Episode 107 – Reagan, Gorbachev, Ulysses the Bull, Fidel Castro: Diplomacy Breaks Out
What had been achieved after 23 years of war - fighting ostensibly to stop SWAPO from seizing control of Namibia but really a war to buffer the apartheid state from the sweeping post-colonial independence movements.
This was no longer possible in 1988 because the Cold War was rapidly coming to an end. The Soviet Union experiment in communism has failed as an experiment, ironically it was failing at precisely the moment that the whites-only lunacy in South Africa was failing.
These two countries, Russia and South Africa, shared a common dawn. It was a moment that was to change both, and to alter world history.
While Russia and South Africa were indulging in this long term military dance across southern Africa, the Americans and the Cubans hadn’t been far away. Perhaps its more accurate to say that both Havana and Washington had been directly involved in these distant wars, both had ideological reasons to send their advisors and troops, their operators and specialists into the region.
Propaganda and hoopla replaced a proper analysis. On the Cuban and Angolan side, they trumpeted what they called a great victory at Cuito Cuanavale. The only problem was there was never a battle of Cuito Cuanavale. It wasn’t like Stalingrad, fighting in the streets. But it was like the Battle of Moscow in the Second World War. There the Germans never reached the city, fighting for months outside the western edges, never defeating the Russians. The battles around Cuito Cuanavale were a bit like this.
Now that the fighting had subsided, both sides licked their wounds. Behind the scenes, however, diplomacy was the real game. The soviet Union’s deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Adamishin had been meeting both Cuban and Angolan leaders and pressurising them to talk peace. The USSR was bankrupt and could no longer send men and weapons to their satellite states.