Things Fall Apart

Soviet Assistance to the Somali Armed Forces, 1960–1977

In: Journal of African Military History
Whitney Grespin George Washington University Institute for African Studies USA Washington, DC

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Matthew Marchese George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs USA Washington, DC

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As Cold War tensions rose, Soviet aid was offered to the nascent Somali government in pursuit of broader geopolitical machinations that were seen to supersede Somali interests, laying the groundwork for a decades-long mismatch between local intentions and Cold War superpower objectives in the Horn of Africa. Vast quantities of materiel and training were provided to Somalia from 1960 onwards, and by 1976 Somalia boasted a 22,000-man army and was the fourth most heavily armed nation in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to Soviet largesse. One year later, the Soviets were expelled and the assistance ceased, having left Somalia with an unsustainable, corrupt, and repressive security structure as a direct result of high levels of foreign assistance that were not well coordinated with host nation sustainment capabilities.

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