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Volume :2 Issue : 5 1976      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE SOVIET UNION AND THE ARABIAN GULF REGION “ A Historical – Political Analysis”

Auther : Dr. Walid Al-Sherif

 
 
         The basic aim of this study is to review and analyze what is called the Open Door Policy, which is followed by the Soviet Union towards the Middle East in general and the Arabian Gulf region in particular, and which aims at increasing and consolidating Soviet influence in the Gulf Region.
 
         The writer believes that the economical and geo-strategic importance this region enjoys has been recently enhanced by two factors, namely: the final British withdrawal from this region in 1971, and the new facts which resulted from Arab Oil Embargo against the West during the October War in 1973.  The writer also believes that these very factors have created the opportunity for Soviet influence to penetrate into the region, a view which is supported by increased Soviet Naval strength in the Indian Ocean.
 
         The writer analyzes the history of the relations between the Soviet Union and the Gulf Region, so as to reach a deep understanding of the basic factors and considerations which controlled Soviet policy towards this region in the past, and to project correctly the future of these relations.
 
         Since the time of the Tzars, Russia was eager to obtain a part on the Arabian Gulf to secure an easy reach to the Indian Ocean.  But this attempt failed because of the strong British presence in the region.  Hence, the Tzars, and then the Bolsheviks, realized that the weakening of British influence in the region was the first step towards spreading theirs instead.  That is why the Russian, and then the Soviet, policy towards this region was always characterized by an anti-British, and later an anti-American outlook symbolized in mass media campaigns against Imperial Colonization and in frequent calls to the peoples of this region to revolt against Imperialism.  At the same time, however, the Soviets succeeded in establishing friendly relations with some states like Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and except for the period between 1946-1953, they tried to be friendly with the rulers of other states in the region, leaving the door open for any chance to establish friendly relations with any of these states.  And from 1956, the Soviets missed no chance to support the Arab cause, a condition that created a new and more favorable atmosphere for their presence in the region.
 
         But the failure of Soviet policy in Iraq during the reign of Abd Al-Karim Qasim, made the Soviets reconsider their policy towards this region.  And since 1961, this policy became more careful and more rational, and their strategy in this respect became more precise, so as not to miss any future chance to consolidate the Soviet influence in this region.  That is why the Soviet did not support the cause of Kuwait against Abd Al-Karim Qasim until the fall of Qasim.  This occasion opened a new era in the relations between the Soviet Union and the Arabian Gulf region.  Kuwait and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations in 1963 and since 1964 these relations were extended to embrace commercial and cultural fields.
 
         Until the early 1970’s the Soviet Union enjoyed self-sufficiency in oil, and was able provide the Socialist countries in Eastern Europe with their oil need.  Therefore, the Soviet did not attempt until that date to win oil concession in the Gulf region, but they were content to constantly try to motivate the states of this region to nationalize their oil resources, in the hope of getting rid of Western indirect influence practiced through Western oil companies.  But after the October war in 1973, the Soviet policy was radically influenced by two facts namely:
 
1.  Oil wealth in the Gulf region has a major economical and political effect on the balance of power, and, by virtue of its vast oil reserves, this region will remain a major factor in oil diplomacy.
 
2.  The greatest part of Soviet oil reserves lies in districts very far from oil industry centers, and by early 1980’s, the Soviet oil production will be below the local consumption by 100 million tons per year, not to say anything of the amounts which will be needed by the Socialist countries.
 
         Therefore, the Soviet Union and her allies are determined to get most of their oil needs from the Gulf region.  But since the Soviets lack the capital in foreign exchange and the highly developed technology of the West, that cannot seek oil concession in this region. Instead, they try to get their oil needs through the direct-exchange method.  That is, to offer their products at competitive prices in exchange for oil.  The writer believes that the current Soviet policy towards this region aims at protecting and developing Soviet interests without any harm being done to their several interest and friendly relations outside the region.
 
         As for future Soviet policy towards this region, the writer believes that it will be influenced by one, or more, of the following facts:
 
1.  Western influence is still present in this region, even though indirectly through oil companies.
 
2.  The Soviets are bound to keep to their Open Door policy and keep aloof from regional issues, so as to avoid anti-Soviet reaction on the part of some states in the region.
 
3The strong Soviet friendship with Iraq has a negative effect on developing friendly relations between other regional states and the Soviet Union.
 
4.  The majority of the states of this region are expected to be the sole owners of all means of production in the oil industry by the end of this decade.  This would, no doubt, be in the interest of the Soviet.
 
5.  Social and political changes in the region since the 1970’s and the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973, are new facts which encourage the increasing Soviet interest in the region.
 
6.  Future Soviet policy will, no doubt, take into consideration the fact that the West will be heavily dependent on the Gulf region as the major source of oil.

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