Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I sell guns to every army but the Salvation Army!

A still of the Soviet trade and industry exhibition in Colombo Litvinov N. K., 1972

In the Seventies Russia was not only providing financial and technical help for countries, loyal to communist ideology (like Cuba, Yemen, Vietnam, etc), but was also entering world industry markets with the products and machines, which were sometimes based on the technologies from the defense industry. These were new alloys, precision machinery, high-tech materials. But the competition was fierce and the main source of hard currency income has always been and still is the raw stuff – like oil, gas and timber.

On May 22 1972 Ceylon was declared the Sri Lanka Republic. The country being a British colony for a long time had always been economically dependent and now was seeking new markets and trends. The soviet officials well realized that Sri Lanka had a perfect strategic position in the East-West and could become an outpost of communism in the region. So the new trade preferences were opened for Sri Lanka: now there was excellent Ceylon tea present on the shelves of every soviet store and there it matched well the cigars imported from Cuba due to the USA embargo.

Another thing was organizing an international Trade and Industrial Exhibition in Colombo in November 1972, right after the Sri Lanka Republic was established. The event was to show all the advances (military and industrial) which Sri Lanka could get if it only stuck to socialism and communism. To Sri Lanka’s credit they got the most of the situation: without making firm commitments on ideology they purchased some of the soviet arms and established very profitable trade relations.