Examine the impact of Soviet policy during the Cold War on the Middle East. The Middle East played an influential role during the Cold War as the Soviet Union attempted to incorporate it into its sphere of influence through implementing an expansionist foreign policy. These policies towards the Middle East were not homogeneous, rather changing with events of the Cold War and the leadership changes within the Soviet Union. These policies have seen an array of positive and negative outcomes take place in the Middle East.
The influence of the Soviet policy throughout the Cold War is difficult to determine, as it oscillated throughout the Cold War period, moving from having great to meager impact depending on what the aim of the policy was. This essay seeks to examine to what extent Soviet policy impacted the Middle East throughout the Cold War by examining the effect policies adopted by different leaders had over the region. Word count: 233 The beginning of the Cold War saw Stalin in power of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1945 to 1953, and responsible for establishing the foreign policy regarding the Middle East.
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A policy of ending British and French hegemony over the region was adopted, which would allow the USSR to fill the power vacuum created when the “conditions would allow’. Through removing foreign powers from the region, the Soviets could expand their naval and military reach, secure areas of “strategic strength” and achieve “ideological domination” of Eurasia. This policy was implemented through nurturing Communist parties in Middle Eastern states, though they were open to supporting and liaising with Arab leaders struggling towards liberation under foreign hegemony.
The recognition of the “broad masses of working and toiling people of the Arab countries growing under the yokes of feudalism” created an image of the USSR advocating Arab interests in the area, trying to free them from “cunning oppression and mighty enemies who are supported by traitors”. Syria and Lebanon were among the states that supported the USSR after they received assistance with the removal of French occupancy.
The most notable impact that the USSR had on the Lebanon and Syria during the Stalin years was the signing of treaties between the USSR both Syria and Lebanon in 1946, declaring, inter Lila, the USSR would commit to helping establish independence, assist cultural development through education, and establish strong armies. The USSR fought for the right of Lebanon and Syria as “sovereign states, [who] must themselves bear the responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security in their own countries” within the Security Council on the 1 5th of February 1946.
The impact that the Soviet policy had on Lebanon and Syria during Stalin was vast, Soviet Word count: 290 Word count: 290 policy allowed the states to gain sovereignty and an ally who would assist militarily ND economically. Conversely, the Soviet policy towards Egypt was initially poorly received, as the upper ruling class “motivated by fear of communism” and the “average Egyptian was little concerned with matters which did not touch him personally’. Support for Soviet ideals existed for those in Egypt who recognized the parallel between their desire for liberation and the Soviet policy freeing the Middle East.
The Soviet policy did not have a strong impact on Egypt until 1947 when the Soviet’s supported Egypt self-determinate claim over Britain. From that point, the Egyptians warmed to the Soviet policy, considering Soviet actions sincerely in the interest of Arab nationalism. During the earliest days of the Cold War, the impact of Soviet policy on the Middle East was that it assisted in the realizing of self- determinate aims, expelling foreign powers from the Middle Eastern states.
This policy had a great impact on the Middle East as it allowed states to realize their sovereignty and gave Middle Eastern states a strong ally economically and militarily. Word count: 254 Khrushchev assumed power in 1955, and adopted a similar policy towards the Middle East; work with “the national bourgeoisie” and encourage the local communists to “either Join the nationalist forces or be suppressed by the local authorities”. The USSR still pursued the expulsion of the foreign powers, but this was influenced by Khrushchev belief that the “situation in Europe had reached an impasse”, which would prevent either side winning.
Soviet policies took a more defensive stance, removing Western powers to “erode the political and strategic position of the West [in the Middle East] and weaken the West’s hold on essential raw materials, eventually leading to capitalism’s downfall”. The Soviet view of Arab unity was to unite all of the Arab states, regardless of regional and historical tensions, which proved problematic and yielded negative results, exemplified by the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Khrushchev policy also aimed to promote a level of sustainable instability, where internally instability existed, but not enough to promote foreign intervention.
While the pursuit of Arab nationalist ideals was undertaken within the existing governments, the Soviets did not want the expulsion of foreign powers and the Arab move towards independence to yield strong, stable governments. The Soviets wanted internal instability to establish left-wing dictatorships, which would increase the “Soviet chances to fish for the socialist revolution in the muddied waters”. The correlation between unstable governments and communism is shown in Syria, who at the time had the weakest government in the Middle East but the largest communist party.
Supporting radical tendencies within the region did lead to Soviet sympathizers coming to power, which impacted Middle East through years of adopting unpopular policies. The promotion of the Arab national liberation event also catalysts inter-state conflicts through the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since 1956, the USSR has adopted an anti-lesser/pro-Arab position in Word count: 296 Word count: 296 the conflict, but has been careful in its portrayal of Israel, as they advocated for the creation of a Jewish state, recognizing the inability for the Jewish and Arab state to coexist.
