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The Arc of Crisis and the New Cold War

Author(s): Fred Halliday

Source: MERIP Reports, No. 100/101, Special Anniversary Issue (Oct. - Dec., 1981), pp. 14-25
Published by: Middle East Research and Information Project
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The Arc of

Crisis and the

New Cold War

Fred Halliday

latter half of the 1970s witnessed a sustained The Persian Gulf became a particularly apt place to
and geographically diverse series of social respond to this wave of revolutions for several interrelated
The upheavals in the Third World which, taken to? reasons. First, it was geographically near to some of the
gether, constituted a lessening of Western control in the most important social upheavals of the period?Ethiopia,
developing areas. In Africa, the Ethiopian revolution of Iran and Afghanistan. Ethiopia was the site of a large
1974 was followed by a series of changes in the remaining scale and successful Cuban intervention, in support of the
embattled colonies attendant upon the revolution in Ethiopian government. Iran was the site of the most humi?
Portugal: in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau liating individual incident in the whole process of Third
(1975) and, as a consequence of the independence of World revolutions?the hostage affair. Afghanistan was
Mozambique, in Zimbabwe (1980). The Southwest Asian the site of a large scale Soviet military intervention. But
region was transformed by the revolutions in Afghanistan these events combined with a second important factor,
(1978) and Iran (1979). In Central America there was a namely the fragility of the West's remaining allies in that
triumphant revolution in Nicaragua (1979), and continuing area and particularly the vital state of Saudi Arabia. All of
unrest in El Salvador and Guatemala. The psychological the West's allies around the Gulf were monarchies, ruling
impact of these changes served to draw attention to a de? without the consent of their people and with enormous
feat which had temporarily been repressed in the US con? corruption and inequality of wealth. The events of Iran
sciousness but which had continued to exert its subliminal showed that apparently secure regimes could be rapidly
force?the loss of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1975). overthrown once a popular movement started to move.
Had the final defeat in Indochina been an isolated event, it This frailty was further amplified by the special impor?
might have remained repressed, unmourned and without tance of the Gulf in US global strategy. Concern about the
future policy implications; but the combination of uphea? Persian Gulf increased greatly during the 1970s as the
vals elsewhere combined to produce what seemed to be an United States became a significant importer of oil for the
ominous "winning streak" of Third World revolutions first time. The extent of this dependence should not be
to which sooner or later the United States would be forced exaggerated: only 15 percent of US oil comes from the Gulf,
to respond. as compared to 60 percent of Europe's and 90 percent of

14 Merip Reports ? October-December 1981

The view from Rockefeller Center, January 1979

Japan's. But the prosperity of the US economy is affected and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was meeting
by the greater .dependence of the other industrialized econ? regularly with the Shah to coordinate joint security mea?
omies upon Gulf oil. And the American oil companies who sures in the Gulf area.
for decades have controlled the sale of Gulf crude to Europe
and Japan would be direly affected.
There has also been the growth of a more general sense A Soviet Blueprint?
in the advanced industrialized countries that they are de?
pendent on the Third World for vital mineral resources: The turning point came in 1978: the Soviet and Cuban
while there is considerable debate on how true this depend? effort to assist Ethiopia in repulsing the Somali invasion
ence really is, and how far it is a misinformed alarmism, no became public knowledge in January; then followed the
one can deny the importance of this new mood of raw communist coup in Afghanistan in April; and by Sep?
material vulnerability. The result of both trends has been a tember the revolutionary movement in Iran had gathered
psychological response far in excess of whatever real mate? full force. Before the end of the year Carter's National
rial reliance has arisen, and a consequent emphasis upon Security Adviser Brzezinski had coined the phrase "arc of
the strategic vulnerability of the United States. The Gulf crisis" to denote the range of countries "along the shores of
fits this picture ideally: it produces the most vital of all the Indian Ocean, with fragile social and political struc?
these raw materials, and it is a long way away. tures in a region of vital importance to us threatened with
As the 1970s proceeded, it is possible to detect a steadily fragmentation. The resulting political chaos could well be
growing strategic concentration on the Gulf: US anxiety filled by elements hostile to our values and sympathetic to
about the old focus of Soviet influence, Egypt, declined as our adversaries."2
Cairo's relations with Moscow worsened, while the wind? During the course of 1978 the focus of world tension
ing down of the Indochina wars led to a gradual shift in shifted uneasily between the Southwest Asian and African
Asian strategic perspective westwards that was already contexts. Cuba certainly had sent forces to Angola, but, as
noticeable in 1973.l By the mid-1970s, Iran and Saudi Congressional hearings were to show, the dispatch of
Arabia had become the principal customers for US arms, Cuban forces was to protect the government of the newly

