Created: 1/18/1968

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Soviet Interests and Activities in Arab States




Submi'florf by

treettgerxc Agency ond theo-gof-iorioo. of iho Deport-mersisndih. AlC. ond ih. MSA


Vice Adm. Ruins toylor. Depot, Director, Control Inielligence

Mr.ughes, ihe Director ol Inielligence ond Research, Oeparlmenl ol Sloie

Ui Gen. Joseph F. Carroll, lhe Ofreeior. Oeleni* Intelligence Agency

K. Oen. Morsholl S. Carter, ihe CSVeOor. Nolionol Security Agency

Dr. Charles M. Rekhordt. for Ihe Assistant Generaltomic Energy


O. Oegcjr. tor ihe AtwttoM Dxetsor. Fedcol Bureau ol irweWiaot.on. rhe subject being outside o* his tysdsctiot

' 1

rais tocuaaax nas been approved tor release tJarough theIEH PPXGRMi OI tho Central Intelligence Aoency.



To assess Soviet policy toward the Middle East since thc June war, and to estimate Soviet intentions, particularly with respect to the UAR, Yemen, and Jordan.


main Soviet objective in thc Middle East remainsthe same as before the Junewin for the USSR adominant foroign power in lhe area. Thc Soviots face bothand new opportunities. Nonetheless thc radical Arabsmore dependent on tbe USSR, and the Soviets probablythe new opportonities will compensate for such lossesesull of the Arab defeat.

Soviets are not likely to make binding militaryto any Arab states, and they will almost certainlyof direct involvement even in limited conflicts in theThey probably do not intend to establish actual Sovietbases in thc area, but will seek instead to help the Arabsports and air bases whichsed by Soviet forceslimited basis. The Sovicis will improve the capabilities offorces in the Mediterranean and of their sea and airliftin general. They will probably continue to use theirthe Middle East for essentially politicalnnd to improve their position in the region. Nonetheless,of Arab-Israeli hostilities wouldangerousunpredictable situation, in which the risks of Sovietby accident or miscalculation, might be greater than Ixifore.



Soviets will probably continue to give strong, thoughbacking to Nasser, whom they continue to regard asArab ally. Despite some mutual irritants, and despiteto maintain independence, Soviet and UAR policies onissues areopposition to USautious policy loward Israel, and at least short-termbetween Arab radicals and moderates.

Jordan, the Soviets are attempting to extend theirgenerous offers of military aid. We believe that HusseinSoviet arms if the Western Powers fail to offer anHe would slill try to maintain countervailing tiesArabs and the West, but over time revolutionaryJordan would be strengthened.

i. In Yemen, Soviet military aid and activity is probably aimed at preventing the collapse of thc Republican regime. But the Soviets have now moved to limit their involvement,cause they have revised their estimate of Republican prospects, and ihey areegotiated settlement. They will, however, protwtbly continue some aid as long as the Republican regime can make use of it, hoping in this way to preserve some influence in Yemen and eventually to promote Soviet interests in South Yemen. In doing so, they will probably try to avoid thc kind of overt bid for dominance which would kindle adverse reactions in tbc area, particularly among their Arab clients.




believe that broad Soviet objectives in tbc Middle East remainwere before Ihe June war: to reduce tbe Influence of the West,(be US. and loosition for the USSR as thc dominant foreign powerarea. In pursuit of these ends, the Soviets are continuing to employthe same means as before. This consists of strong, but notfor thc Aiabs against Israel, various hums of encouragement toand foices working against Western positions nnd influence,some respectsof thc familiar instruments ofand economic aid. diplomacy, naval visits, propaganda, and covert activities.

environment in which the Soviets arc operating, however, isfrom lhat prevailing before June Hie nesv situation has createdproblems and new opportunities. It is difficult to strike nn objectivethe effects of the June war on Moscow's position in the Middle East; thcits consequence* have In some respects strengthened the USSR's handothers have damaged its prestige. An immediate consequence of thegreater Arab dependence on.ore urgent need for, Sovietand militaiy aid. This hasore favorahleexpanding its influence in the UAR, Syria, and Iraq. At the same time,of radical Arab nationalists has declined, and this has perhapsusefulness to the Soviets. Moreover, the Egyptian evacuation ofmade Soviet prospects in Southern Arabia considerably mote uncertain.for their part, svere disillusioned by what they conceived to be(and perhaps perfidy as well) during the war. and by the USSR'sinability to help them eradicate thc consequences of their defeat.the radical Arab states are rnore dependent on Moscow than beforeprobably abo more skeptical about Soviet wilhngncss to support themcrisis.

