Soviet Union: Straining the Ties that Bind

With troubles elsewhere, Moscow cuts its Indochina aid

A joke currently circulating in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) recounts an apocryphal exchange of cables between Hanoi and Moscow. "Tighten your belts," wires Moscow in response to a Vietnamese plea for increased economic aid. Hanoi's reply: "Please send belts."

Such black-market humor contains more than a morsel of truth. Ever since the People's Republic of China canceled its Vietnamese development programs in 1978, the Soviet Union has supplied the Southeast Asian nation with everything from brandy to ball bearings. Since January 1979, when the...

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