Merip Reports ? October-December 1981 15

independent state against attacks in which both the CIA Afghanistan to prove this. Often, Soviet actions are ex?
and South Africa had already become deeply implicated. plained by reference to a supposed blueprint for world
Cuban involvement in the Shaba affair,* greatly empha? domination.
sized in the US press at the time, turned out to be unsub? This deductive approach prejudges the evidence of what
stantiated. Nevertheless, presented through the prism of a the Soviets have actually done in these countries, and it
decomposing Third World, Angola and Shaba appeared to leaves open the question of how far Soviet policy is one that
confirm the view that a revolutionary wave, impelled by can be seen as inimical to the West. Soviet policy is not
Moscow, was sweeping through Asia and Africa.3 wholly disinterested, nor is it abstentionist: where oppor?
One of the most cogent expressions of this strategic tunities for advancing Soviet interests arise these may be
alarm came in a series of statements by former Secretary of taken. But terms such as "targets" of Soviet policy,
State Kissinger. In December 1978, Kissinger talked of "assault" upon the international order, or "encirclement"
what he called "the geopolitical decline from Vietnam of the Gulf present a dangerously misleading and schemat?
through Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen and Afghanis? ic view of what Soviet policy is about.
tan" which had, he said, "demoralized friends and embold?
ened enemies." In testimony before the House of Represen?
tatives on the SALT II Treaty, Kissinger talked about "an Frontiers and Nationalities
unprecedented Soviet assault on the international equili?
brium" and listed what he saw as the instances of this The Middle East, seen as that area stretching from Turkey
assault. "They are not, to be sure, all controlled by Moscow; to Afghanistan and including the whole of the Arab world,
but someone who has started a rockslide cannot avoid occupies a particular place in the Soviet view of the world.
responsiblity by claiming that the rock he threw was not The Middle East borders the Soviet Union, and is indeed
the one that ultimately killed bystanders. These tactics, the only place, apart from the Finnish and Norwegian
reinforced by a Soviet military build-up threatening the borders, where the USSR physically adjoins onto the non-
strategic, theater and conventional balances, are incom? communist world. Viewed from the Kremlin, the USSR has
patible with any notion of detente or coexistence."4 a belt of Warsaw Pact allies on the west, and China?
In January 1979 the Iranian revolution reached its hostile but under a considerable degree of central control-
climax. A month later fighting broke out along the border on the east. In between lies a central belt where no such
between North and South Yemen and the Carter adminis? security exists: a line running over three thousand miles
tration rushed $380 million worth of military equipment to along the Black Sea, the Turkish and Iranian frontiers,
what was seen as the current front line against communist and then across the Afghan plains to the knot of the
"expansionism."** US-Iranian relations reached a new low Pamirs, a cartographer's conceit constructed by British
when the US Embassy in Tehran was seized on November officials in the nineteenth century, where the USSR,
4, 1979. A few days later, on November 20, Islamic rebels China, and Afghanistan all meet. This "southern tier" is a
seized the Holy Mosque in Mecca, thereby throwing the line of countries whose international and internal orienta?
stability of Saudi Arabia into question. On December 24, tions are of prime concern to the Soviets, just as the politics
Soviet forces entered Afghanistan in large numbers. In his of the Caribbean and Central American countries are to the
State of the Union message on January 23,1980, President United States. The Arab states, with which Moscow has
Carter stated: "Any attempt by any outside force to gain enjoyed closer relations over the past two decades, are stra?
control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an tegically of secondary importance to this "southern tier."
assault on the vital interests of the United States of The Middle East as a whole is by far the most volatile
America, and such an assault will be repelled by any and exposed of the three major land flanks that the USSR
means necesary, including military force." faces, and it is the one where the West has been most active
Much of the policy of the present Republican adminis? in consolidating its own positions, ever since the Truman
tration is molded by what its decision-makers assume to be (1947) and Eisenhower (1957) Doctrines. In both previous
the lessons of the late 1970s and specifically by what are world wars this region was the site of Russian military
presented as the consequences of Soviet "expansion" in campaigns: there can be little doubt that this would be so in
Southwest Asia. The upheavals in this region are, further? the event of a third global conflagration. The West sees this
more, by no means over; the gales of revolution and coun? region as at the moment vital to its interests because of oil,
ter-revolution have not spent themselves. Afghanistan is but for the Soviets this is geographical reality that they
still in the grip of civil war. The monarchies of the Arabian must confront forever.
Peninsula remain fragile. There is no peace in the Horn of The potential threat to the Soviet regime posed by the
Africa. Most important of all, Iran is in turmoil, with many minorities of Central Asia has received considerable media
pressures upon it from without and within: it is possible attention in recent years. Of the 262 million Soviet popula-
that it will go through a period of civil war at some point in
the 1980s, and probable that it will become a focus of inter? **AstheUSmilitaryattachein NorthYemenat thetime,Lt.Col.JohnRuszkiewicz, was
national tension again. laterto report,the intelligenceestimatesuponwhichUS policyhad beenbasedwere
false.Indeed,theywerefalsifiedby SaudiandUS officialseagerto inventa US-Soviet
Most analysis of Soviet policy in this region assumes confrontationthatdidnotexist.According toRuszkiewicz,
thereportssentto Washing?
certain global premises and uses the Middle East to illus? tononthe1979YemeniconflictbytheAmericanEmbassyin Sana'a(theNorthYemeni
capital)were"greatlyexaggerated." WhenRuszkiewiczcomplained aboutthistohigher
trate them. Soviet policy is assumed to be expansionist and authorities,he was told:"IfYemenhadnot happenedat that particulartime,it would
have been invented."The militaryattache'sconclusionis worthrepeating,since it
aggressive, and cases are adduced from the Arab world or somewhatbeliestheofficialaccountofa Soviet"blueprint" forMiddleEastdomination:
"Itseemsto mewedisastrouslyescalatedourinvolvementin Vietnamas a resultof an
attackonanAmerican warshipintheGulfofTonkinwhichneveroccurred. I cannothelp
* Shabais the mineral-rich
provinceof Zaire.Cubanforcesweresaidto beinvolvedin but view what happenedin Yemenas a MiddleEast versionof the Gulfof Tonkin
twoinvasionsin 1977-78. incident."SeeArmedForcesJournal(September 1980),p.72.

16 Merip Reports ? October-December 1981

tion in the 1979 census, Russians make up half and Slavs Soviet rule. Literacy in Iran is 30 percent, and in Afghani?
two-thirds of the total. But birth rates in the non-Slav stan it is ten percent. The higher levels of education in the
republics are much higher. The population growth rate for Soviet areas are important not just in social welfare terms
the European USSR in the 1970-79 period was nine percent but also in undermining the appeals of a populist Islam.
compared to Tadjikistan 31 percent, Uzbekistan 30 per? In Soviet Central Asia, the local populations have tried
cent, Armenia 22 percent, etc. //these trends continue, then to gain influence within state and party and thereby to turn
at some point in the next century these non-Slav minorities them to their advantage?sometimes, if the official reports
will form a majority of the USSR's population. This devel? are anything to go by, in rather corrupt ways. Members of
opment naturally raises the posibility of a revival of na? the Central Asian minorities may gain influence at a future
tionalistic and Islamic sentiment among these peoples, date within the USSR without this necessarily leading to a
influenced by trends across the border in the Middle East. greater autonomy or a centrifugal pattern in the provinces.
Details on opposition activity are scarce, but there are No one can predict the future trends among the nationali?
signs of a new militancy among the Muslims of Central ties in the USSR; but neither available evidence nor analy?
Asia. The underground Sufi religious sects, the Naqshban- sis of the objective situation suggest that concern about an
di and the Qadyri, with contacts in Turkey and Iran, are opposition in the Muslim areas is a major factor in Soviet
said to maintain some contacts with co-believers across the calculations.