As Benjamin Shoreward writes, “presenting Israel as the common enemy would hardly serve the Soviet purpose”, potentially leading to an Arab-Israeli confrontation implicating foreign powers. Therefore, Israel was portrayed as “the agent of imperialist powers”. Similarly, the Soviets presented Saudi Arabia as the “unwitting tool of imperialist powers”, despite their support of Hymen’s “reactionary forces”. The Soviet policy retained a strong impact during this era, as the Soviets were still seen as acting in sincere Arab interest, giving them influence over the methods countries interacted with and saw each other within the region.
Their impact was also strong due to their ability to maintain conflicts within states and regions without heavy foreign intervention with relative success. These two examples indicate that Soviet policy still had influence in the region. Brashness leadership in 1964 sparked a change in policy, leading to a stepping back from the Third World. The new Soviet policy wanted relations built on “mutually beneficial trade ties rather than loans or grants” while simultaneously attempting to ensure that regimes would not “embroil the Soviet Union in regional conflicts that might escalate into outright war with the United States”.
Having seen intervention the Third World achieve “ephemeral gains” and proxy wars subject to America intervention, Brethren saw the need to establish “economic cooperation” and for policies that would not implicate America in regional disputes. The Brethren years saw Soviet-supported states adopting foreign policies that had potential to spark direct confrontation with America. Afghanistan and Egypt both adopted foreign policies that were contrary to the aims of the USSR, ending in an invasion of Afghanistan and stressing diplomatic ties with Egypt.
Years of enabling Egyptian policy saw the USSR unable to stop the Egyptian intervention in the conflict between Israel and Yemen in May 1967. Intelligence reports alleged that the Israel’s intended to attack Yemen at the end of May. The Egyptians decided to take action, ignoring the advice of Soviet intelligence. The inability to influence Masses in international matters demonstrated the lack of impact the Soviet policy had over Egypt. Similarly, in Afghanistan, the Soviet invasion was the last resort after the exhaustion of diplomatic attempts to reform the system.
The Soviets did not want to see the fall of a pro-Soviet regime and wanted to impose Soviet control on the regime to “inhibit provocative social reforms”. The Afghan occupation lasted ten years, and Soviet policy enabled an unpopular regime to remain in power for an additional three years before it crumbled with the withdrawal of Russian troops. Another impact that Soviet policy had over the region was in Yemen, with a regional dispute erupting between the North and South.
Word count: 297 Word count: 297 Confrontation flared between the two countries in 1972 and 1979 and both times, the USSR supported the South Yemeni. Brashness retreat from the Middle East heralded the decline of the impact of Soviet policy within the Middle East, as they did not predict that civil and regional tensions between Soviet allies could flair. Overlooking this created a position where the Soviets could only support one side of the conflict, sending the other state to the West for assistance.
This result played out again and again, increasing the hold to America in the Middle East and loosening the hold of the USSR. With the Soviet hold on the Middle east slipping and leaders within the region acting independently of Soviet desires shows that the impact of Soviet policy began to decline in the region. Word count: 297 Brashness death led to Geographer taking power in 1985 and the adopting of a policy of strategic restraint. This policy is a continuation of Brashness policies of states pursuing economic development independent of the USSR and the avoidance of conflicts with potential to involve America.
As with the Brethren years, states with Soviet sympathies continued to follow their own foreign policy, often threatening the Soviet desire of isolationism from possibly direct conflicts with America. For instance, Gadfly’s intervention threatened Soviet interest and resulted in strained relations between the two. Another example of the Soviet inability to act was during the First Persian Gulf War, when the USSR was unable to convince either side to commit to a ceasefire and diplomatic resolution of the matter.
The war between Iraq and Iran impacted the region greatly, as Iran saw the Soviet influence as threatening in the egging. Iran is an Islamic republic and the movement of communist and socialist ideas throughout the Middle East has long been associated with atheism, being referred to by the Iranians as the “lesser of two Satanic forces” and the “great atheistic power to the north”. The Gulf War exemplifies the lack of influence that Soviet policy had over the warring states, as regional conflict continued without resolution through Soviet diplomatic avenues.
Under Cockroaches rule, Soviet policy had very little impact on governance within the Middle East because it had become enable to influence states towards desirable resolutions, as it had during the Brethren years. The extent of the impact of Soviet policies over the course of the Cold War has fluctuated as different leaders have adopted different aims with varying successes. Initially, the Soviet policy had an impact on the Middle East, allowing states to realize their dreams of self-determination and independence from foreign powers.
The impact of Soviet policy decreased once these desires were realized, as the policies favored removal from the Third World while at the same time craving control over he policies of states to avoid a Soviet-American confrontation while states continued to adopt their own policies, independent of Soviet desires. The impact that the Soviets benefited the Middle East through fostering independence, but failed the Soviets, as a “socialist island” was never realized, instead the conditions in the Middle East that allowed for years of conflict after the conclusion of the Cold War were fostered.