THE U.S.S.R. AND THE EGYPTIAN- ISRAELI CONFRONTATION (SNIE 30-70)

Created: 5/14/1970

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GIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASEAS SANITIZED

SPECIAL

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

c

The USSR and the Egyptian-Israeli Confrontation

Handle Via Indicated Controls

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by

DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTEUIGENCE

Coneurred In by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD Af Indicated overleaf0

The following inielligence organisation participated in Iho preparation of Ihis estimate/

lhe Control Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organiialioni ef the Depart' monti of Slote ond Defense, and the NSA.

Concurring i

Dr. ft. J. Smith, for the Deputy Director, Central Intelligence

Dr. Roy S. Cline. the Director ol Intelligence ond Research, Depariment ol Slote

It, Gen. Donold V.he Direcior, Defense Intelligence Agency

Dr. Louis W. Tordello, lor lhe Direcior, National Security Agency

Mr. Howard C. Brown,he Assistant General Manager. Atomic Energy Commission

Abstaining:

Mr. Willlom C. Sullivon, Ihe Assislonl Direcior, Federal Bureau of Investigotion, ihe subject being outside of his jurisdiction.

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rh is oW-pgac hisapproved Cor raaeasa tirouafa -hQvEvOT PRCCBMi of xa> Ccitxal izioillsenca Jtocncy.

aa USSR AND THE EGYPTIAN-

ISRAELI CONFRONTATION

NOTE

The USSR has. by its decision touch larger part of the burden of air defense of Egypt, hecoiiic more deeply and more directly involved hi the Arab-Israeli miliiary conflict This paper assesses die Soviet involvement and its effect on Egypt and Israel.

THE ESTIMATE

i. IHE SOVIET POSITION

L The USSR has, during (he past Iwo nsorslhs, involved itself more direcdy in lhe air defense of Egypt Some time In lale February or early March, lhe USSR began installing in Ihe UAR Ihen&airaaft musOe system and Ibe personnel to operate it, which unlil then had been deployed only in the Warsaw Pact area. The Russian, have supplied sophiaicaled anti-aircraft artillery eouip-meoi; it Is logical to suppose lhat it,aaoed by Soviets. There arereports that Moscow has also sent, oe wu] send, troops to defend theites. There are other reports which assert plausibly lhat Russians aligned lo the Egyptian Air Forces ground control centers areuch more active role then previously. Soviel involvement in early warninghas also increased. Including extension of radar coverage by ships la the eastern Mediterraiieari.

oviet pilots have been piesenl In lhe UAR for some time, engaged inlaing of Egyptian pilots. Their number has evidently increased In recent months as has the volume of iheir air activity. Intensified training could account for much of thu activity. There is some evidence, however, lhat at least one Soviet air combat unit Is now in Ejspt There have been no known encounters between Soviet and Israeli pilo

lve Soviets have left their precise miliiary intentions ambiguous. Thus, no direct- udduccd in supportudgment about tlve limits o( tbeir probable action. Wc Ix-lievc, liowcvcr,

Jtltc USSR's customary cautious approach to situations of enlarges! risV. .nrguc tliat tlse USSR's present Inlention it to confine use of its forces in Es_Cyptimited defensive role. Tlie USSR's decision to defend at least key Egyptian targets from air attack: cjuite clearly followedser's visit to Moscosv in late Januaryime svlvcn tbc Israeli Air Force, li.iviug fouitd tlse Soviet air rlcfcnie equipment provided to tlse Egyptians no obstacle, bad carried its forays to tlse very suburbs of Cairo Nasser might veryhave mgucd that tins situation was buiniliating both to him and to Ibe Russians and possibly tintsilion. nnd therefore theirs, would be icop aidircd uulcu means were found to deny lhe Israelis freedom of tlse skies over the heart of Egypt. Thc actions taken subsequently by the Soviets are consistent wlib this objective So far (lieas been deployed at Alexandria, in the Cairo area, in tlse Delta region between Cairo and the coast, and athe Russians have not so far extended their operations to Ihe Suez Canal area.

