THE SUEZTEST FOR THE USSR'S MIDDLE EASTERN POLICY (Reference title:
Office of Current Intelligence CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
Office of Current Intelligence Reference Title: 6
SOVIET STAFF STUDY The SuezTeat for the PSSR's Middle Eastern Policy
This studyorking paper. It attempts to identify the major premises, motivations and objectives of Soviet policy toward the Middle East since tbe spring It is circulated to analysts of Soviet affairsontribution to current interpretation of Soviet policy. This particular study is parteries^ prepared under the general title "Projectesigned to ensure the systematicof information on tbe major aspects of Soviet affairs.
THE SUEZTEST FOR THE USSR'S MIDDLE EASTERN POLICY
Since the beginning of the Soviot Union's aggressive diplomatic offensive in the Middle East in the springoviet policy has sought to combine efforts toand exploit anti-Western ultranationallst pressures in the Arab world with attempts to forestall tbo possibility of Western military intervention in the area, which the Soviet leaders probably realized would be increased by their new pro-Arab policy. The Middle East crisis precipitated by Nasr's nationalisation of the Sues Canal Company whichin the Israeli and Anglo-French attack on Egyptthe Soviet leaders with the choice of accepting the incalculable risks of direct Soviet intervention on Egypt's side or acquiescing in the rapid destruction of the Soviet-equipped Egyptian armed forces and tbe Nasrmain Instrument of Soviet Influence In the Near East. subsequent events, particularly the divergence between American and Anglo-French policy, enabled the 8ovlet leaders to escape this dilemma and offered new opportunities forSoviet prestige and influence in tbe Middle East.
Basic Motivation and Alms of.SovietMiddle Eastern Policy
The timing and motivation of tbentervention in Middle Eastern affairs steamed in part from tho desire of the Soviet leaders to counter the major diplomatic defeat represented by their failure to prevent tbe entryovereign West Germany Into the NATO alliance. Theof the Paris agreemonts by the French National Assembly at the end of4 broughtlose Moscow's five-year battle to block Western efforts to incorporate aWest Germany into tbe Western defense system. The principal objective of the Soviet offensive In tbe Middle East was to outflank the NATO alliance and strike at the foundations of its strategic power by depriving its members of access to tbo oil fields, military, naval and air bases of the Middle East, and by cutting the vital communications link between Europe and Asia at Sues. orollary aim was to encircle the members of the "northern tier" alliance in the Middle East and to prevent tbe extension of this Western-sponsored defense system southward to Include additional Arab states.
The politico-stratoglc concept underlying Sovietin Middle Eastern affairs envisaged the emergenceeutral bloc of ultranationallst, anti-Western Arab
states which, with full Soviet support, would lead to the complete destruction of traditional Western influence and control from Morocco to the Arabian Sea. The Soviet leaderseady Instrument for advancing these aims in thehauvinism and zenophobia which was sweeping the Arab world. They recognized, however, -that this policy of exploiting Arab nationalismeans of striking at the political, economic and military strength of the Western powers would carry increasing risks that the West might attempt to restore its deterioratingin the Middle East by forceful action. They also realized that their new pro-Arab line would inevitablythe Arab-Israeli conflict and that an outbreak of hostilities between Israel and its Arab neighbors would almost certainly lead to strong Western intervention.
The USSR attempted to evade this dilemma bythe Israelis, on the one hand, that it entertained no hostile intentions toward their security and interests and, on the other hand, by counseling the Arabs to exercise patience andntil Israel attacked Egypt at the end ofho Soviet government maintained outwardly correct diplomatic relations with Israel. Even during the period of high tension in the Near East inhe USSR contracted to supply Israel wither-cent of Its crude oil requirements over the next two years.
-same time, soviet foreign minister Shepllov, during his tour of the Near East, was urging the Arabs to avoid rash actions and saying that war must be avoided at all costs to prevent Western intervention.
First Phase of Soviet Intervention in the Middle East
Moscow's search for an opportunity toounter-offensive against the West quickly focused on the Middle East situation which had been broughtew crisis by two events in The first was the sharpof historical and dynastic rivalries in the Arab world produced by the conclusion of the Turkish-Iraqi alliance onebruary. The second vas the threat to Colonel Nasr's position as leader of the Egyptianregime posed by the heavy Israeli attack onforces in the Gaza area onebruary.