Secretary of Defense Weinbergerat a US base in Germany Henry Kissinger

border. The report to the 26th Congress of the CPSU from Another, countervailing, nationality factor that has
Turkmenistan reported on unspecified opposition by local implications for the Middle East is the presence within the
mullahs.b Although the number of mosques is only around USSR of a Jewish minority whose militance reflects the
two hundred (compared with eight thousand at the end of persistence of anti-semitic sentiment in wide sections of
the war) the majority of the population retains some reli? Soviet society. Through its international contacts, the
gious belief, as evidenced by observation of festivals, endo? Soviet Jewish community has made the emigration issue a
genous marriage, and a refusal to use abortion (the most domestic US concern and thus, despite the frequently hos?
common form of Soviet birth control). However, the coher? tile character of the Soviet society around them, the Jews
ence of this phenomenon should not be exaggerated. Not constitute a calculation in Soviet policy on the Middle East.
all of these minorities are Muslims, and even within the Although the decision to allow Jewish emigration has cost
Muslim community there are sharp rivalries. The very nu? the Soviet Union some legitimacy in Arab eyes, it was
merical extent of the minority groups (more than ninety) taken largely in response to the pressure from the US
makes it much more difficult for them to pose a threat to the Congress. Since 1974, a considerable flow of Jewish emi?
Slavs at the top.6 The growth of distinct national entities- gration has come from the Soviet Union?around 260,000
Uzbek, Kazakh, etc.?since 1917 has also eroded the exit visas were granted between 1974 and 1980.
grounds for a single pan-Islamic sentiment.
For many of these minorities the cultural rights, how?
ever limited, and standard of living are higher on the
Soviet than on the Middle Eastern side of the border. The Trade and Aid
death rate in Soviet Turkmenia in the mid-1970s was 7.2
per thousand, the number of doctors 2.7 per thousand, and The scale of the Soviet commitment to the Middle East, in
the number of hospital beds 10.2 per thousand. In Afghan? economic and military terms, has outstripped that to any
istan the average figures were 23.8 per thousand, 0.2 per other part of the non-communist world. The economic
thousand, and 7.5 per thousand. 7 in Soviet commitment has resulted from geographical
Literacy proximity
Tadjikistan, where the population speaks a dialect of and the availability of energy supplies, and has focused on
Persian, has gone from two percent to 99 percent under Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. The military commitment has

Merip Reports ? October-December 1981 17

resulted from the Arab-Israeli dispute and has focused on Oil and Soviet Policy
the confrontation states (Egypt, Syria).
The Middle East states represent a significant propor? The Soviet Union is the largest oil producer in the world,
tion of overall Soviet involvement in the Third World. Less and accounts for around one-fifth of total world output;
than ten percent of Soviet imports come from non-commu? with net output in 1979 at 11.87 million barrels a day-
nist Third World countries, and the Soviet share of Third outstripping consumption at 8.93 million barrels a day?it
World exports, including oil, was 2.2 percent in 1976, com? remains a net exporter.11 But because of geographical fac?
pared with 28.5 percent for the EEC and 20.6 percent for the tors it has benefitted the Soviet Union to import quantitites
USA. But well over half of this Soviet trade and aid policy of oil (from Iraq) and of gas (from Iran and Afghanistan),
is tied to the Middle Eastern area. Of the ten major non- and thus to export more of its own production to European
communist recipients of Soviet economic aid in the 1954- markets. The revolution in Iran not only stopped work on a
1976 period, seven were in the Middle East: Turkey, major new gas pipeline, IGAT-II, from southern Iran to the
Afghanistan, Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Of the USSR, but also cut off gas supplies already flowing from
ten Third World countries with the most trade with the Iran to large areas of the Caucasus during the winter of
USSR in 1976, six were in the Middle East: Iraq, Egypt, 1978-79, thereby causing serious hardship in that region.
Iran, Syria, Algeria, Afghanistan.8 Estimates of Soviet However, the effects of Middle East price rises have, over?
military exports indicate that up to two-thirds of all post?
war supplies to non-communist countries have gone to
Middle East countries; in the 1971-1976 period 60 percent
went to just three countries: Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The
Soviet military presence in Egypt in the early 1970s was
the largest ever outside the communist world (i.e., prior to
Afghanistan), with around 25,000 personnel, berthing
rights in Alexandria, and the use of six airfields. Nine out
of twenty-one Arab League states are, or have recently
been, reliant on the USSR for the bulk of their military
Even the decline of arms transfers to Egypt has failed to
break the pattern. In 1977 and 1978 Soviet arms supplies to
the Third World accounted for around 25 percent of the
world total, a higher percentage than was previously the
case, and the Middle East and North African countries
figured prominently in this trade. Of total sales in 1977-78,
Ethiopia accounted for about 30 percent of the total; four
longer-term customers?Libya, Algeria, Syria, and India?
accounted for another 55 percent; and among the twenty-
two other countries acquiring Soviet weapons were South all, been beneficial to the Soviet Union.
The USSR's manufactured goods are not of sufficient
Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan.10
quality to compete on the world market, and it has had to
Such a large commitment has provided a testing ground
rely on raw materials to make up its hard currency income.
for Soviet equipment (especially in the 1973 Arab-Israeli
Soviet earnings from the sale of energy to Western Europe
war) and has given the opportunity for some major Soviet
are especially important: at $6.7 billion in 1977 they made
airlifts (Egypt in 1973, Ethiopia in 1977). But it has also
up half of all its hard currency earnings. The USSR earns
involved a heavy commitment of Soviet prestige in deal?
more from oil exports than do some OPEC states. It has
ings with countries which it has not been able to control. In lowered the percentage of Comecon oil which it provides (65
Ethiopia the officer corps has not been changed since the
percent in 1980), and has steadily raised prices so that by
days of the Emperor. In Iraq the ruling Ba'th Party has 1980 it was more or less half the OPEC rate, compared to a
been executing and imprisioning Iraqi communists. In
fraction thereof in 1975.
Afghanistan the Soviets have had to take drastic and risky
Compared to the majority of Western countries the
measures to protect their previously established position. USSR is in a rather favorable energy situation. Its known
The provision of arms and economic aid has not proven reserves, at 71 billion barrels, made up 11 percent of the
to be any guarantee of lasting political influence. Soviet aid world total, and equal around seventeen times 1978 con?
focuses on state-to-state, bilateral projects, usually in the sumption. According to the OECD, it has an estimated 39
heavy industrial sector. For example, nearly 80 percent of percent of all the world's gas reserves. The Soviets claim-
Soviet credits to Egypt were for hydroelectric and heavy probably exaggeratedly, but indiciative of a major reserve
industrial projects. These leave the door open for Western ?to have 57 percent of the world's coal; they do account for
domination of many other economic sectors, ones that 20 percent of world output. Moreover, they recently carried
have greater popular impact. Even those countries such as out a massive conservation campaign, and are building the
Iraq that have nationalized considerable sectors of their equivalent of the Alaska pipeline every four to five weeks in
own industy and imposed state control of foreign trade, order to get gas and oil out of Siberia. Unrestrained by
and which have signed friendship treaties with the Soviet environmentalist pressures, they are building up a nuclear
Union, continue to do most of their trading with capitalist energy industry that is scheduled to provide 33 percent of
countries. Comecon electricity by 1990.
18 Merip Reports ? October-December 1981
Public discussion of the oil issue tends to coincide with a It has denounced the Soviet role in Afghanistan. Iraq ex?
modish tendency in the West to stress the economic prob? ports about $500 million worth of oil to the Soviet Union
lems facing the Soviet Union. Now it is true that the Soviet and imports about $70 million worth of goods from the
economy is inefficiently managed and has failed to realize USSR: a striking illustration of the asymmetry of military
anything like its full potential. It is also true that it faces and economic links established by the USSR with Third
problems of production and productivity in industry as World countries. Relations with Iraq worsened further
well as agriculture, and that living standards are below after the Iranian revolution, when Moscow tried to estab?
those to which many aspire. But nobody in the Soviet Un? lish a working relationship with Khomeini's regime, and
ion is starving, or sleeping on the streets: certain social when, after Iraq attacked Iran in September 1980, the
services, such as public health (29.7 doctors per 1,000 popu? USSR remained neutral.
lation compared to 16.5 in North America), are in fact In the central Arab regions, the USSR has maintained
better for the mass of the population than those in North only two allies, Syria and Libya. At the start of the 1980s,
America. The Soviet economy is a long way from catas? there appeared to be some consolidation of relations with
trophe and indeed it continues to expand at a sluggish rate each. Syria signed a 20-year Treaty of Friendship and
at a time when the West has been in recession. Soviet GNP Cooperation with Moscow in 1980, and appeared to have
rose by 3.1 percent per year in the 1976-79 period, and reached an accomodation which papered over their earlier
indications are that this kind of growth will continue. As disagreement over Syria's 1976 intervention in Lebanon.

Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev

Soviet military advisers in Mogadishu

Jerry Hough of the Brookings Institution has written: "In Libya, meanwhile, had come a long way since the early
the broad historical perspective, the Soviet economy has years of Qaddafi's regime, when the Tripoli press declared
performed rather well, especially given its relative lack of in red banner headlines that Russia was an "imperialist"
foreign investment and the large proportion of its resources countrv. Western sources spoke of up to $12 billion in Soviet
devoted to military purposes ... Its rate of economic arms sales to Libya, and hundreds of Soviet military techni?
growth, even in the 'slowdown' of the 1970s, has been sub? cians were reported in Libya, including some helping with
stantial, well above that of the United States. In the thirty- advanced missiles.14 Both these liaisons seemed to confirm
five years since the end of World War II, the consumer has an alarmist view of Soviet strategic intentions: Syria was
enjoyed a steadily rising standard of living."12 increasingly in control of Lebanon, and remained the only
All in all, the economic condition of the Soviet Union is front-line Arab state implacably hostile to Israel. Libya's
not so desparate as to force it to engage in rash gambles in pro-Soviet orientation undermined the southern flank of
the countries lying to its south. With its oil and gas, this NATO, and constituted a challenge to Sadat's Egypt.
region has been and will remain of importance to the Soviet Moreover, Libyan involvement in activities which it is
economy, but this importance will more likely be mediated impossible not to categorize as "terrorist" gave rightwing
via normal commercial dealings rather than through the US critics their opportunity to argue that Moscow was
advance of the Red Army.13 involved in orchestrating international terrorist activities
through its "surrogates."
Taken together, these two alliances were no substitute
Soviet Setbacks for the one the Soviets had lost with Egypt. In both cases,
moreover, the Soviet commitment was in part designed to
At the start of the 1980s, Soviet influence in the Middle check the tendency of both regimes towards reckless ven?
East appears to be at a lower point than at any time since tures: a Syrian miscalculation vis-a-vis Israel, or a Libyan
1955. Egypt has broken all ties with the USSR and has one vis-a-vis Egypt could easily lead to disaster. Indeed, we
repudiated its $7 billion debt to Moscow. Sadat has repeat? cannot but suspect that one of the prime functions of the
edly gone out of his way to insult the Soviets. Iraq has been the Soviet technicians in Libya is to prevent the Libyans
executing communists and is openly suppplying Somalia from using the missiles they posses?just as Soviet person?
and Eritrea with help against Soviet-supported Ethiopia. nel in Egypt in the late 1960s had a similar role.

Merip Reports ? October-December 1981 19

Neither Syrian President Assad, nor Libyan President 1970, September 1971) were as a guest of the Soviet Afro-
Qaddafi, are communists: indeed both are Arab national? Asian Solidarity Organization, and he did not receive a state
ists, suspicious of communism, and capable of imprisoning welcome from the USSR until July 1972. In the late 1960s,
or assassinating those leftwing opponents they feel are a the dominant mood among Palestinians was extremely
threat. Their foreign policy initiatives are consistently anti-Soviet; the Soviets were seen as having betrayed the
taken for reasons of their own state interests, and not at the Arab cause and as refusing to assist the Palestinian
behest of Moscow. Time and again, divergences have aris? movement. Nevertheless, while the Soviet press has al?
en: in Syria's case over Lebanon, and in Libya's over ways indicated official Soviet disapproval of terrorist ac?
Qadaffi's opposition to the Soviet role in Afghanistan and tions, relations with the PLO have improved. Moscow has
over the Libyan refusal to accept the legitimacy of an become a champion of a Palestinian state and a major
Israeli state. arms supplier to the Palestinian movement. The Soviets
have also encouraged a rapprochment between the PLO
and the pro-Soviet communist party inside Israel, Rakah.
The Soviets and the Palestine

For the Arabs, the central issue in Middle Eastern politics

remains the Arab-Israeli dispute. Here the Soviet Union
has lost the influence it once had over Egypt and has been
excluded from the negotiation process. Saudi domination
of the rejectionist camp restricts the USSR to the sidelines
as far as Sadat's opponents are concerned. Several factors
relate to the Soviet role in the Palestine question. First, the
Soviets do not oppose the existence of an Israeli state. They
were among the first to recognize the state of Israel, and,
although they broke diplomatic relations in 1967, they
have never (in contrast to the Chinese) denied Israel's right
to exist. They argue the only viable solution to be one that
allows for the existence of both a Palestinian state and of
Israel. They base their policy on UN Resolution 242 of 1967,
and insist that Israel return to its 1967 boundaries.
Throughout their relations with Arab states, they have
never wavered on this point: they have, at the same time,
never persuaded any Arab state to agree with them.
Second, Soviet arms supplies to Egypt have never been
such as to give the Arab states overall military superiority.
They have been sufficient to give them the ability to resist
Israeli attacks (in 1955, and again after 1967) or to launch a
limited war (in 1973), the purpose of which was to reach a
negotiated settlement. In the 1973 war, the Soviets seem to The view from Whitehall, circa 1890.
have suspected that something was afoot, and they tried,
obliquely, to warn the Americans of this. There is no evi? But they have continued to stress the need for Palestinian
dence that they planned or instigated the war, and their unity, and publicly to diverge from the Palestinians on the
resupply and negotiation policies during it were designed central issue of Israel's right to exist. They still do not
to maintain the Arab position in the event of a cease-fire. accept the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian
Nor is there evidence that they seriously considered send? people. Even those sections of the PLO who support the
ing troops to the Middle East during this war (the supposed establishment of a separate Palestinian state tend to see it
reason for Nixon's October 25 nuclear alert).15 Soviet arms as an intermediate step towards a final single entity,
policy has always been governed by political considera? whereas the USSR, basing itself on its 1948 positon, envis?
tions and correspondingly restricted: the Soviets often ages the two-state solution as permanent.
quarreled with the Egyptians over arms supplies, and Fourth, Soviet opposition to Camp David is based on
have done so more recently with Syria. They have never opposition to step-by-step solutions, which they believe
acceded to Arab requests for nuclear weapons, despite the cannot work in the end. They say that Sadat's failures to
fact that Israel is known to have an almost immediate achieve a comprehensive solution will, by provoking
nuclear capacity. strong reactions, make it more difficut to reach a full
Third, Soviet support for the Palestinians has been agreement on the Palestinian question. They believe that
qualified and was slow to develop. The USSR did not en? any solution negotiated by outside powers should be
dorse the PLO when it was founded in 1964, unlike the brought about bilaterally, by joint US-Soviet negotiation.
Chinese. The first time Arafat visited Moscow he did so as During the 1967 and 1973 wars, for example, they worked
part of Nasser's delegation in 1968; he had to hide inside with Western diplomats to arrange for cease-fires. They
the plane until the official ceremonies on the tarmac were were particularly enraged when the November 1977 initia?
over. Arafat's first two visits in his own right (February tives by Sadat and the US came within weeks of an impor-

