How did the Soviet Union achieve such inroads in the Middle East which by virtue of its cultural and religious heritage should be sharply opposed to the extension of Communist influence? How did the Soviets win the image as the savior of the Arab world? Are Soviet gains in the Middle East merely transitory or does the future promise a further strengthening of the Soviet position and a continuing erosion of the U. S. presence?
Soviet interests in the Middle East have been conditioned by certain geopolitical factors that have influenced Russian policy since the days of the Tsars. While the contiguous Middle East countries have served as a buffer protecting Russia’s southern borders, they also proved to be a barrier toward Russia’s expansion southwards.
The advent of U. S. power in the Middle East and Mediterranean in World War II constituted a challenge to the age-old Russian ambitions of penetration of the Middle East and entry to warm water ports on an open sea. The erosion and eventually the withdrawal of U. S. power, particularly naval power, became Soviet aims.