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Off the top of my head it might be Afghanistan, but I'm not totally sure despite direct troop participation. They also sent substantial aid to Vietnam, North Korea, and various Arab countries fighting Israel. Have there been any attempts to quantify and compare these aid/interventions?

Nowadays one can find very detailed stuff on US proxy wars, like dollars spent per day and what not. It's what motivated this Q, but I've not seen anything similar for USSR.

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    Soviet archives are still closed. May 21, 2023 at 20:29
  • Should the answer take into account the money the receiving nations did actually pay for the support? Or only the "free" help?
    – SJuan76
    May 21, 2023 at 20:40
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    @SJuan76: if they got reimbursed the could have even turned a profit, so no. OTOH it may be a bit complicated to account because the USSR sometimes gave loans they forgave later on, e.g. some of those to Vietnam they wrote off in 1978, in the friendship treaty. May 21, 2023 at 20:42

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See, here comes an issue. Such questions are hard to answer because much of the information needed to answer this question is too recent to be declassified. But, we can make an ardent guess. Afghanistan seems like a good one. More than 15,000 Soviet troops were killed, and billions worth of machinery were ruined for what probably was nothing. Vietnam probably is the other major contender. 20 years of patience that led to success in the end. But, we don't really see much in the annals of history that leads one to think the Soviets played a super-duper crucial part in the war. In my opinion, it's one of these two. All other wars were comparatively small. Hope that helps.

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    I'm not sure that Afghanistan counts as a proxy war since the USSR was directly involved. Oct 16, 2023 at 5:13
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    @KillingTime Afghanistan started as a proxy war, with the USSR supplying arms and services to the Afghan government, then escalated as the Afghan armed forces were failing to where the USSR deployed active duty troops. Same pattern as the US involvement in Vietnam, same end result.
    – jwenting
    Oct 25, 2023 at 9:54

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