20 Merip Reports ? October-December 1981

tant joint US-Soviet declaration that they hoped would in 1921. It was greatly strengthened by Soviet support for
lead to a new bilateral initiative. Part of the Soviet interpre? military regimes in the 1950s and 1960s at the expense of
tation of detente is that mediation of this kind must be local communists. Even where no Soviet acceptance of the
carried out through joint initiatives. This is necessary, they established power existed, Moscow has shown itself hesi?
argue, to avoid one side using mediation for partisan pur? tant about supporting guerrilla movements?the Al?
poses. Kissinger made eminently clear that one of the aims gerian FLN, the PLO, the Omani guerillas, and now the
of his diplomacy was precisely to seal the eviction of the Polisario Front of the Western Sahara. In the late 1960s
Soviet Union from the Middle East. Compare this with especially, Soviet "revisionism" was seen as hostility to
cases where the Soviets have attempted mediation: their guerrilla struggle. Whereas Soviet military and economic
negotiation between India and Pakistan, the Tashkent aid is seen in Western eyes as being used to guarantee
Summit of 1966, was not carried out in such a way as to political influence, the left critique argues that this aid has
dislodge the US from its client in the dispute (Pakistan). been too little and too exploitative.
And when the Soviets tried to mediate between Ethiopia The Islamic critique may at first sight appear to be less
and Somalia in the spring of 1977, this cost them the substantive than that of the Arab left, but is probably the
friendship of a state that had previously been allied with one that most people in the Middle East actually believe?
them (Somalia). In this latter case Somalia's intransigence itself a political fact of some importance. This Islamic view,
was encouraged by the Carter administration. long propounded by the Saudis and now echoed in Iran,
Underlying these positions is an important difference charges that the Soviet Union has withheld support for the
in emphasis between the Soviet and Arab views of this "Arab" cause, and that this restraint has prevented the
question: while for the Arabs the Palestine issue is, at least Arabs from clinching victory over Israel. It is a stock-in-
officially, the central question in contemporary Middle trade of Sadat's rhetoric?as it once was of Qaddafi's. This
Eastern politics, the Soviets see the balance of East-West critique of Soviet policy goes on to argue that the USSR has
relations and their own security as more important. In- in fact been one of the forces sustaining Israel, a claim that
draws on some potent, if somewhat veiled, racist themes
within the Islamic worldview itself. The Arab states have
not forgotten the important support given to the nascent
state of Israel by Stalin in 1948; nor the fact that most of
those who control Israel to this day were born in Eastern
Europe ("the Pole Begin," etc.); nor that since 1967 the
USSR has allowed Jews to emigrate to Israel, given that
many of the Jews involved have militarily usable skills
and are of military service age.
The core argument of the Islamic right is simply that
communism and Zionism are two heads of the same beast.
The late King Feisal called on his people "to oppose all
doctrines founded by the Zionists?the corrupt doctrines,
the atheist communist doctrines which seek to deny the
anduglier andnastier,
but existence of God and to deviate from faith and from our
hudnomoney to stophim..."
Islamic religion." In a later interview, Feisal's successor,
Oliphant/Washington Star,December 24, 1976 ?ing Khaled, tells us: "We regard Zionism, communism
and colonialism as a trinity allied against Arab and Islam?
deed, below the surface of Soviet commentary upon this ic rights and aspirations. Our policy is based on that un?
question, it is possible to detect a note of irritation and even derstanding, and it is natural for us to be always subjected
exasperation at the intransigent tone which the Arab to biased and poisonous campaigns at the hand of that
states and the Palestinians have adopted. Soviet thinking very trinity."16 The most base cliches of European facism,
on the Palestine question has certainly shifted somewhat linking communism and Jewry, can be found in the propa?
since 1948, and now acknowledges the justice of the Pales? ganda of this militant, and it must be emphasized, very
tinian cause itself, but the framework remains a broader widespread Islamic propaganda. In Khomeini's Iran,
one, of ensuring a just and lasting settlement of a dispute Islamic rhetoric lashes out equally at left and right: the
that could explode into a major world conflict, and in a Jews in Palestine, the Ethiopian army in Eritrea, the revo?
region near the borders of the USSR itself. lutionary regime in Afghanistan. From a supposedly more
leftwing stance, the Iraqi Ba'th Party has taken to discred?
iting its rival Communist Party by publicizing the latter's
Local Responses links to the "Zionist" Communist Party of Israel.

For the Arab and Iranian lefts, Soviet policy in the Middle
East has not been active enough: Moscow has desisted A Disastrous Record
from support of revolutionary movements in the region in
order to consolidate relations with nationalist govern? The difficulties that the West has encountered in regard to
ments and to appease the imperialist countries. This cri? the Arab world have not correlated with a commensurate
tique began with the decision by Lenin and his associates to rise in Soviet influence. Soviet expectations that national?
work with the nationalist governments of Turkey and Iran ist and thereby anti-imperialist regimes would become re-

