CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM AS-
DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE
Soviet-Egyptian Relations: An Uneasy Alliance
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligencearch2
Soviet-Egyptian Relations: An Uneasy Alliance
The past year hasumber of developments that testify to Egyptian dependency upon the Soviet Union. It has also witnessed the development and exacerbationumber of strains in relationsthe two countries. Moscow finds the situation not entirely comfortable, but, valuing its positionajor power in the Middle East, it is ready to tolerate some degree of friction as the price for preserving this role. The USSR recognizes therole Egypt plays in its over-all strategy and realizes that Egypt, because of its size, and geographic location, is likely toforemost among the Arab states.
Similarly, Cairo is. willing to endure theconsequences of its close ties with the Soviet Union in order to reap the concomitant benefits of Soviet aid. Indeed, Egypt has few alternatives to its present alliance with the USSR, and so long as the impasse with Israel remains unresolved, Cairo finds indispensable the broad range of support Moscow provides.
The Thorny Search for Peace
1. Egypt's persistent efforts to find asolution to the conflict with Israel have been fully supported by the Soviet Union. The Soviets
Current Intelligences coordinated within CIA,
have been careful to back only those settlement terms acceptable to the Arabs themselves; thus they have been unwilling to get out in front of the Egyptian negotiating position, although on occasion they have encouraged Cairo to keep the door openolitical settlement.
Currently, the Soviets may beolitical initiative for the summit meeting with President Nixon in May. Moscow, which has consistently favored bilateral discussions with the US on the deadlock in the Middle East, has indicated to the Arabs that the May summit couldreakthrough. The Soviets have also kept alive the idea of four-power talks, but thisove designed to put additional pressure on the US and Israel ratherreferred means ofettlement. The Egyptians appear to be setting the stage for the Moscow summit byew pan-Arab initiative "before May."
President Sadat has been willing toinitiatives from virtually any quarter. But the Soviets, anxious to maintain their hand in the settlement process, want no initiatives from which they are excluded. In particular,
US efforts to promote an interim agreement have been viewed with special anxiety by Moscow. conscious of the advantages for them that would ensue from the reopening of the Suez Canal, the Soviets have also been concerned over the prestige and influence that success in promoting an interim arrangement would confer upon the US.ounter, they have assiduously fanned Cairo's interestesumption of the mission of UN special envoy Gunnar Jarring, perhaps hoping that the renewal of his activities would dampen any lingering Egyptian interest in US-sponsored settle ment negotiations.
oviet concerns extend to the aftermathettlement in the Middle East. Moscow cannot be insensitive to the Egyptians' unhappiness over their near-total dependence upon Moscow and must anticipate that following normalization of the situation, the Egyptians will at the least want to reduce the Soviet military presence in Egypt. Cairo's, desire to move backore balanced position between East and West is indicated by itsnterest in restoring normal ties with Westhis must give the Soviets pause. But, evenettlement is achieved, the Soviets are unlikely, to be forced out of Egypt completely because.of the Egyptians' need for continuingand technical assistance. Preparing for such an eventuality, Moscow, in the past year, hasumber of long-term agreements to undertake economic projects supportingyear friendship treaty with Cairo. These shoulda Soviet physical presence for soma time to
gypt's mounting frustration over the lack of progress in resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute has contributed to the strains between Moscow and Cairo. Sadat's increasingly bellicose language in1 was greetedotable lack of enthusiasm in the USSR. The Soviet media did not report Sadat's militant declaration that the "time for the battlo hasnd Soviet officials have privately described this kind of bombast as typical Arab rhetoric, not to be taken seriously.
6. Sadat's trip to Moscow in Februaryanother example of Soviet discomfort with Egyptian militancy. Prior to his departure, Sadat spoke publicly of the seriousness of the situation and warned ho would set the "zero hour" for the battle when he returned. The final jointhowever, played down the military aspects of the talks and instead highlighted the need
for resumption of the Jarring mission. Soviet officials in Moscow subsequently supported this emphasis, alleging that Sadat had come toolitical solution.
reports attest that Cairo's frustrations over its military impotence have led to frequent and often bitter points ofbetween Egypt and the Soviet Union. Cairo has complained often and bitterly about Moscow's performance in the military relationship. of Egyptian grumblings over slowdowns in the flow of spare parts and new equipment are frequent. Minister of War Sadiq has reportedly charged in private that the Soviets were holding back both ammunition and essential spare parts which, according to the Egyptians, has left their troops with worn-out equipment far inferior to that of the Israelis.