4 Tlie Russians would no doubt have wen risks to themselves evenommiimenl that went no fuither tlian this They could not be sure what the US reaction svould be. Neither could they be confident that ihey would succeed in making live Israelis discontinue deep-penetration raids. Failure to do so would cause the Russians cmbarratsmcnt and oblige litem to consider additional means of deterrence. Weighed against this risk, however,umber of advantages, ny curbing the Israelithey have so far succeeded instood to reassert iheir credibility as protectors of thc Egyptians. They could expect, al tbc same time, to stiffen Egyptian morale, lo shore up Egypt'spositionis Israel, lo leave the Utter uncertain about Soviet Intentions, and to strengthen the Soviet-Egyptian batgaining position in diplomaticTbey might have foreseen, also, lhal, by taking actions which could be represented as the tendering of defensive assistanceriend under aggressive aitack. ihey would make it difficult for the US to find an effective riposte.

t is possible that the Soviets will eventually expand their air defense east-waid towatd the Canal, perhaps doing so by giadual and caiefully controlled stages during which they could test lhe reactions of Israel and the US to such developments. Ycl, there are sound and obvious reasons for them to confine their forces to assisting in lhe air defense of the principal dries and military installations in thc Nile Valley. II Israeli aircraft resume attacks on these taieeli

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Ihey will prolubly lie engaged by Soviet aircraft, though the Soviets are unlikely to publicly' unh action. II* tltc Uracils undertake heavy and sus-tauii'Il ground attacks on Egyptian forces in the Canal area, we think that live Soviets would be reluctant lo commit tltclr own air forces (his far foe-ward. ImI lite |trcssurc of events migU require Ihem to involve (lamttolves fur-iIut am) faster tlianry probably intend at tlie present time

G. There are indications tluit tlie Soviets have sanctioned tbc "war of attrition" being conducted by Egyptian forces along lhc Canal, or at least have notIt.nay believe that an effective* air defense of rear areas will enable Egypt to sustain tlicsc tactics and that these- tactics will in time produce some give in live Israeli position sviih respectolitical settlement.mpleat thc same time, that thc Russians recognise that the Egyptian Armed Forces do not have, and will not soon have, tlie capability to carry lhc svar to the Israelii in Sinaiignificant scale. And only If lhe Russians were willing tont Egypt In such awe do not believe that tlieylliey tec an urgent need to assist Egypt in securing control of the air over tlic-Cau.-il. Success in such an undertaking, even if il were to be contemplated, wouldighly visible commitment of Soviet pilots. Tlve effort would cleaily threaten to alter the Egyptian-Israeli military equation in favor of lhe Arabs; Israel's strategy for dealing with the 'war of attrition' would become untenable. Thc Russians almost cer*ausly believe that they would in this way come into direct military conflict with Israel and thereby risk confrontation wiih thc US.

hc Russians evidently see no very greal danger of direct military conflict with the US arising out of thc actions they have taken thus far. nor even any substantial damage to the overall climate of Soviet-American relations. They have surely given some thought to die possibility that lhe course they have taken may bring increased distrust Into US-Soviet relations, and thus adversely affect such important undertakings as SALT and perhaps the possibility of negotiations over Southeast Asia. But they have obviously concluded either that live risk is not very great or that (lie protection of their Hake in the Middle East obliges them to run the risk in any case. They are. therefore, unlikely to bo susceptible to warnings from tbe US that they should pull back from the commitment tbey have given Egypt, although firm warnings against further involvement might reinfoice their inclination toautious course.

6 Moscow probably feels itself on solid ground in assisting Egypt lo defend itself and believes there arc no feasible military oi diplomatic moves that thc US can take effectively lo change this Soviet policy. The Soviets probably doood chance that the US will agree to provide additional combat aircraft to IsiaeL Moscow might even see advantages in Ihis step because it would deepen thc estrangement between the US tod the Aiab States. Moscow piobablylhat Israel, though capable of headstrong action, is unlikely to take on the USSR. Il probably also believes that the US would advise thc Israelis to avoid engaging Soviet forces.