The turning point oi the USSR's Middle Eastern policy was marked by an abrupt shift in5 toward an anti-Israeli and pro-Arab position in Soviet propaganda. Moscow also made an arms offer to Syria at thisfirst offer of military aid to an Arab state.
The Soviet Foreign Ministry statement of5 was the first formal pronouncement regarding the new It firmly aligned the USSR on Egypt's side of tbe dispute within the Arab world by offering Soviet support for those governments which opposed the Turkish-Iraqi alliance. It pledged to "defend" their freedom and independence and warned that the USSR would take this issue to the United Nations if the alleged Western pressure to induce other Arab states to join the Baghdad pact persisted.
These opening moves were followed by the first arms offers to Egypt which began in May, initially in response to an inquiry by Nasr, and were repeated in June. They were accompanied by offers of economic assistance, including an offer to assist in building the Aswan High Dam. Shepilov, then editor in -chief of Pravda, reportedly repeatedarms offer when he attended the Liberation Day celebration in Cairo in the latter part of July, and renewed the Aswan dam offer.
Soviet overtures in the spring and summer5 were directed mainly at Egypt, but Saudi Arabia and Syria received similar offers. These were the three countries most opposed to the Baghdad pact. Egypt finallyive-year arms agreement with Czechoslovakia on
Moscow Adjusts to the Impact of the New policy
Two clashes between Israeli and Egyptian forces in early5 and an Israeli raid on Syriaere followeditter attack on Israel by Khrushchevpeech to the Supreme Soviet at the end of December. This was the first time since the Palestine armistice9op Soviet leader had takentrong public stand against Israel. The USSR had previouslyarked aloofness from the Arab-Israeli dispute. Khrushchev charged that Israel threatened its oelghbors and hada policy hostile to them "ever since it came intoe implied that Israelere tool of the "imperialist powers."
This denunciation of Israel reflected the Impact which the first Soviet bloc arms shipments to Egypt had on the Near Eastern balance of power. The prospectapid strengthening of Egypt's military position alarmed Israel, exacerbated border friction, and impelled Moscowtronger and more unequivocal pro-Arab position.
With this prospect of increasing tension in the Near East, Moscow became concerned about possible Western moves to halt tho arms race. oviet Foreign Ministry statement of6 condemned the communique" issuedebruary at the end of Prime Minister Eden's talks with President Eisenhower in Washingtoncheme for the United States and Britain to dispatch troops to the Middle East against the will of the people involved in violation of the interests of the Soviet Union.
This statement was the first major Soviet attempt to commit the Western powers to the proposition that any great-power actions regarding the'Mlddle East must be taken within the framework of -the UN Security Council, where the USSR could exercise its veto to block Western moves which it opposed. The statement specifically challenged the right of the three Western powers to act under the This Soviet insistence that any -Arab^Igraflliy
The USSR also attempted to deter the West from taking independent actionropaganda campaign last spring charging the West with "trying to create clashes between Israel and the Arab countries in order toretext for bringing their armies into this region." This public campaign to inhibit Western freedom of action was accompanied by private assurances to Arab governments of firm Soviet support in the growing tension with Israel.
On the eve of the Bulganin-Kbrushchev visit to Britain, tbe Soviet Foreign Ministrytatement onpril promising the "necessary support" for United Nations measures to strengthen peace in the Near Bast. This statement again denounced the Tripartite Declaration0 and warned that
the "Soviet government considers illegal andttempts to use the Arab-Israeli conflict for interference from without in the internal affairs of Independent Arab states or for introducing foreign troops on the territory of the Near East."
The USSR and Nasr's Seizure of the Suez Canal
There is some circumstantial evidence that the USSRattempted toituation in whichpowers might decide to take the risk ofoffers of financial assistance for the Aswan dam oscow on many occasions had madethe Egyptian government its willingness to helpthe dam. As recently asovietKlselev reportedly renewed this standing offer withthat the USSR realized that the West mightits offer of assistance in view of Nasr'sCommunist China the previous day. Shepllov ishave elaborated: on this offer during his visit to
One month later, however, Shepllov reversed his line by publicly playing down onuly tho Importance of the Aswan project and offering instead Soviet help for Egyptianprojects. Four days after the United States had announced the withdrawal of its offeroan to help finance the initial phase of the Aswan project, A. M. Ledov-sky, counselor of the Soviet embassy in Washington, asked a
State Department official whether the American decision was not ln fact based on the assumption tbat the USSR would not build tbe dam if the United States withdrew.
