SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS ON THE MIDDLE EAST SITUATION; SOVIET MILITARY BASES IN THE

Created: 6/27/1967

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Assessments on the Middle East Situation SOVIET MILITARY BASES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN8

-Sseret

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Soviet Military Bases in the Middle East

Summary

It is unlikely that the USSR is seeking naval and other military bases in the UAR, Iraq, Syria, and Algeria. The Soviets would beong held policy, would risk arousing anticolonial sentiments directed against themselves in the Arab world, and even hostile reactions in Eastern Europe. Above all, they would be committing themselves to direct involve-ment in any future fighting in theourse of action they seek to avoid, There is likely, however, to be an influx of Soviet advisers, trainers, and technicians into the area and there is likely to be increased use by the USSR of Arab port and air

Except in tho very unlikely event that theArab states felt Soviet bases the only means of preventing an imminent Israeli attack and assuring their survival, none of them would seek or agree to anySoviet--base on their soil. Though they might feel tempted to seekaseeans of providing additional securityuarantee of Soviet involvementuturo war, their xenophobia and fear of losing theirwould probably prevail. They are likely togreater Soviet use of existinganding and overflight rights in the area.

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The Soviet Side

is little doubt that the Sovietsby the outbreak of the Middle Eastappalled by its outcome. They had surelyboth that their relationship with theArab states would count for more than it did

eterrent to Israel and that, if it cane to war. the Arabs wouldetter account of themselves than they did. In the aftermath of the fighting, the Russians must assess promptly not only their political position in the Middle East but also the scope and terms of their future military commitment. The need for an assessment is all the more urgent, if, as is probable, Nasir has been pressing to know whatassistance the USSR intends to give him. The missions to Cairo of President Podgorny and Marshal Zakharov and parallel missions to Damascus which are evidently in the offing are, we believe, elements in this assessment.

There is as yet no firm intelligence on what passed between Podgorny and Nasir. The Yugoslavs, with whoa Podgorny visited en route to Cairo, have conveyed the information that he intended toto the UAR that there were limits to the Soviet commitment. Other reports from Saudi sources allege that the Soviets have asked the Egyptians for base rights and that these are also being sought in Syria. Algeria, and Iraq. equest from the Russians would have to rest on the claim that withoutin the area they would be unable to intervene effectually on behalf of the Arabs in the event of new hostilities. The Russians might also expect that by this means their diplomacy with respect to the Middle East could be made more credible and their ability to monitor the military intentions of the Arab rngi mos improved.

This wouldold step on the part of the Russians. It would announce that they are not satisfied merely to preserve the position they have

achieved in the Middle East but discern in the present turmoil an opportunity to imbed themselves still deeper. It would alsoisky venture,

The conflict has not, we believe, diminished the disadvantages to the USSR ofourse of The damage to the Soviet image among the non-aligned nations to whom it looks for diplomaticin the present circumstances would beand the argument that imperialist ambitions are at the root of the trouble in the Middle East would lose much of its force. The allegation that the Western powers are to blame for bringing the Cold War into the area could be turned against the USSR. There would beand anxiety about Soviet purposes among the Mediterranean states as well as among the European nations, especially those who roly heavily on the Suez Canal, Moscow might, in addition, find it hard to keep the majority of East European states behind its Middle East policy and would certainly forfeit the cooperation of the Yugoslavs,

Above and beyond these political hazards are the military risks the Soviets would face bydirectly into the area. If there were renewed fighting, they could not claim that they were too far away to help. egree not precisely known

to them, they would have harnessed cheir fortunesroup of radical Arab leaders whose actions have proven unpredictable and whose political futures arc not entirely certain. The likelihood of being drawn into local conflict and closerilitarywith the US would increase sharply.

Soviets are for now more interestedtheir winnings in the Middle East thantheir stake. There seems to be nourther substantial outlay inthough they can try to spread the costamong their East European allies. apparently already begun to establish theconditions and perhaps also on newtraining. This might resultubstantialof Soviet military advisers and technicians into

the Arab countries which would give the Russiansassurances concerning the state of Arab military forces, and better intelligence on Arab military We do not expect the Soviets to go so far as to ask for bases on Arab soil.

The Arab Side

to the recent war withmost no chance at Kasir would to lornte of Soviet (or any other foreign) navalbases on UAR territory. His viewsby his fellow Arab revolutionaries inand Syria. The crushing defeat of theirwhich will leave the Arabs at least forcompletely unprotected from Israeli attack,changed this attitude. There now may be aamong the leaders of these states toSoviet military presence. Indeed, in thcevent they judged an Israeli attack imminent,

the UAR and Syria probably would welcome such anwere it the only means of national survival. Neither Algeria nor Iraq, of course, would be faced with this contingency.

if resumption of Arab-Israelidoes not seen imminent, the revolutionarysee some advantages in having Soviet basessoil. Syria and the UAR could reason thatexistenceussian base on theirpowerfully inhibit any future Israeliagainst them. All the revolutionary Arabconsidermall Soviet Soviet militarythere as the first step in getting the Russiansinvolved that they could not fail to intervene

uture Arab-Israeli war. Further, some militant Arabthespeak of new and extended campaigns of terrorism and guerrilla war-faro, mightovietecessary shield against otherwise inevitable Israeli reprisals. Also, in the postwar era, some Arab governments, particularly Syria, might feel so weak domestically that they would seek Soviet armed forces simply to protect them from their enemies at home.

remain strong arguments,the Arabs changing their minds aboutany Soviet bases. Our knowledge ofof the Egyptian and Syrianlimited, but we do not believe they feelIsraeli attack is either imminentand that their survival is thuson the presence of Soviet militarythe area. Rather, they probably agreeUS-USSR sponsored ceaso-fire will hold.think the Israelis, now seekingrewards for their military victory, areto risk antagonizing the US andwith new military ventures.

Militating against any Arab move to accept Soviet forces in the post-war erahield for terrorist activity,eterrent to future Israeli strikes, or even asfrom domestic insurrection, will be thedistrust of the Soviets by the radical Arab leaders themselves. The latter are aware that Moscow counseled caution and restraintthe war; they remember that the Soviets never endorsed the closing of the Strait of Tiran; they cannot forget that the Sovietsto save them from ensuing disaster.

Arab leaders would almost certainly fear that Soviet forces on Arab territory might attempt to ensure that future policies would be those of Moscow's choosing rather than of the Arabs. The latter, whoso xenophobic suspicion of outsiders is never much below the surface, would hardly risk sacrificing their independenceajor power whose aims have recently been at variance with their own. In thesetheir long-standing aversion to foreign bases will come to tho fore. On balanceit is unlikely that an Arab government, even the ultra-leftist Syrian one, would abandon its traditional hostility to foreign bases and permit Russian forces on its territory.

On the other hand, most of the countries discussed above are likely to accept an enlarged

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Soviet presence in the form of additionaland trainers, expanded maintenance facilities and the like. Along with these willreater show of the Sovietin the form of naval calls, and visit of important Sovietfigures. In the process, the Russians will keep the advantages they now have in such things as overflight rights, secure storage areas,fueling and repairing facilities, and use of ports and airfields in the area. They may seek more privileges of this type. It is unlikely,that the Egyptians or other Arabs would agreeoviet force ofize as tohreat to their freedom of action.

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