May Day speech sni3*csts tliat he. and presumably (liewell. thinkew situation has been created wluch might make ato tlsc US profitable. It is possible tltat tlic steps the Russiansto buttress thc Egyptians* military ponMion Ivavc givenreaterconfidence and might even enable tlicm to be more flexible inis more to be expected tliat the Soviet-Egyptian bargaining position willexpectation tliat the Israelis, under US prcssi(rcs. must now be nsorcsvitli respect to witlsdrawals and negotiations."

II. RESPONSES IN THE MIDDLE EAST Israel

initial reaction to deployment of Soviet-mannedissileshas been to avoid direct encounters with tlioso Soviet forces. Tel Avivhad not anticipated that Its air atlacks on politically sensitiveiii Egypt svould result inapid and impressive Soviet reaction.Israelis promptly recognized lhat iltcy no longer could carry out airEgypt as and when tlscy clvose. confident thai the Egyptians could doresponse. The Israelis made clear,ariety of official andtliat ihey would not strike areas such as Cairo, Alexandria,but said that ihey would continue lo pound military targets ir theof the Suez Canal even if Soviet-manned air defense missiles wereIndeed, ihey have continued to use their airerafl against Egyptianihis area almost dally over the last several weeks.

For tlie first lime in their country's existence, the Israelis are faced with lhe hostile miliiary presenceajor power. They appear uncertain asvhal the presence of these Soviet forces portends, not only now. but for the years ahead. Even though the USSR's Involvement In Egypt is defensive, it stands in Ihe way of customary Israeli military strategy, which is to maintain tlietohreatening Arab military buildup snd to retaliate swifdy in response lo lesser Arab atlacks. In this way, Israel has sought tosychological advantage over Arab forces. Israel now recognizes, however, that an attempt to destroy thc Egyptian Airkey to its quick success innot only be much more difficult but would unavoidably involve Soviet forces in Egypt Israel must also recognize tliat Its efforts to topple Nasser through humiliating military raids deep into Egyptian lerritory have failed and that Nasser now feels freer to pursue the "war of attrition."

We do not knosv how the Israelis will cope with this new situation; indeed, we believe they are unsure what to do themselves. But while lhe eventual course ol Israeli policy is thus difficult to predict, certain moves In the months ahead arc predictable. In the political field, lhc Israelis will continue to cite the activity of Soviel pilots within Egypt as an additional argument lo press the US for

. "SOVIET POLICIES IN THE MIDDLE EASTECRET,etailed discussion of Soviet policiee.

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jet planes. In the weapons field, Israel will continue and almost certainly irsercasc its efforts to manufacture virtually all of its military retirements.to produce jot aircraft, and missiles aivd other advanced weapons will probably be si>codcd up. Finally, Israel will continue to attack Egyptian forces along tlie Suez Canal in an effort to keep Egypt from causing an unacceptable level of Israeli casualties.

Tlverc is some chance tlvat tlse military confrontation between Egypt and Israel svill stabilize-eriod of lime at something like its present level. But this cannot happen unless Israel; casualties uu the Egyptian front remainan average0 killed per montb. But even If suchtakes place, it is unlikely to last very long because Egyptian and Israeli goals are incompatible, both in regard to the cease-fire and in regard to aof the basic Issues between them. Tims. Israel ss-ould be content to hold its position on thc Canal as long as its casualties are not high and wait until Ihe Egyptians arc willing to negotiate, while the Egyptians wish to keep Israeli casualties high and in this way force Israel to conclude lhatwar of attrition" is succeeding. More fundamentally, Egypt wants virtually total Israeli withdrawal from territories conqueredhile Israel refuses towithdrasval until Uie Arabs agree toeace.

