The 1960–1961 Congo crisis was a defining moment for the Cold War in the Third World. This article combines declassified Soviet documents with published and archival sources from the United States, Great Britain, and Ghana to assess the role of the Soviet Union in the development of the Congo crisis. The Soviet government initially worked to establish economic relations with the newly formed independent government in Congo, but Soviet leaders had to shift their strategy when confronted by Western intervention in Congo and the prospect of a civil war. Despite Nikita Khrushchev's threats that Soviet troops would intervene in the conflict, the USSR did not have the military wherewithal to guarantee the survival of the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba or other pro-Soviet elements. This outcome ended a brief phase of Soviet success in Africa and significantly altered Soviet policy in the Third World.

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