Merip Reports ? October-December 1981 21

liable allies of theirs and potential converts to socialism role in these evolutions. The similarity of the four countries
have proven unfounded. In his encounters with Arab lead? is not due to their common fate as victims of Soviet designs,
ers, Nikita Khrushchev used to urge them to lay less stress but rather from the fact that in each, autonomous revolu?
on the supposed bond of Arab brotherhood and more on tionary processes have matured in such a way that the
class factors underlying the politics of the Middle East: interests of the United States have been reduced.
"Arab nationalism is not the zenith of happiness," he once
told a visiting Egyptian delegation led by Anwar Sadat. ? Where there was an external catalyst, it came from the
During a visit to Egypt in 1964, Khrushchev went even West or its allies. In two of these states, Iran and Ethiopia,
further in his attack upon the classless character of Arab popular explosions had the ferocity they did partly because
unity slogans, by asking Egyptian trade unionists what of long years of repression, for which the United States
they had in common with the Emir of Kuwait: "There is bears much responsibility. Furthermore, US interference,
some little ruler sitting there, an Arab, of course, a Muslim. directly or via US junior allies, has remained a factor in the
He is giving bribes. He lives the life of the rich, but he is radicalization of each of the four countries concerned.
trading in the wealth of his people. He never had any
conscience and he will never have any. Will you come to ? The Soviet Union certainly has taken advantage of these
terms with him on unification? It is easier to eat three puds developments and plays an increasingly visible role, where
of salt than to reach an agreement with him, although you the situation allows. But this is quite different from claim?
are both Arabs and Muslims."17 In more delicate tones, ing that the Soviet Union has stage-managed events, or
Soviet writers on the non-capitalist road have tried to that it is somehow behaving as an "imperialist" power. It
stress the progressive class character behind Arab nation? also overstates the degree of current Soviet control over
alism which, under proper guidance, could enable the Arab these countries and the benefit that Moscow derives from
world to make a transition to socialism. But the turn of its alliances with them.
events has forced the Soviets to reconsider their theories of
the non-capitalist road and to look more skeptically at
apparently radical nationalist regimes. The Soviet Union has faced considerable difficulties in
The decline in Soviet influence within the Arab world managing its policy in these countries. It no more controls
has in some measure been offset by increased influence in the internal politics of Ethiopia than it did those of Egypt
some non-Arab states?Ethiopia, Afghanistan?and by a under Nasser or those of Ba'thi Iraq. While concerned
certain consolidation in the most peripheral of Arab states, about the general trends of South Yemeni politics, it is not
South Yemen. This process has underlain the rise of the able to dictate or even substantially determine policy in
"arc of crisis" alarms. In the Arab world, however, the that country in the way, for example, that it certainly did in
Soviet record has been a negative and in many ways a Eastern European countries in the late 1940s and 1950s. In
disastrous one. Yet, despite its weak hold on events, the Afghanistan, the Soviet Union was drawn deeper into the
Soviet Union now finds itself faced with a new American conflict by the errors of its local ally, the PDPA,* into
build-up in the Arab world precisely on the grounds that support for the April 1978 coup, into backing for the pro?
Soviet policy is supposed to be threatening the West's vital vocative policies of the Taraki and Amin regimes, and then
interests there. into a full-scale military presence directed at saving the
The logic of much of the "arc" discussion is unsound: it PDPA regime from extinction. However lamentable, the
involves a "deductivist" approach masquerading as an Afghan saga does not indicate a high level of Soviet politi?
"inductivist" one, i.e., it pretends to prove its general case cal control there. In Iran, the Soviet Union has given ver?
by using a set of specific examples. But what it is really bal support to the revolutionary regime. Yet it backed the
doing is to interpret these examples in the light of an al? revolution belatedly, and has expressed stifled alarm both
ready accepted and unstated general theory; e.g., Soviet at the way the Khomeini regime has handled some of its
advances in South Yemen "prove" that the USSR is an internal policies and at the strategic implications of the
expansionist power trying to throttle the West's oil sup? protracted conflict between Iran and the United States
plies. Yet, if one looks a little closer, it turns out that the over the hostages.
events in South Yemen have been explicated on the basis of It is doubtful that the Soviet Union has gained any?
prior assumptions about what Soviet policy is. In Iran, thing from these developments in economic terms. The one
Afghanistan, South Yemen and Ethiopia?the four coun? area where the Soviets have gained some ground is the
tries usually singled out as cases of Soviet instigation that military. There is some reason to believe that their negative
justify a stronger Western response?a reconstruction of experiences with the "non-capitalist road" countries over
the record allows a rather different picture to emerge, one the 1960s and 1970s have led them to lay less stress on
that contrasts not just with the simplistic alarmism of the political and economic coordination with these countries
hard-liners, but also with the somewhat more subtle per? and to focus on the narrower issue of military access.
spective of a Kissinger. Their naval facilities in South Yemen are far less than
Western propaganda would have us believe, but the Soviets
? In each of the four countries concerned, the fundamental are able to use Aden harbor to service their Indian Ocean
changes were primarily due to the evolution of identifiable ships, and to change crews.19 In Ethiopia, the Soviet Union
internal conflicts.* The Soviet Union played no instigatory has acquired an ally that could in the future play a major
role in African affairs, with the largest battle-experienced
* Pastissuesof MERIPReportshaveexplicatedthesedevelopments in greatdetail.See black
army on the continent. Afghanistan has given the
especiallyYemen'sUnfinishedRevolution(?81),WhatWentWrongin Afghanistan
(#89),GarrisonSocialismin Ethiopia(#79),andseveralissuesdevotedto developments
in Iran(?s69,71,75 6, 86,87,88,98). * ThePeople'sDemocraticPartyof Afghanistan.

22 Merip Reports ? October-December 1981

Soviet army its first combat experience since World War II.* practice permitting only formal autonomy and a measure
The overall international balance sheet on the Afghan of cultural diversity.21 This has been the pattern inside the
intervention has certainly been negative. The Soviet action USSR, and has been reproduced in Soviet policy towards a
there came after a substantial deterioration in East-West number of Third World countries where the nationalities
relations, for which the United States was at least partially issue has come up: in Nigeria, where the USSR backed the
responsible.20 It is probable, though it cannot be proved, suppression of Biafra in the 1960s; in Iraq in 1972-75, where
that the Soviets were also alarmed by what they saw as a it supported the suppression of the Kurds; and, most recent?
possible growth in Chinese influence along their southern ly, in Ethiopia, where Moscow has continued Washington's
flanks. Nonetheless, the direct intervention by Soviet policy of opposition to any secession. This has its root in a
troops in conditions where it could not be described as a much deeper pattern of Soviet policy towards the nationali?
simple case of responding to external aggression has ties question, stretching back through Kurdistan and Bia?
seriously worsened the international and regional cli? fra to Bolshevik policy toward Georgia and the Ukraine
mates. It has given a strong encouragement to anti- after 1917.
communist sentiment in the Islamic world, at a time of This record indicts not just the Soviet political system
growing Islamic militancy, and provided the West with the but also the Soviet model of the "non-capitalist" road,
perfect issue upon which to orchestrate an international where the claims about new "democratic" political institu?
campaign against the USSR. The decision to enter tions are rather hollow. In many cases, these "non-capital-
Afghanistan was taken, it seems, for reasons relating to
the situation in that country itself. It was taken despite the US pilot at briefing during Operation Red Flag, Nellis AFB, Nevada
August 1979. One unit of the USAF played the "aggressors." NickAllen
international consequences, and irrespective of political or
military gains and losses. Thus, if it is false to argue that
the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan because of marginal
strategic benefits, it must also be false to expect them to
leave in order to improve the international climate, unless
the Kabul government itself is strong enough to cope with
the rural opposition that remains.

