Timothy Scarnecchia

Renegotiating Frontline State Relations after Zimbabwe’s Independence. Cold War Influences on the Politics of Zimbabwe’s Role in Frontline State Solidarity, 1980-1986

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Based on archival sources, this article provides an assessment of Robert Mugabe’s role in the Frontline States leadership in the six years following Zimbabwe’s formation. The article explores Mugabe’s diplomacy, along with his Minister of Security, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as they engaged with the United States and United Kingdom. The article analyses Zimbabwe’s relative passive role to regional diplomacy involving Angola and Namibia, while taking a more direct interventionist role in Mozambique. The article emphasizes Zimbabwe’s vulnerability in terms of apartheid South Africa’s military and economic strength, and the willingness of the Zimbabweans to accept American and British military and economic assistance in these years, while assisting the Government of Mozambique to receive similar Western assistance. The article suggests that Mugabe’s outwardly radical anti-imperialism and anti-Western rhetoric were always tempered by the realpolitik of Zimbabwe’s relative weakness and Mugabe’s desire to focus on destroying his rival Joshua Nkomo and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) in these early years of Zimbabwe’s history.


  • Zimbabwe
  • Frontline States
  • Robert Mugabe
  • Emmerson Mnangagwa
  • Soviet Union


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