The American and British anoouncomeots withdrawing their loan offers were followed by at least three denials-by Soviet spokesmen that the USSR had committed Itself to support the Aswan project. Moscow, however, did not close the door to later negotiations for Soviet assistance and since tbat time has reportedly ronewed its assistance offer.
The USSR's first public reaction to Nasr'sof tbe Suez Canal Company onuly came ln tbe form of Khrushchev's advice to the Vest toquietto this problem, one which would soberly take Into account "tho new circumstances and the spirit of thepparentlytrong Western reaction,asserted that "there are no grounds for theof relations ln the Mediterranean area and for tbe fanning of hostility between states over tbe Suez Canal."
nervousness overtjobsjdio western reactions.f
The USSR's propaganda reaction to initial Western moves was relatively moderate io tone and seemed toMoscow's concern to prevent the crisis fromoint of Western military Intervention.
Tbe Soviet leaders appear to have recognized immediately tbat the future course of Western actions on Suez would bo largely determined by the United States position. In awith Secretary Dulles in London before the opening of the London conference on Suez, Shepilov said he was not attempting to split the Western Big Three but that ifdid exist between tbe United States and Britain and France, tbe "United States and tbe USSR together mightay out of this crisis." Moscow was fully aware of the
implications of tho divergence between the US and Its allies on the best way to handle the Suez issue. hich guided.Soviet decisions throughout the"crlsls?Nwas
rincipal objective at London was to playand to forestall the adoption of any decisions whichmight useretext for intervention. Moscow^regarding the measure of Western disagreementof using force to impose internationalthe canal |
The Soviet Foreign Ministry statementugustthe position which the USSR adhered to at the It distinguished between freedom of navigation through the canal "governed by the special conventionnd the nationalization of the canal company, which itperfectly lawful action following from Egypt's sovereignt denied the competence of the London conference to authorize "any decisions whatever" affecting the canal.
Shepllov rejected Secretary Dulles' plan to placeof the canal under an International boardan Indian proposalonsultativewhich would not prejudice Egyptian ownership and. E
snepnov acnouncea xne appointraonT or tne iive-naiicc Heazies committee to present the Western plan to Nasr but
advised the Egyptians that the committee should be cviur-teously received and told that the conference documents would
bo studied. Be suggested that tho period of study should bo "spun out" without replying and without official comment on the London conference.
A Soviet-Egyptian arrangement for sending Soviet pilots to Egypt for pilot service on the canal was worked out in London by Shepilov and All Sabri. Moscow radio early in Septoaber reported that Soviet ship pilots were preparing to leave for Egypt.
The Soviet leaders apparently were well satisfiedoutcome of tbo conference.
Moscow Prepares for the Next Round
The Soviet government probably regarded the Suez Canal Users' Association plan which Eden introduced to Parliament oneptemberaneuver to force Egypt intorovocation for Anglo-French military action. Eden had warned that if Egypt interfered with SCUA, Britain and the others concerned "will he free to take such further steps as to be required either through tho UN or by other means for the assertion of their rights."
Moscow's response to what it probably regarded asand French preparationsilitary showdowntook the form of notes to London and Parishich warned again that tho use of force against
Egypt would carry the risk of an expaoded war. I
These notes were followedoreign Ministryissued oneptember on the eve of the Users'conference in London. This statoment went beyondpronouncements by linking for the first time any
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violation of the peace in the Near East in connection with the Suez crisifl with the USSR's own security and by officially -calling for United Nations action. Bulganin chose theday of the London conference to reply to questions sub-Bitted by Kingsbury Saith. Be said the USSR was prepared to take part in the conference with the leaders of Egypt, India, the United States, Britain and France to seek ato the canal problem.
In addition to its diplomatic and propaganda support, Moscow took other concrete steps to aid Egypt. To alleviate the acute shortage of canal pilots, it sent fourteenpilots to Cairo oneptember. Early in September, the USSR reportedly increased its arms shipments to Egypt and sent more technicians.
At the UN Security Council sessions on Suez in the first half of October, Shepllov maintained his rigidto the Western plan for international control but appeared to welcome confidential talks between Britain, France and Egypt as the best means of gaining time and limiting Western freedooT of action.