An Alternative Critique

Soviet policy has certainly played its part, therefore, in

worsening the international climate that produced the new
cold war. Yet beyond these immediate considerations,
there remain some more general aspects of Soviet policy
about which doubts can be raised. These doubts arise not
from the impact of Soviet policy on East-West relations, but
from its impact on the political conditions experienced by
the peoples of the region themselves.
The Soviet Union has not just given general support to
the regimes it favors, but has done so in such a way as to
condone or support some of their more repressive charac?
teristics. In so doing it is reproducing in the Third World its
anti-democratic character at home. The Soviet model of the
party, the monolithic structure of the press, the major role
of security forces?all of these are found to a greater or
lesser degree in the countries that model themselves upon
or which are politically allied with the USSR. There is no
evidence of Soviet responsiblity for the more brutal policies
of some of their allies?the "Red Terror" in Ethiopia, the
mass executions of Hafizullah Amin?but the general
structures of party and security forces have been shaped by
Soviet models and advisers.
Another negative factor in Moscow's political influence
is the export of the official Soviet position on nationalities.
Orthodox Soviet theory stresses that socialism guarantees
freedom to the working class while in practice denying this;
similarly, it guarantees the right to self-determination by
ethnic minorities, including the right of secession, while in

* It has alsoprovidedtheSovietswithfrontlinesfurthersouththantheywouldother?
wisehavehad.Theadvantageofthisshouldnotbeoverstated, however.Sovietcapacity
toinfluenceIranorseizetheGulfis predominantly affectedbytheUSSR'sproximityto
Iranitself,andhas beenonly marginallyenhancedby the Afghanintervention,as a
glanceat the mapwillshow.

Merip Reports ? October-December 1981 23

ist" states are merely preparing the ground for a more overt relations with the United States in order to avoid confron?
capitalism later on (e.g., the case of Egypt). In others, even tation over local conflicts, and of US rejection of such nego?
where a state sector predominates in the economy and tiation offers. In the mid-1950s, for example, the Soviet
some sort of economic socialist system may be said to be Union proposed that neither superpower sell arms to the
possible in the future, the political institutions are devoid of Middle East. The US refused, as this was seen as a Soviet
any of the liberties that should and could form a part of ploy to redress an imbalance of influence in its disfavor at
socialist society (South Yemen). It would be mistaken to the time when the United States was a far larger provider
blame the tendency to political dictatorship on the Soviet of military equipment.22 From the late 1960s onwards, the
Union alone, since the indigenous political tradition and Soviets have offered to negotiate a ban on non-indigenous
political culture of these countries are often prone to en? bases and warships in the Indian Ocean in line with pro?
courage such repression; but the Soviet Union's identifica? posals made by a number of littoral states, particularly
tion with these policies indicates more than the require? India. Again, this has been portayed as a Soviet attempt to
ments of an alliance. It is consistent with providing remove the United States from an area where the West
assistance in setting up parties and state institutions that retains an advantage. When the Soviet Union did manage
enable the indigenous anti-democratic tendencies to find a to join the US in a unified positon, on the Arab-Israeli
new, perhaps rather modernized form. question in October 1977, this initiative was soon rendered
Far from being single-mindedly inimical to the West, null by the unilateral US moves, leading to Sadat's separ?
Soviet policy has, too often, allowed itself to be swayed ate peace with Israel.
from pursuing local advantages by tactical considerations In the Horn, the Soviets tried to reconcile the Somalis
arising from concerns over the thrust of East-West and Ethiopians, and their efforts were undone partly by
relations. Such initiatives have run counter to the popular Arab and US encouragement of the Somalis. Later it was
movements in the region. In some cases, this involves Soviet restraint upon the Ethiopians, coupled with a US
playing too cautious a role precisely in order not to refusal to back the Somali intervention in Ogaden, which
antagonize the West. Soviet indulgence to the Shah and its limited the repercussions of that war in early 1978. There
delay in openly backing the Iranian revolution is a striking are strong indications that they have encouraged the
case of this, as is the earlier failure of the Tudeh Party in South Yemenis both to resolve their differences with Saudi
Iran to oppose the American-supported coup of 1953. It Arabia and to improve relations with Oman. In Iran, the
would have done far more for the emancipation of the Soviets have urged, and practiced, non-interference on the
people of Iran and for the prestige of the Soviet Union if it part of great powers. In Afghanistan they certainly inter?
had adopted a more, not less, intransigent position on these vened, to assist an established regime that had been threat?
occasions. At other times, the Soviet desire to rival the West ened by a rebellion in which foreign interference played a
leads it into courting some of the more repressive rightwing role. Yet the Soviets claim their presence is not intended
leaders of the Third World who may have a to be permanent, and they they will withdraw once outside
disagreement of greater or shorter duration with their interference ceases?this means once Pakistan ceases to
Western allies. In the Middle East, Soviet collusion with allow its territory to be used for armed operations and the
the Shah of Iran, including the sale of arms, was another transit of military supplies. They, and the Kabul govern?
case of such an alliance. Moscow's tolerant silence on ment, are quite willing to negotiate with Pakistan on dis?
Khomeini?whose hostility to socialism and whose repres? puted issues.23
sion of the left is beyond doubt?is another case. The most significant and neglected of all such Soviet
The failure to adopt an uncompromisingly critical initiatives concerns the Persian Gulf, where the pattern of
stand on the issue of the US hostages in Iran also followed Western dismissal is once again repeating itself. Far from
the line of indulgence. Perhaps, as one Soviet official tried seeking to deprive the West of its oil, the evidence suggests
to persuade me, this was not just to humor Khomeini but that the Soviets realize the West's need for Gulf oil, and are
also a reflection of the depth of Soviet anger at Washington trying to make their acceptance of this clear. Thus, in Feb?
over the general deterioration in East-West relations. In ruary 1980, they called for an international conference to
any case, by coalescing with a general indulgence towards discuss the security of oil supply routes and the commercial
an anti-American Iran, it also led the Soviet authorities to access of all countries to the Gulf.24 Brezhnev reopened this
be silent about the growing levels of repression inside Iran offer in a keynote speech to the Indian Parliament in
that accompanied the crisis over the hostages. One can December 1980, and in his speech to the Twenty-Sixth
also assume that Moscow encouraged the Tudeh Party in Congress of the CPSU in February 1980. Yet the conven?
its policy of supporting the rightwing clerical forces of the tional Western picture remains one of the Soviet Union
Islamic Republican Party against President Bani-Sadr trying to squeeze the West out of the region. The reasons for
and the left opposition. the Western refusal do go deeper, however, than mere sus?
picion of Soviet intentions: the West has, at the moment, a
predominant strategic position in the Gulf which it is not
Soviet Negotiating Initiatives
willing to see subjected to any negotiation. The Western
countries are also resistant to the ideas that the Soviet
No survey of Soviet policy would be complete without re?
Union should have any commercial access to oil supplies at
cognition of the attempts Moscow has made to meet the
all. As so often in the "arc of crisis," the West's alarmism
United States in a compromising spirit. The image of the turns out, on closer examination, to be at least as much a
Soviet Union as unequivocally challenging the United
product of its own purposes as one of the visible actions or
States throughout this region is not sustainable. Indeed
probable intentions of the Soviet leadership. ?
there is a recurrent pattern of Soviet attempts to manage its

