Soviet Policy in the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Navigating a Sea Change

  • Augustus Richard Norton


Throughout the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Soviet policy has hardly been inspired by a spirit of compromise or innovation.1 The Soviets have generally supported the most intractable regional actors, and, as many observers have noted, the main instrument of Soviet influence has been the provision of the implements of war. To an extent, Moscow’s policy has simply reciprocated Washington’s consistent drive to dampen Soviet influence, if not exclude it entirely from the Middle East. In spite of varying perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict, administrations from Truman to Reagan have consistently striven to circumscribe the Soviet’s role in the region.2 Yet there may be reasonable scope for superpower collaboration and cooperation to attenuate and even resolve a conflict which has been a fecund source of violence, international tension and human suffering.


Middle East Security Council United Nations Security Council Diplomatic Relation Central Asian Republic 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    For an overview of four decades of Soviet policy, see Augustus Richard Norton, ‘The Soviet Union and the Arab—Israeli Conflict’, in The Limits of Soviet Power in the Developing World: Thermidor in the Revolutionary Struggle, Edward A. Kolodziej and Roger E. Kanet, eds (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; London: Macmillan, 1989) pp. 275–300.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a listing of the themes that have governed US attitudes to the Soviet role in the Middle East, see Seth P. Tillman, The United States in the Middle East: Interests and Obstacles (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982) p. 231.Google Scholar
  3. Benson Lee Grayson, Soviet Intentions and American Options in the Middle East (Washington: National Defense University Press, National Security Affairs Monograph 82-3, 1982).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For an accessible and authoritative statement, see Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World (New York: Harper & Row, 1987) esp. chap. 5.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Many of the insights offered in this section derive from the author’s discussions with Soviet academicians during a November 1988 visit to the USSR. For a sound analysis, by a western scholar, of Gorbachev’s program and its impetuses, see Seweryn Bialer, ‘Gorbachev’s Program of Change: Sources, Significance, Prospects’, Political Science Quarterly, vol. 103, no. 3 (1988) pp. 403–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 8.
    For an informed analysis of this debate, see Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, ‘Revolutionary Change in the Third World: Recent Soviet Assessments’, World Politics, vol. 28, no. 3 (April 1986) pp. 415–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 10.
    Gorbachev, Perestroika, p. 147. For a discussion of the derivation of ‘peaceful coexistence’, see Seweryn Bialer, ‘“New Thinking” and Soviet Foreign Policy’, Survival, vol. 30, no. 4 (July/August 1988) pp. 291–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Francis T. Miko, ‘The 27th Party Congress and the West’, Survival, vol. 28, no. 4 (July/August 1986) pp. 291–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 14.
    Evgeni M. Primakov, ‘Soviet Policy toward the Arab—Israeli Conflict’, in William B. Quandt (ed.), The Middle East: Ten Years after Camp David (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1988) pp. 387–409Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    Reprinted in William B. Quandt (ed.), The Middle East: Ten Years after Camp David (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1988) p. 489.Google Scholar
  11. 48.
    Golia Golan, ‘The Soviet Union in the Middle East after Thirty Years’, in The Soviet Union and the Third World: The Last Three Decades, Andrzej Korbonski and Francis Fukuyama, eds (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987) pp. 178–207Google Scholar
  12. 57.
    Augustus Richard Norton, ‘Lebanon’, Yearbook of International Communist Affairs, 1988, Richard F. Staar, ed. (Stanford: Stanford University, Hoover Institution Press, 1988) pp. 422–5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hafeez Malik 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Augustus Richard Norton

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