If Israel should be confiontedteady and sizeable drain of casualties along tlie Canal, Israeli military leaders would probably fairly soon decidery to convince thc Egyptians to lessen their "war ofhe Israelis svould use various imaginative tactics designed to impress thc Egyptian military establishment with its weakness and svith Israel's capacity to inflict serious damage despite the presence of the Soviets.

The Israelis mightery vigorous aerial assault across the Canal, perhaps combining itajor ground foray to cut up Egyptian forces and to destroy Egyptian equipment and installations on tlse western bank. While the Israelis could probably cross the Canal in force and inflict severe damage on the Egyptian forces, they would risk substantial casualties themselves in doing so. Moreover, even highly successful Israeli raids svould be unlikely to Induce Cairo to agreeestoration of lhc cease-fire along tlse Canal, since to do so would be tantamount, fn Egyptian eyes, to accepting Istacli occupaiion of Sinai

We anticipate no early change in thc present Israeli government policy on the termseace settlement and thcdirectachieve it. The cabinet, put together svith great effort in9 and representing almost all parties,rtually immobilized on the security issue both by ll* size and the strongly held views of such "hard-line" men as Menahlm Begin and Ezer WeUmann. Thc present political leadership, and any forraccabVe successors, is doggedly determined not to yield lhe territorial advantages it has won for anything shortontractual settlement. Most of Its members are unable toractical alternative to the course they have been pursuingnd. In terms of public opinion, time is svorking in favor of those whoard-line in respectettlement. Some Israelis see the Russian presence

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ign (lint Tel Aviv need? tu rethink its policy, and tliis Bpproach may. over time, acquire wide support. Tlvc present readership, however, sees the Russian presence largely as an argument fur greater US wvolvcmcut on tlvc Israeli side, especially through thc provision of more aircraft,ougher US line toward thc Soviets,

Tlic Israelis strongly maintain thc position tint only they can determine their territorial and material needs. Even though they have embarkedrogram designedchieve virtual icliiuflicicncy in military weaponry by the middle of, for the next four or five years. Israel will be heavily dependent on tlvc US for certain types of arms. Israel feels this dependence, ospecia Ily since thc US is now the sole external source of sophisticated weapons available to it; Tel Aviv would be extremely sensitive to any withlvoldiug of additional arms delivery. In addition, Israelurrent account deficit of0 millionts anticipated deficit0 is aboulillion. Willi foreign exchange reserves standing5 million,eeking aid from the US. It is also campaigning to increase tlvc flow of private donations and loans from tlie US. which have netted it aboutillion in die past three yean.

Despite ils dependence on the US, Israel has not been responsive to US policy suggestions and has remained extremely sensitive to any suggestion of pressure. Tlie new situation the Israelis confront in consequence of theof Soviet military forces might make thc Israelis more inclined to accept US advice, for cample, in moderating Israel's approach to tlie modalities of negotiation. If Israel did show itself more responsive to US desires, however, it would probably expect tbc USeaffinn its commitment to Israel's security in more solemn and explicit form.

egime Is no more ready to compromise its fundamental position on withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories than is Israel toits position on the necessity toeace. The deployment of Soviet-manned air defense systems to Egypt has surely reinforced Egyptian determination to hold to this position. It has also given the Soviets additional leverage with Nasser; it Is they, rather than the US, who have the option of using either tlvc carrot or lhc stick in thc case of Egypt- Among other things. Nasser's May Day speech signaled to (he US that Cairo feels that the imbalance between Israel and Egypt has been redressed significantly by limiting theof the Israeli Air Force to the eastern border areas of Egypt

Themany otherprofoundly disturbed by their belief tliat Only the provision ofircraft permitted Israel to range Egyptian skies virtually at will in the first two monthsn die light of this Egyptian feeling, provision of additional aircraft to Israel in the near future would be read by Nasser and indeed by most Arabseliberate rejection of his "one last chance" offer and as evidence of US supportellicose Israeli posture. It wouldery strong reaction in other Arab states as well as