Although many of the problems in the military pipeline are probably the result of natural bottlenecks or of poor Egyptianit is easy for the Egyptians to imagine sinister motives for Soviet shortcomings. Egyptian complaints rarely.are publicized, but occasional lapses do occur. ewsweek interview in December, Sadat complained that he was obliged to pay in hard currency and "through the nose" for certain Soviet military assistance.
As the political stalemate has dragged on, Cairo has increased its pressure on Moscow for additional military equipment that would enable it to pry more actively at Israel's grip on the occupied territory. Among other things, the Egyptians have reportedly pressed for more sophisticated aircraft with an offensive Egyptian requests for such weaponry are
often based on the unrealistic assumption that this sort of equipment would somehow prove to be the key to victory for their armed forces, even though, in fact, they would be incapable of using it effectively without extensive training.
Moscow has continually urged restraint. Soviet officials have reportedly warned that it would be suicidal for the Egyptians to attempt to cross the canal in force and allegedly have gone so far as to threaten that the Soviet Union would not replace the equipment lost during any such rash adventure. Although the Soviets may well have agreed to help defend Egyptian territory from an Israeli counterattack,say that the Soviets would not support offensive operations designed to regain the occupied
Every visit to Moscow by an Egyptianhas been accompanied by widespread speculation about further arms requests. Before Sadat left on his latest trip to the USSR in February, he strongly hinted that ho would request new weaponry to offset the impending delivery of additional Phantomto Israel. The final communiqu6 spoke only vaguely of agreement to strengthen Egypt'scapability. But Soviet Defense Minister Grechko, accompaniedigh-level delegation of military experts, subsequently visited Egypt and, according
to the Egyptian press, exchanged views aboutEgypt's fighting power." The visit of the delegation, following closely on Sadat's trip to Motcow, suggests the Soviets are conducting areview of Egyptian military capabilityalso, of their own military presence in Egypt. Even if new types of weapons are eventually supplied to Egypt, there is little the Soviets would provide Cairo that could immediately affect the militaryin the Middle East. Nevertheless, new and more sophisticated equipment might serveymbolic gesture of continued Soviot supportrustrated Egyptian regime.
12. Adding to tho frictions brought on by Egyptian complaints of real or imagined delays in tho delivery of military hardware are the frequently reported instances of abrasive relations between Egyptian military personnel and their Soviet After centuries of foreign domination, individual Egyptians are quick to resent foreign intruders of any sort. This sense of nationalism compounds the natural difficulties inhorent in any adviser-client relationship and results in discord.he stolid and businesslike Soviet attitude tends to offend the more open Egyptians, who characterize their Soviet counterparts as "bull-necked, arrogant bullies."
rictions of this kind spawn recurrent reports that some or all Soviet personnel will be expelled from Egypt. eries of such allegations recently circulated in the Middle East press.
lave alleged that three members of
the Soviot Embassy in Cairoumber of Soviet
military technicians will soon be transferred at
the request of the Egyptian Government. Although
no concrete evidence of any expulsions has yet
surfaced, such storiesredictable product
of the long-standing and massive Soviet presence
Egyptian Domestic Policies
14. There is no confirmation of periodic rumors that the Soviets plan to intervene directly in Egyptian domestic affairs. Soviet media from time to time provide subdued hints that moreEgyptian domestic policies are desirable, but Moscow has generally found Cairo's socialist orientation acceptable and has contented itself with consolidating the Soviet presence in Egypt in the hope that future developments will be more to Moscow's liking. The Soviet Communist Party is persevering in its mission to cultivate relations
with the official Egyptian political organization, the Arab Socialist Union, perhaps with the idea, that thia body might one day developruly effective political force. President Sadat'sconservative image probably does not sitwell with Moscow, but the Soviets' primary anxiety is that he Is lessnown quantity, and consequently less predictable than was Nasir.
their problems with Sadat,find the Egyptian leader preferable toof an even less predictablethey may now be satisfied that they have
a hold on the Egyptian President. Sadat has worked to improve Soviet relations with both Libya and the Sudan, where radical nationalists have caused Moscow much discomfort. Unlike Nasir, Sadat was willing toreaty of friendship and cooperation with the USSR and more recently to sign a- communique denouncing anti-Sovietism and anti-Communism in the Middlo East.
