Outlines the development of Soviet Middle East policy and discusses Soviet priorities in the region. Soviet posture since the Yom Kippur War has been low-keyed in the face of sharp reverses. Some options available: (1) precipitating a formal break with Egypt, (2) overtly sabotaging the American step-by-step settlement process; (3) persuading Arafat to endorse an ambiguous formula implying PLO acknowledgment of Israel's right to exist as a sovereign state within yet undefined borders, (4) resuming relations with Israel so as to inject itself into the step-by-step process, and (5) threatening to withdraw from the settlement process until the Arab parties concert a common policy. Most available alternatives entail high risks in exchange for dubious benefits and leave an upturn in Soviet fortunes dependent on the behavior of parties over which USSR has little control. Given the huge uncertainties and manifest pitfalls in the path of an American-brokered political solution, the present Soviet low profile posture is neither surprising nor entirely without prospects. 13 pp.
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