Documents on British Policy Overseas: The Invasion of Afghanistan and UK-Soviet Relations, 1979–82

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) have recently published the latest volume in the series Documents on British Policy Overseas: Series III, Volume VIII: The Invasion of Afghanistan and UK-Soviet Relations, 1979-82 edited by Richard Smith, Patrick Salmon and Stephen Twigge.

The volume documents British policy towards the Soviet Union from the invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 to the death of President Brezhnev in November 1982. The new Conservative government, under Margaret Thatcher, was determined to take a tougher line towards the Soviet Union and advocated a strong response to the Soviet intervention. The dilemma facing the British government was how to express strong disapproval of Soviet actions while still attempting to maintain a constructive bilateral relationship, and at the same time keep British policy in line with the Western Alliance. The dilemma was exacerbated by the further deterioration in East-West relations following the imposition of martial law in Poland in December 1981.

The documents in the volume, many released into the public realm for the first time, chart the development of UK policy for the future management of East-West relations and the prevention of further Soviet expansion in the Developing World. They record UK efforts to alleviate differences in the Western Alliance over how best to respond to Soviet actions in Afghanistan and Poland, assess Soviet motives for invading Afghanistan and examine UK plans for a negotiated settlement. They provide analysis of the internal situation in the USSR, and the likelihood of reform, and of US-Soviet relations and the role of the UK.

The volume covers bilateral discussions on Afghanistan, East-West relations, Poland, CSCE, Southern Africa, the Middle East, the Falklands War and arms control. The documents also show the increasing concern felt in the FCO over the continuing hard-line being taken by Mrs Thatcher towards the USSR and the worsening state of bilateral relations. The volume ends with an assessment of President Brezhnev’s legacy.

Documents on British Policy Overseas (DBPO) is the official record of British foreign policy, produced by the FCO’s team of in-house Historians. DBPO reproduces the text of original documents, with extensive editorial material, to show how British foreign policy has been formulated since 1945.

The volume is available to purchase from Routledge in hardback or e-book:
ISBN 978-0-415-67853-7 (hbk)
ISBN 978-0-203-12108-5 (ebk )

View all publications of this project.


Article published: 08-08-2012