The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance –
A Restricted Cold War Actor
This article analyses one aspect of CMEA history, which has been neglected in prior literature: its policy-making in the ield of external trade politics. The CMEA attempted – unsuccessfully – to coordinate a common policy vis-à-vis the outside world, particularly the European Community, at the turn of the 970s. The impetus for this came from the progress achieved by the EC, which was planning to implement a Common Commercial Policy starting from 970. The CMEA did not endeavour to copy EC development, but to assist its members’ access to the Common Market that would be hindered once the EC policy was implemented. Based on the indings of this study, the CMEA should be seen as an instrument that all members used to advance their particular aims and interests. The CMEA debate on its policy towards the EC shows the limits of Soviet power within the organisation and towards its smaller allies: due to the organization’s decision-making principles, and more importantly, because the member states could resist it, the USSR was not able to override the intergovernmental CMEA. Nonetheless, due to the unanimity rule, the CMEA could not act without Soviet consent. Importantly, Soviet economic power was valuable for the small allies in possible negotiations with the EC. Therefore, to secure Soviet participation, the East Europeans accepted the Soviet leading role in the EC policymaking.