lic Soviets themselves probably felt lhat their position was impaired in thc immediate aftermath of lhe war. They were charged wiih unreliability as an ally by some Arabs and in certain Communist quartetsesult of their beliavior. Nonetheless, they probably expect that they can compensate for their losses by exploiting new opportunities. US standing wiih Ihc Arabs has been seriously damagedesult of svliat thc latter considers US-Israeli collusion during and since tho war. This gives thehance to cultivate moderate Arab states. like Jordan, in which their influence was formerly severely restricted. Moreover, some of the barm suflered by the Sovietsonsequence of thc war has been repaired. In particular. Moscow's quick response to Arab cries for massive new injections of niilit.iiv aid has done much lo restore Soviet prestige. And there probably Is satisfaction in Moscosv over the more active role of Soviet naval forces in the Mediterranean, this Soviet move was helped by Arab need for

Soviet support, and it enables (he USSR to impiess on thc Arabs, thc Israelis, and the world at large tbat the Mediterranean tan no longer be counted as anUke.

We believe that Soviet policy respecting thc Arab-Israeli dispute has two cliiel objectives; toenewal of hostilities, which would confront the USSR with the same kind ol unwelcome risks and dilemmas it faced in June; and to gain maximum political advantage among the Arabs by providing aid to them in their time of need and by playing an active role in various efforts to press Israel into makingorollary of the latter policy is toin propaganda and by other means, the theme that the US is not only Israel's backer but also the Arabs' enemy. Soviet orchestration of this policy willto involve some delicate problems, particularly those of counseling restraint to the more militant Arabs 'llie greater the Soviet role and presence in the Arab states, the greater the degree of influence that can be applied to this end. but by the same token, the greater svould be the risks of involvement andshould hostilities break out again.

The Soviets must be aware of this pioblem We believe, therefore, that they will keep their commitments imprecise. They probably hope that theirnaval presence, and tho Introduction of mote Soviet advisers Into Arab armed forces, will help to restrain tbe Arab hotheads and to deter thc Israelis. If this failed and hostilities were resumed, we estimate that the USSR would seek to avoid direct military involvement with its own forces, and would move to contain the crisis as quickly as possible, probably by approaches to the US. as in June, Nonetheless, resumption of Arab-Israeli hostilities wouldangeious unci essentially unpredictable situation, in which the risks of Soviel involvement, by accident or miscalculation, might he greater than before,


One of the larger questions raised by the USSR's responses to thc changed situation is what kind of military presence the Soviets may be seeking lo establish in the Middleumber of Soviet moves have contributed to concern over this question; the increased presence and more active role of Soviet naval forces if! thencluding lengthy and conspicuous stays, notably in Egyptian ports; the visit to the UAR ofoviet strategic bombers (the first such visitommunisthe institutionizable airlift to support Republican forces in Yemen and thc participationime of Soviet pilots in combat there; and the offer of substantial quantities of arms to Jordan.

We do not believe that the Soviets intend to establish military bases as such in the Middle East. They probably do not wish to risk involving themselves in this way in future crises of peripheral consequences lo Soviet interests and beyond the abibty of Moscow to control Moreover, they would not wish to tarnish

1 At theoviet submarines are deployed In the Me^irrt intra n. aadurface shipsajorunt! eomlutaors. to] Umilng ships,r 7


their linage by seeking for themselves lhc mililnry bases whichouiaged thc Arabi to deny to the "impelia lists."

c Ihink thc Soviet* will see Ihur interests better served hy helping thc Arabs develop ports and air bases wliich can be used by the Soviets, probablyimited basis, and which might even be run in part by Soviet advisoryUnder certain circtimstances, thc distinctionoviet base and an Arab one could,ractical matter, become meaningless. Civen Arab suspicions and sensitivities to foreign presence, and given even normal Soviet caution, however, wc ihink Uiat lhe distinction will probably continue to have some real meaning for the foreseeable future. With respect to naval activity hi the Mediterranean, we believe that the USSK will,ariety of political and operational reasons, rely principally on auxiliary ships for logistic support much as the US does.