The Soviet Reaction to Israel's Attack on Egypt
The USSR's actions in the second half of Octoberthe UN Security Council's unanimous adoption of the six principlesuez settlement suggest that the Sovietdid not expect the outbreak of hostilities onctober. By mid-October, the Russians apparently estimated that the threat of Anglo-French military action bad been almostremovod and that the USSR, by its firm support of Egypt's defiance of Western demands, had considerablyits influence and prestige throughout the Middle East and Asia. They probably believed that the approval of the six prlnoiplos and the Initiation of talks between Egypt, Britain and France had placed Nasrtrong position to conduct prolongod negotiations which would sharply limit British and French freedom to resort to force.
Soviet propaganda, whichuwcarx-cy otodcti debate in the first half of October had warned against Anglo-French action and alleged American threats to use force, subsequently diminished both in volume and violence of tone.
The initial reaction of the Soviet leaders was one of great caution. They appeared determined to do nothing which would commit them to any concrete actionery confused and fast-moving situation. According to press reports, Khrushchev and Bulganln,remlin reception for tbe visiting Prime Minister of Afghanistan onctober, told two Asian ambassadors that they were "gravely concerned" by the Israeli attack and thought that the matter should be immediately settled in the UN Security Council. The Soviet delegate to the Security Councilnited States resolution in thectober meeting which called on Israel to cease fire and withdraw to its own borders and asked all UN members to refrain from using force in the area.
Molotov attempted to sound oat American intentions by suggesting to Ambassador Bohlen at thectober reception that the United States could have prevented the Israeli attack, adding that of course the United States had acted in collusion with Britain and France. When Bohlen denied this, Molotov said that Britain and France stood behind Israel and wished to punish Nasr for nationalization of the canal.
The Soviet government was also carofu^ to avoid making any commitments to any specific course of action in its first official pronouncement onctober. This statement merely condemWiti the three-power attack and called on tho Security Council to take "immediate steps to stop the aggressive operations" and "ensure the immediate withdrawal of thefrom Egypt."
Moscow continued to temporize and play for tiaeuc oanuuug puvera tu uuDut'nu mo attackand by delivering protests to Britain and FranceNovember against their closing parts of theRed Seas to commercial shipping in violation ofConvention.
Tho USSR also took immediate measures to avoid incidents with Anglo-French invasion forces. (
ovember, however, the day tho first Anglo-French forces landed in Egypt, the Russians were ready to aot,apparently that the divergence between the United States and Britain and France was genuine and that the Nasr regime and Its Soviet-equipped armed forces were threatened with destruction. Bulganin sent threatening notes to Britain, France and Israel which contained the warning that the Soviet Union was "fully determined to crush the aggressors andpeaae in the East through the use of force."
This languageiece of calculated ambiguityto convey the Impression that the USSR washreat of unilateral action against Britain and France unloss they abandonod their action against Egypt. Tho SovietMinistry press officer laterclarifying" statement that the "we" referred to "tbe 8ovlet Union and other members of the United Nations."
The same day, Bulganinroposal to President Eisenhower for joint action by American and Soviet forces, under UN authority, to halt the operations in Egypt. etter to the president of tho Security Council settingesolution embodying Bulganln's proposal. Tho council, however, refused to place the resolution on Its agenda.
the OSSR assured Egypt of support in order to stifiwu xin resistance and forestall any compromises or surrender.
Tne soviet party chief was en-
couragedis oravadd by tbe Anglo-French declarationease-fire in Egyptovember. * " " I
The sequence of events, however, placed the USSRosition to claim thathreatening notes hadBritain and France to declare the cease-fire and that it was Moscow tbat saved the Arab world from imperialjgt
Post Cease-Fire Phase
The cease-fireew phase in the Suez conflict and created new opportunities for Soviet moves to winArab favor. Moscow's immediate objective was to bring about by nonmilitary means the early withdrawal of the three-power forces from Egypt. It sought to increaseon the British and French and to impress the Arabs by announcing onovember that if the throe powers did not withdraw, the "appropriate authorities of the USSR will not hinder the departure of Soviet citizen volunteers who wish to take part in the struggle of the Egyptian people for their independence." This was the first time since the attack on Egypt that tbe USSR had publicly threatened to
send volunteers to the Middle East unilaterally or take any action outside the framework of joint measures with other ON members.