24 Merip Reports ? October-December 1981


Michael T. Klare,WarWithoutEnd(NewYork:Knopf,1972),Chapter11, positsa

"GreatSouthAsianWar,"withthecenterofgravityshiftingfromIndochinawestwards. SOUTHERN
ThefirstCubanunitof700menarrivedin Angolain October1975,fifteenmonthsafter
the C.I.A.operationtherebegan.Sovietarmshadceasedbeingsuppliedto the MPLA
guerrillasin 1973,and only restartedin March1975(JohnStockwell,In Searchof AFRICA
Kissinger'sviewsaregivenin hisinterviewwithTheEconomist, Feburary 3,1979,and
in his SALTtestimony,reproduced in For the Record(Boston,1981),especiallypp.
216-221,fromwhichthe abovequotationsaretaken. IS IN THE NEWS
6ZhoresMedvedev in NewLeftReview117(September-October, 1979),p. 27.
Figureson Turkmenia fromAsia Yearbook 1979(HongKong:FarEasternEconomic
Review).On AfghanistanfromWorldBank,Afghanistan:TheJourneyto Economic
Development (March1978).
InternationalInstitutefor StrategicStudies(IISS),StrategicSurvey1977(London:
ArmsControlandDisarmament Agency(ACDA)figuretakenfromTheDefenseMoni?
tor(Washington), January,1979.ACDAfiguresomittwo Arabcountriesthat arein?
See OrahCooperand CarolFogarty,"SovietEconomicand MilitaryAid to Less
DevelopedCountries,1954-1978," (Washington,DC:C.I.A.,Officeof EconomicRe?
11BPStatisticalReviewof the WorldOilIndustry(London,1979).
JerryHough,SovietLeadership in Transition(Washington, DC:1980),p. 131.
atypicallymeasuredevaluationof theSovieteconomyseethespecialissueof
Time,""InsidetheU.S.S.R.," June23,1980;also.AlecNove,"Problems andProspectsof
theSovietEconomy," NewLeftReview119(January-February, 1980).
A goodgeneralsurveyis containedin JohnCooley,"TheLibyanMenace,"Foreign
Policy42(Spring1981).Cooleypointsoutthatit wastheNixonAdministration, notthe
SovietUnion,whofirstalliedwithQaddafiandthatit wasduringtheperiodofcollabo?
rationwith the US that Qadaffibecameinvolvedin one of his worstventures,the
massacreof the Israeliathletesat Munichin 1972.
Quandt,"SovietPolicyin the OctoberMiddleEastWar,"International Af?
TowardsEgypt(London,1979)andMohammed Heikal,TheSphinxandtheCommissar
ForFeisal,BBCSummaryof WorldBroadcasts,January1, 1974;forKhaled,ibid.,
July3, 1979.
StephenPage,TheU.S.S.R.andArabia(London,1971),p.81;andDawisha,op.cit.,pp. Stay Up-To-Date
26,33,detailsKhrushchev's strictureson Arabnationalism.
ProfessorJohnErickson,"SomeNotesontheSovietScore,"Memorandum presented
to the ForeignAffairsCommittee, Houseof Commons,London,March19,1980.Erick? Each Month With
son,the leadingBritishauthorityon the Sovietmilitary,identifiesthe riseof whathe
termsa "globalistapproach" to foreignpolicy,markedby an"emphasisonaccessand "SOUTHERN AFRICA"
19 information ontheSovietbasefacilitiesin Adenis notavailablebutthe
mainfunctionseemsto havebeento actas a pointthroughwhichSovietcrews(flownby Magazine
Aeroflotto SouthYemen)couldreplacepersonnelservingin the IndianOceanand
therebyavoidtheneedfortheshipsto makethelongjourneyto homeportsin theBlack
SeaorFarEast.ThemajorityofSovietpersonnelaretrainingSouthYemenisin theuse Southern Africa is a valuable source of in?
of newequipment, muchof it, such as the SAMmissilebarrieraroundAden,a direct
responsetoUSarmssalestoSaudiArabia.Reportsofa newSovietbaseontheislandof formation on the ongoing struggle for
Socotra,ownedby SouthYemen,have not beensubstantiated: indeedbothUS State liberation in southern Africa. It is vital
Department andBritishForeignOfficeofficialsinterviewed onthissubjectin early1981
doubtedthetruthof thesereports."AnyonewhothinkstheRussianscouldhavea base reading for anyone wanting a deeper
on Socotrahas neverlookedat the RedSea Pilot,"remarked the Britishofficial,in an
illusiontothemonsoonstorms,shoalsandlackofnaturalharborconditionsaroundthe understanding of the issues at stake.
island. Jose Carlos Lobo
" In the wordsof the SovietdissidentRoyMedvedev: "I havehadconversations with Mozambican Ambassador
severalexpertsandobserverswhohavetoldmethatif the AmericanSenatehadbeen
goingto ratifySALT-II, if WesternEuropehadrefusedto takeNATOcruisemissilesas to the United Nations.
the USSRrequestedand if the Soviet-Chinese talks had gone successfully,then the
Sovietgovernmentwouldhave foundit verydifficultto makethe decisionto go into
Afghanistan," NewLeftReview121(May-June, 1980,p.94). Please enter my subscription to Southern Africa
21Article72ofthe1977SovietConstituti for:
rightfreelyto secedefromthe U.S.S.R.'
22KarenDawisha,op.cit.,p. 13.
23It would Individuals Institutions
appearthat a civilianfactionof the Pakistanigovernment, represented by ? 1 yr./$10. ? 1 yr./$18.
eagerforincreasedsupportfromWashington,haveopposedthis.Theobviousinduce? ? 2yrs./$18. ? 2 yrs./$35.
ment whichthe Afghan governmentcouldofferis recognitionof the 1893frontier
betweenthe twostates,whichKabulhas untilnowrejected.
SundayTimes,March2, 1980.Forusefulbackground see ShahramChubin,Soviet Name_
PolicyTowards IranandtheGulf{London: InternationalInstituteforStrategicStudies,
1980).Chubin'soverallframework is a conventionalenoughone,withperiodicrefer?
encesto Soviet"bullying"; butthe evidencehe adducespointsto differentconclusions. Address
Hestressesboththe cautionof Sovietpolicyandthe primacyof localpoliticalforces.


Southern Africa, 17 W. 17th St., NY, NY 10011

Merip Reports ? October-December 1981 25