A number of events over the past year have neverthelessegree of Soviet uneasiness about the Egyptian domestic situation. Sadat's purge of leftists from the government and party last spring eliminated virtually all Egyptians who were openly identified with Soviet interests, including the well-known Ali Sabri. To make matters worse, the purge coincidederies of high-level contactsEgypt and the us. soviet concern was readily apparent. Podgorny hurried off to Cairo and signed Sadat upycar Treaty ofand Cooperation.
Moscow has since had other reasons for concern. During protests in January, studentasked why Soviet aid was given only inquantities. They also demanded to know how it was possible to accept Moscow's preferenceeaceful settlement of the impasse with Israel when
Arab rights and aspirations dictated that asolution was the only possible course of Soviet leaders must find it galling to hear such criticism in view of the massive amounts of aid they have channeled to Egypt. Tho Sovietis also reportedly unhappy, or at leastover Moscow's support for Middle East regimes that suppress Communists.
Foreign Policy Differences
The Egyptians, for their part, areover some aspects of Soviet policy toward Tho recent increase in Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union to Israel is being questioned in Cairo, and Soviet Embassy officers there havebeing harassed by Egyptiansesult of this development. Most Arabs are extremelyto this issue. They.believe that the soviet policy will strengthen the enemy and encourage its expansionist ambitions. This sensitivity iswhen the flow of immigrants into Israel comesupposed friend and ally.
Events in the Sudan have railed further difficulties in Egyptian-Soviet relations. Thecoup attempt in Khartoum in1 caused fears in Cairo that it wouldostile back-fence neighbor. Although the Soviets urged Sadat
to back the Communists against Numayri, Sadat felt impelled to support the successful attempt toPresidentontrol of the country. Subsequently, Cairo has apparently attcmptcd--un-successfully--to mediate the differences between Khartoum and Moscow, which were exacerbated by's purge of local Communists. Egyptian efforts to draw the Sudan into the Confederation of Arab Republics, over which Sadat presides, arc probably disapproved by Moscow.
confederation itselfourcefor Moscow. Although Soviet propagandastatements tirelessly urge greater Arab unity
and cooperation, Soviet strategists arc probably apprehensive about the formationocallyArab grouping that could leadreater degree of independence from Soviet influence. the confederation brings Egypt in close association with Libya's Qadhafi, whose fervent anti-Communism has discomfited Moscowumber of occasions. The Soviet Union might like to employ its close ties with Egypt to improve relations with Libya and harness Qadhafi to Soviet-approvedbut Cairo prefers that Soviet influence in Libya be keptinimum. Egyptian leaders sec Libyan money as perhaps the best hopo for ultimately reducing their dependence upon the Soviet Union,iew probably shared by Qadhafi and disliked by Moscow.
China is another area whereand Egyptian views differ and wherehave developed. Egyptian actions torelations with Peking are followed withand concern in Moscow. The curiousof former foreign minister Riad's trip toChina has caused some speculation thatwere somehow at work. Riad's visitinitially appeared to be firmly arranged,return via the Soviet Union. Such andiscussed in the Egyptian press but neverby Moscow. Riad actually started on theof his trip, but was recalled, demoted, andon ice. When, as an adviser tohe again set out foromadetop in Moscow. The idea ofSino-Egyptian ties must cause heartburn inalthough there has been no publicconcern.
between Cairo and Moscowbut they are likely to remainthe larger imperatives inherent in tho objectives
of tho two nations. Moscow will probably refrain from applying too much pressure on Cairo for fear of weakening the considerable influence it currently wields. Egypt is anxious to reduce its dependence upon the soviet Union, but cannot effectively do so until the Arab-Israeli impasse is resolved. In the meantime, the tenet that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" will prevail, and the state of relations between Egypt and tho Soviet Union will continue on the uneasy base achieved after the debacleOriginal document.