Soviet Threats to Intervene in the Middle East 1956-1973

by Francis Fukuyama

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An analysis of the six instances in which the Soviet Union threatened to intervene in the Middle East between 1956 and 1973 (the Suez crisis, the Syrian-Turkish crisis, the Lebanese-Iraqi crisis, the June War, the War of Attrition, and the October War) indicates that Moscow was bluffing in each case. The climactic Soviet threat was consistently issued after the peak of the crisis had passed, when the Soviets knew there would be little chance of their having to carry through on it. The perceived American reaction was the single most important factor restraining Soviet willingness to intervene. The cautious behavior was due to Moscow's perception that the West's stake in the Middle East was greater than its own. The Soviets have exhibited similar behavior in other instances where the balance of political stakes was similar, such as the Taiwan Straits crisis of 1958 and the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese war.

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