During the Cold War, Mugabe pursued a course of active nonalignment that sought to avoid entanglement with the United States and Soviet Union. His foreign policy, however, included an active role for Zimbabwe in African affairs. As part of the latter, Mugabe has provided military and finance backing for anti-apartheid and liberation struggles, and for the government of Mozambique in its fight against the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO). From 1992 through 1995 Zimbabwe contributed peacekeeping troops to UN missions in Mozambique, Rwanda, Angola, and Somalia. Against armed threats from Rwanda and Uganda, Zimbabwe was the main supporter of the Kabila governments in the DRC. Although Zimbabwe historically maintained extensive trade relations with South Africa, it was a leading member of the Frontline States—a group of southern and central African states dedicated to end minority white rule in South Africa. Partly because of this history, Presidents Chissano of Mozambique and Mbeki of South Africa have been reluctant to criticize Mugabe for the March 2002 elections and present crisis.
Since the elections, Mugabe has managed to divide the international community over how to deal with his regime. On the one hand he has played up the equity and justice dimensions of land redistribution while criticizing the international community for its hypocrisy in support of white landowners. The argument has received a sympathetic ear from African heads of state and other developing countries, even though they have been made to pay for it in terms of lukewarm support from the donors for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). It has also shifted the terms of the debate away from the 2002 elections and the abuses of political freedoms and civil rights that followed. Analysts have noted Mugabe's ability to make timely concessions, which he has withdrawn strategically to keep his adversaries off balance. The bottom line is that he has been able to perpetuate his regime.
Relations with the United States and EU will continue to be tense as both have adopted targeted sanctions against senior members of ZANU-PF, restricting their ability to travel and freezing their financial assets. Nonetheless, the United States and UN will continue to provide food aid on humanitarian grounds, as well as to support civil society and other internal forces for change. Rumors have surfaced that the regime has used food aid as a political weapon. Proof of this would isolate Mugabe further, and make it more difficult for sympathetic African heads of state to support him.