Southeast Asia is a region whose significance in Soviet foreign policy is largely a function of b roader goals. Soviet policy tow ards the region has been an expression of wider T hird World policy which has the aim of gaining advantage against a supposedly antagonistic capitalist world o rd e r which the Soviet leadership reg a rd s as hostile to the continuing ex is t­ ence of socialism. T hird World regions rep re sen t interm ediate stages tow ards the ends of Soviet foreign policy which are b e tte r understood in term s of a p ro cess , ra th e r than as a num ber of concrete aims, which involves a challenge to the ex isting in ternational system and the promotion of an a lte rn ­ ative socialist world o rd e r. Policy tow ards Southeast Asia as a reflection of T hird World policy in general has developed in stages according to the changes in troduced to th a t general policy. The p rio rities th a t have unfolded in Soviet T hird World policy as it has evolved since 1945 are relevant when examining Soviet in te re s ts and expectations in Southeast Asia today. Those p rio rities have a historical basis and have not been a rb itra rily established as though they were easily amen­ able to alteration by a more innovative Soviet leadership since they rep resen t the distilled experience of the Soviet Union in the T hird World which includes several ra th e r expensive successes and some equally expensive failu res.