the Soviet leadership to accept the CMEA’s opening towards the EC.
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This book is based on my doctoral dissertation which grew out of an interest in Cold War history and Soviet policy towards European integration. Restrictions in access to archival material on Soviet foreign policy making pushed me to find further avenues to do research on the topic. This search led me to study CMEA and East European history; topics that have also become the focus of Cold War history. I have been privileged to be part of several overlapping academic communities that share my interest in these themes.

The study of CMEA-EC relations is an extensive and resource-consuming project: first of all, both organizations had nine members at the end of the time period of this study. This requires firstly that a scholar gets acquainted with many national historiographies. For the EC part, a scholar is faced with a multitude of literature; while for the CMEA, one has to struggle to find even basic archival-based studies. Such a project requires multi-archival work that spans over national boundaries. It also requires the assistance and support of many individuals and institutions.

My first expression of gratitude goes to Juhana Aunesluoma, who has cultivated my interest in international economic history and helped me locate key developments and academic debates. His challenging questions have provided food for thought and made me think about my topic from new angles. I am also indebted to Martin Dangerfield, the first CMEA researcher I came to meet. He has drawn my focus...

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