fl. Beyond the question of bases in tlx- Middle East lies thc broader question of the USSR's altitude toward tbe application of its conventional military power in areas beyond its periphery, and the development ofair andto this. The Soviets have been seeking for some time to provide Ihcir armed forces with more flexible capabilities By thee capabilities of Soviet airborne and amphibious assault forces will beimproved, partly through the acquisition of new heavy air transports and naval landing ships. Such forces will still be primarily designed to support

operations on the Sovset periphery, but they will also make it cariei for Moscow

to support Arab clients.1

lie Soviets will probably continue efforts to make theeu favorable environment for US naval forces byigh level of deployed combatants, by deploying sonic of their new classes there when they become fully operational, and by assigning cruise missile submarine*egular basis to those waters. Tbey may. in addition, be increasingly inclined to deploy their ships specifically in support of client states during periods of regional tension; sonic of their Egyptian port calls after thc June war were almost certainly into Cairo's desire to deter possible Israeli attacks. Finally, as suggested by thc addition of landing ships to their Mediterranean squadron and by theuse of Soviet personnel In combat in Yemen, they may in certainbe willing toote direct sort of help to clients, at least so long

as thc military risks of so doing do not seem high and the political risks of inaction

seem quite large.

c do not think, however, that the Soviets intend in the foreseeable future to make binding military commitments tn any Arab states. Moscow svill almost certainly remain svary of becoming directly involved even In limited conflicts in the area, partly because there could be no guarantee that such uivolvemcnt would

'eiirml difcusMrm of theie Suvirr militniy oirtobilitiei, km-, "Tbe Soviet and tail European Ceneid Purposeated, SECRKT,.


accomplish its purposes, and partly becauseoncern to avoid confrontations with the US. The expanded sen and airlift capabilities of the USSR willbe used for essentially politicallend weight to Soviel attempts to influence events and to improve its position in the regionhole.


The USSR's new opportunities appear to be potentially greatest, and its problems potentially most difficult, in those Arab countries most affected by tho June war, viz. live UAR, Yemen, apd Jordan. Of all the Arab states, the UAR lost thc most in men, prestige, and materielesult of the Israeli victory. In Republican Yemen, the withdrawal of tlte UAR's military forces hasaltered the political and military situation. And Jordan faces auncertain situationesult of heavy militaiy and territorial losses and King Hussein's inability so far to procure from the West replacements for thc arms he lost

The UAR. The UAR, and President Nasser in particular, seem still toigh place in the Soviets' calculation of their opportunities in tbe Middle East. The rapid Soviet resupply of arms and thc extension of emergencyassistance in the immediate aftermath of the crisis were good measures of the importance Moscow attached to Nasser's continued survival, and these measures probably helped him preserve his position. Nasser hfinselfreat deal of his broad popular appeal within thc UAR and, despite some loss of prestige, remains the outstanding symbol of Arab nationalism. Thc Soviets haveeavy investment in him over the years and we doubt that they see any good alternative on thc horizon.

Nasser, like the Soviets,autious policy toward Israel. Thc Syrian and Algerian leaders advocate greater militancy. Rut they have not Succeeded In their bids to supplant Nasser as the principal spokesman for the radical Arabs, and he is still clearly regarded by Moscow as its chief Arab ally. The Soviets probably calculate lhat Nasserood chance ofand wc believe they will continue to cultivate close relations with him and give him strong, though certainly not unlimited, backing. Tlte USSR's ability to influence developments within thc UAR will continue to be limited, however, by Nassers own desire to maintain as much independence as possible and by his suspicions of Soviet motives.

Soviet-UAR economic ties remain close, but the Soviets have frequently shown irritation with thc UAR's mishandling of its economy. They are clearly unwilling to supply all Cairo's economic needs. While continuing their many economic development projects, notably the Aswan Dam, the Soviets have been reluctant to assume heavy new burdens. Tliey have supplied substantial amountsod grains since the end of thc PL-4S0 food programut haverefused to make long-term commitments of food aid. Moscow made no move to replace foreign exchange revenues once derived from the Suez Canal,



tourism, and oil; those ana now being made up by subsidies Irom Kuwait, Libya, and Saudi Arabia.

eyond these irritants, however, thereroad area where Soviet and UARi are congruent. The two countries see Use USrincipal{Nasser hasew tentative gestures toward thc US bul probably sees little prospectubstantially improvedn addition, both Nasser And thc Soviets have certain immediate interests, in regard to theArab states. Tlie Soviets have approved Nasser's efforts to repair his relationships with the conservative Arabs and thus to gain financial aid for tbc UAR. The Soviets have made generous offers of military aid to Jordanase urged thc revolutionary Arab regimes and the conservative ones to col-laboiale. In this way, they not only seek to reduce Arab demands for economic assistance fiom the USSR, but also to minimize tlie prospect that in Ira-Arab quarrels will turn some Arab states toward the US.


