The perception of the Soviet Union among the world's nonaligned nations has been seriously damaged since the invasion of Afghanistan, but this anti-Soviet sentiment has not been turned into support for the United States.
More than ever before the vast majority of the nonaligned want to stay out of superpower confrontation, bloc rivalries, and spheres of influence.
After one month of squabbling and haggling at United Nations headquarters in New York, the plenary meeting of the nonaligned countries still has not been able to come up with a stated position on the Afghanistan crisis.
In January, two-thirds of the nonaligned voted at an emergency session of the General Assembly to condemn the Soviet move against Afghanistan. Last fall, an overwhelming majority of the nonaligned had similarly condemned the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.
But while individually, most nonaligned countries oppose the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, collectively they are wary of being used as pawns by the United States or by the Soviets.
Diplomats here believe that a final document will emerge after some more hard bargaining between those who, like Cuba, have taken the position that the Afghanistan crisis ought not even to be mentioned since it is a purely "internal affair."
Yugoslavia, countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and others, feel strongly that the Soviet aggression should be denounced.
India and Algeria have acted as honest brokers in the dispute, leaning not so much toward the Soviet Union, as toward lessening, rather than aggravating, international tensions.
The final communique, according to reliable information, will mention the victim (Afghanistan) but not the aggressor (the USSR). It will contain three elements:
* A demand for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
* A call for the end of all foreign interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
* An insistence that Afghanistan's sovereignty, national independence, and territorial integrity be respected.
The nonaligned plenary meeting was supposed to address itself to implementing the decisions taken at the sixth summit in Havana last September. However, the question of Afghanistan has eclipsed all others.
Roughly three-quarters of the nonaligned group clearly disapprove of the Soviet aggression against Afghanistan. But most of them also have other, more pressing and more direct concerns.
Most Africans consider South Africa, not the Soviet Union, to be the main villain. And most of the Arabs refuse to be distracted from their struggle against Israel by the Afghanistan sideshow.
Furthermore, even the most moderate among them consider the United States as not being a reliable ally. "Even Pakistan, even Saudi Arabia not attach greater importance to being nonaligned than being seen as friends of the United States," one key Arab diplomat says.