The fact that the Soviet leaders waited until itcertain that hostilities would not bethat they hoped to avoid having to make athey would actually send volunteers. Theythat, short of direct Soviet intervention,no way they could bring any appreciable militaryto Egypt which would decisively affect therenewed fighting. The volunteer threat, therefore,to have been largely bluff designed as ato exert pressure on Britain and France. Yurieditor of Pravda, reportedly toldiD
early December that the threat to send volunteers to bgyptomplete bluff which the USSR would not be able to use again.
The volunteer threat was followed by another round of notes onovember demanding that Egypt be indemnified by Britain, France and Israel for material losses. The notes made clear that the USSR believes the UN Emergency Force will be unnecessary after the withdrawal of foreign forces.
By the end of November, Moscow had turned its primary attention to Syria, where it suspected that the Westernalong with Turkey and Iraq, were preparing to intervene to overthrow the present leftist regime in Damascus. trong Soviet propaganda build-up designed to doter Western intervention was accompanied by confidential warnings, apparently Intended to reach Western governments, that if Turkey should attack Syria, the USSR would immediately attack Turkey, which would mean tbe beginning of World War
Moscow backed these diplomatic and propaganda maneuvers by concluding its first direct arms agreement with Syria the end of November. This deal will include jet aircraft and antiaircraft guns. Moscow agreed, moreover, to supply Syriaoviet training personnel but was not willing to provide technicians "to fight with the equipment" as requested by Syria.
Future Policy ln Middle East
The outcome of the three-power action ngainst Egypt haa probably Increased tbe Soviet leaders' confidence that they can proceed vigorously to exploit the Middle East situation without undue risk. They are moving ahoade-equipment program for Egypt's armed forces which may go beyondof lost equipment. The Cairo government has provided the Soviet military attache1 with an estimate of futureaid requirements.
The USSR will probably seek to make increasing use of Syria as an Important instrument of its anti-West, anti-Israel policy. Tbe first shipment of Soviet militaryto Syria under the November arms agreement arrived in the port of Latakla onecemberoviet freighter and
' Recent bloc activities ln TM Middle EaBfMVffiiicinaoa arrangements for additional arms shipments to Yemen and for the arrival of Soviet and Czech advisers ln that country.
While proceeding with these lines of action, Moscow probably will seek to gain credit for easing tensions and forestalling further figbtlng ln this area. It moved to ease Western suspicions of Soviet intentions bytatementecember withdrawing the implied throat ofovember to send volunteers to fight in Egypt.
Moscow appears totrong Interest incontinuation of Arab-Israeli tensions as tbeof its Middle East policy. It will seek totensions and Arab hostility toward Britain andblock Western efforts to bring about an earlythe Palestine problem. Soviet representatives atNations,have been
constantly urging tbe Arabs to insist 6ft tbe MOST; favorable termsalestine settlement. Moscow may press the Arabs to adopt an uncompromising position on partition lines and refugees based on7 United Nations resolutions.
The Russians probably will also urge Egypt to demand termsuez settlement even more favorable than those outlined ln the UN Security Council's six principles.
Moscow can be expected to demand the immediate-withdrawal of the UN Emergency Force from Egypt as soon as the three-power evacuation is completed. Soviet propaganda has been charging that the "imperialists" are attempting to use these troops to impose international control on Suezeneral Palestine settlement on the Arab states.
All of these various lines of action will serve theSoviot aims of widening the cleavage between the Arab world and the West and drawing Egypt, Syria andother Arab statesosition of growing dependence on the USSR.
With the precipitate decline of British and Frenchin the Middle East, the USSR recognizes that the United States will be its only^serlous rival in the future struggle for power in this area. The Soviet leaders probably believetrong anti-Israeli line will be one of their most effective weapons in this competition. Theyhreatening Soviet posture toward Israel will compel the United States to.takeosition as defender and guarantor of Israel against hostile Communist and Arab pressures. This position, in the Soviet view, would make it increasingly difficult for any Arab government, no matter how well disposed toward the United States, to be identified with American aims and interests in the Middle East. Moscow has alreadyelief among the Arabs that it favors the eventual elimination of Israel. Izvestia published an article onovember entitled "The Road to Suicide" which declared that "the hatred of the Eastern peoples for Israel aroused by her brigand attack on Egypt is so greatt raises the question about the very existence of Israeltate."
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mr iwrrrrTOriginal document.