The Soviet position in Yemen, gained by long and relatrvdy cs pensive endeavors, was jeopardized by the UAR's agreement at Khartoum in August to withdraw its military forces, leaving the Republicans to face the Yemeni Royalist forces. The Soviets reacted by directly supplying to the Republicans military equipment that previously had been largely channeled through the UAR In mid-November, the Sovietsubstantial airlift of arms to the Republican forces. The Soviets probably decided on an airlift for thisbecause it svas the only efficient means available after tbe closure of Ihe Suez Canal and because thc Republicans' need was urgent. But it also served their purposes by emphasizing their eagerness to help the radical cause and by demonstrating their capability for airllfl operations. In early Dccenvlwr, the Royalist threat to the capital was so that air strikes appeared to be the only ineans of repulsing it, andew days Soviet pilots participated in these strikes. Yemeni and otber Arab pilots have since replaced them.

We believe thai the immediate aim of this Sos-sct involvement was tothe collapse of the "progressive" Republican regime, and thereby to retain as much as possible of the foothold the SovieU have gained over the past five years. The Soviets probably calculated that this support of the Republican position would be relatively inexpensive, would involve little risk, and could be easily enough abandoned if necessary. Although the commitment of Soviet pilots to combat must have appeared somewhat riskier, ihe Soviet leadersreasoned that tlie measure need be only temporary since Soviet pilots could lie phased out wiih thc arrival of crows from other Arab states, that Soviet participation could plausibly be denied, and that the use of Soviet air crews in the Yemeni conflictad gone virtually unnoticed.

Tlse Soviets may have now revised their estimate of Republican prospects. In any case, they have evacuated most of their diplomalic and economic aid personnel, and have confined their military activily to supply flights and aircraft


maintenance ll seems likely Hint nunc aid will continue so long asble to make use of it. The Soviets liave also encouraged mediation efforts by other Arab counlrses to bring about some form ofbetween Ibe opposing forces. Moscow probably Isopes lhat such an outcome would enable it to retain some influence in thcinfluence certainly than could be preserved if tlie Republican regime should collapseTlie Soviets probably also judge that if they canosition in Yemen, it will help them to promote long-lcrm Soviet inleresls in neighboring Soulh Yemen, where the poUtical situation is still highly uncertain and subject to outside influences.

o far. Nasser seems to have acquiesced in Soviet support of lhe Yemeni Republicans. But Soviet involvement in Yemen and South Yemen carries the possibilityonflict of interestt with Nasser. He and most other Arabs, including the moderates whom the Soviets are currently trying to cultivate, would view wiih alarm any Soviet attempt to gam dear preeminence in Southern Arabia. 'Hie Saudis in particular arc actively concerned about Soviet activities there and aru already urging the US to do somelhing to dissuade Moscow. They are themselves subsidizing certain elements in thc Arabian Peninsula which are hoslile to Iho Arab radicals and to the Soviets, and tbey svill continue to do so. And they may at some stage threaten to cut off their subsidy to Nasser, seeking thus to induce him to make the Soviets desist. Wc believe that the Soviets are aware of these considerations and will take some care Io avoid tlie kind of overt bid for dominance which would produce ihese adverse reactions.


Thc SovieU have offered to reequlp the Jordanian armed forces at very lowfirst time they have made any direct offer to Jordan with anyof success. They no doubt expect that if Jordan accepted Soviet arms it would be widely interpreted in the Arab worldemonstration that even King Hussein liad to conclude that his long-term reliance on the Wesl was noalid policy. Hussein would much prefer to continue to receive arms from the US or from other Western Powers, but we believe that he will accept Soviet arms If the Western Powers fail to offer him an acceptable alternative.

Hussein will be conscious of tlie risks for him of accepting Soviel aims, but he probably believes that he could accept them svithout immediate danger to hisfact it would probably enhance his standing wllh Aiabboth In Jordan and elsewhere. If he accepted Soviet arms, lie would still try to maintain countervailing tics svith lhe West and certainly with theArabs, lie docs not want to jeopardize thc subsidies he now receives from the oil-rich states or lo alienate tlse US entirely; he also fears that clear dependence on thc USSR would place him al the mercy of unfriendly force* both within Jordan and the areahole.

he USSR itself would probably prefer to see the present subsidies to Jordan continue, and at least in tlie diott run would piobably be content with


arrangemeni which enabled Hussein to accept Soviet arms ami still receive needed financial suppori from the conservative slates. Moscow probablyindeed doincreased Soviet influence in Amman, andd open den cc onUSSI^ for ctrnis, would nt the very Icust wCtilccn ^'cst* em influence in Jordan and would in time strengthen revolutionary forces there. Should such forces in (act gain power. Jordan would move quickly into thc anti-Western camp. Even if the Soviet amis offer is not accepted, Moscow will have strengthened ils reputationriend of the Arabs.




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