Arabic Vector of the Middle East Policy of the USSR in 1961-1964

  • Kyrylo Kashtanov Харьковский национальный университет имени В.Н. Каразина
Keywords: Middle East, Soviet Union, the UAE, Nasser, Iraq, Syria


The paper deals with the relations of the Soviet Union with the Arab republican regimes in the Middle East from the XXII Congress of the CPSU to the resignation of M.S. Khrushchev.

The Middle East vector of Soviet foreign policy is sufficiently studied in modern historiography. Soviet-Arab relations became the object of study of such researchers as O.O. Fursenko, Y.M. Prymakov, O.V. Vasyliev and others. However, as of today, far from all aspects of the problem are sufficiently researched, especially concerning 1961-1964 years. The purpose of this paper is to fill certain gaps in contemporary historiography. To do this, we will need to have a good look at the policy of the USSR regarding the Kuwait, Syria and Yemen crises of 1961-1962 years; the supply of arms to the Arab states during the reporting period; economic and cultural cooperation between countries.

By the beginning of 1961, the Soviet Union managed to establish solid relationships and cooperation with such Middle East countries as the UAE and Iraq. Observing certain changes in relations with Cairo and Baghdad, at the XXII Congress of the CPSU (October 17-31, 1961), M.S. Khrushchev somewhat shifted the priorities of the USSR Middle East policy. Thus, the rhetoric concerning the Iraq dictator A. Qasim changed significantly – the main emphasis was on criticizing his policies; it was already assessed as reactionary, anti-democratic and anti-communist. At the same time, though a moderately positive assessment of the disintegration of the UAE was given, the philippics against the Egyptian leader G. Nasser were almost stopped. Apparently, because of the failure to forge an alliance with Iraq, the Soviet leadership sought to restore its former relations with Egypt.

Unlike the period of 1956-1958 years, marked by a number of serious international crises in the Middle East with the interference of superpowers, 1961-1964 years were often characterized as relatively calm in the life of the region. Partially that could be explained by the temporary decline of Arab nationalism. However, even over those four years the region of the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf was struck by several perturbations related to the regular attempts to implement pan-Arab projects or their collapse. During that period, the USSR made attempts to settle the Kuwait, Syria and Yemen crises in their favor. During those three regional crises, Moscow was still trying to eliminate Western influence in the region and/or support local nationalists.

In 1961-1964 years, military, economic and technical cooperation between Moscow and Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and Sanaa significantly increased. Despite the ideological disagreements with the local nationalist regimes, the Kremlin continued to provide them with economic, technical and military support. During the mentioned period, the all-round cooperation of the Soviet Union with the Arab states of the Middle East – the UAE, Syria, Iraq, Yemen continued to develop.

Cultural ties of the USSR with the Arab world were also developed. According to the documents of the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Moscow made considerable efforts to create the cultural background for its influence in Egypt. However, in general, while characterizing the cultural policy of the USSR, Soviet diplomats and employees of the International Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU noted the overt disparity between the amount of economic assistance to the UAE and propagandist work in it. The same was true of other countries of the Middle East.

By the time of the resignation of M.S. Khrushchev in October 1964, the main outlines of the Soviet foreign policy in the Middle East had been formed, and the USSR followed them until its disintegration in 1991.

How to Cite
KashtanovK. (2018). Arabic Vector of the Middle East Policy of the USSR in 1961-1964. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, 1(3 (23), 103-112. Retrieved from
World History and International Relations