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gypt. Tim duivvct arc good llu(al otto or two Arab States would break nrlalioiu. Tlnrre would probably be some actions taken against US oil intcreili.rolonged and effective cutoff of oil is uruikcry. Outburst! of anger could result in destruction of US-owned property and could endanger the safely of American dtizens.*

tL There is virtually no chance that in apeement to provide additional aircraft could be kept secret for moreew weeks. Past perfonruuscell.at thc Israelii arc unwdling lo prevent the fact of arras support from tlve US from becoming known. In fact, efforts to keep an agrrcmeot secret would almost certainly lead the Arab 'stales to accept Inflated estimates of the cumbers of planes involved.

Continued deferralS agreement to provide additional aircraft to Israel would increase somewhat US ability lo Influence boih Israelis and Arabs. The Israelis svould probably tiy to limit activities which they felt might adverselyS decision. Tlie Arabs svouldeferralodest gain for Iheir point of vicsv. Yet. the Egyptians and (lie Russians might also interpret ft as evidence that the US was weakening In iu support of Israel On the other hand, unless it were made stringently conditional on Israeli cceicessiotu.of additional aircrafl to Israel svould diminish still further the very limited influence thc US has In moving the parties toward settlement.

Egypt believes that iu own improved air defense position puts moreon Israel and may feel that thc presence of Soviet personnel in Egypt puts additional pressure on tlve US. Il hopes that the US will in these circumstances eaert more leverage on Israel and lhal Israel svill come to recognize that Egypt will eventually win lhc "war of attrition."

Tlie Egyptians have no capacity for sustained effective military action against Israel in Sinai, and all the evidence we have indicates that Cairo's mfli-tary leaders are asvare of this limitation. Egypt can conduct small cross<aru! operalions. but could noi keep up for long tbe pace of ground and airof lhe last week ofvhlch causedsraeli deaths along the Canal The level of activities in (he Canal area is certain lo rise and fall with occasional peaks of action as happened in late April. It is urdikely that thc Egyptians svill be able lo inflict casualties steadilyuch higher rate than in the past.

The situation In other Arab Slates hasarginal influence upon lhc hrael-Egypt-US-USSR equation. Fedayeen terrorist activity oa the Jordaidan. Syrian, and Lebanese fronts operates independently of this situation. Syria shows no inclination to heat up affairs along iu cease-fire line beyond an occasional day of fighting to demonstrate lo iu Arab brothers that it is participating In the confrontation. Damascus wants toeighty Israeli response, and

ro ti.ru0 US luuonali nmd.ni li tbe Eastern Arab Sutaare:cw Ervpt-IS-OO.Ireo-JTO. and

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certainly the Soviets would not encourage the Syria at to provoke Israel. Tlie Jordanian regime would support Egypt on almost any move cmsettlement Issue, as would the Lebanese. Thc Syrians, however, might be an obstacle; at thc very least, Ihey would encourage the Palestinians to Impede movesettlement.

Implication! le* Negotiations

2fi With respect lo the prospect for movementettlement, die most importanl change in theikely to be increased Soviet and Egyptian confidence in tlte strength of their position andat the US and Israel will be more forthcoming In diplomatic discussions. They are unlikely, however, lo think it incumbent on (hem lo make their own concessionsettlement. The Israelis may come to accept, of rieccssity, the expanded Soviet presence in Egypt even diough, in llteir view, thbonsiderable military disadvantage. They may recognize, also, that this could cause theincreasingly lo believe that they can ultimately prevail in the "war ofIl does not follow, however, that they will see in (hb situation any addi tional Inducementsclax their termsettlement. In these circumstances, (he Israeli arc likely loituation of military and diplomatic stalemate In which they hold on to occupied lenitory to the alternativeilitary solution or concessions to Egyptian (cumettlement.

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