Iraq Crisis Reflects Shift in World Alliances Soviet Condemnation of Iraq Signals New Policy Direction

By Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 1990 | Go to article overview

Iraq Crisis Reflects Shift in World Alliances Soviet Condemnation of Iraq Signals New Policy Direction


Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE Soviet Union has carefully signaled its support for the buildup of US and Western military forces in the Persian Gulf.

The dispatch of two warships from the Soviet Indian Ocean flotilla into the Gulf, diplomatic sources here believe, is a step toward joining a possible multinational naval blockade to enforce the United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

At this writing, there had been no official Soviet government response to the United States deployment of troops and aircraft into Saudi Arabia. Soviet press and other sources have indicated the Soviets would oppose a unilateral US assault on Iraq. But, says an informed diplomatic source, if Iraq goes into Saudi Arabia, the possibility goes up that the Soviets will intervene with the US in support of the Saudis.

Diplomatic sources say Secretary of State James Baker III called his Soviet counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, on Aug. 7, presumably to inform him about the US troop movements.

But the tone of the Soviet press commentary remains toughly anti-Iraq and largely supportive of the US response. The Soviet military daily Red Star carried a strongly worded analysis Aug. 8 of the military situation in the Gulf, written before the announcement of the US action.

"It turns out that Baghdad's statement on the withdrawal of its troops from Kuwait, even if it is really implemented, is nothing but eyewash, since a pro-Iraqi `Kuwaiti popular army' (with Iraqi volunteers) and the puppet government will stay there," Red Star said.

"Their task is evident: to consolidate the results of the armed invasion.... The international community cannot tolerate aggression, no matter who commits it."

The Red Star commentary praised US "restraint" so far in the crisis, crediting this to the change in Soviet foreign policy toward cooperation with the West. "It seems that they in the West are aware that military actions against Iraq would involve great difficulties and also are fraught with danger of a wider-scale war," the paper said.

The Iraqi invasion has clearly given Moscow an opportunity to revise its policy toward its long-time clients in the third world and to tighten ties to the West.

"It's a new turn of events," comments a knowledgeable Middle East diplomat. "What is uppermost in the minds of the Soviets today is cooperation with the West, seeing themselves as part of a new world order. They don't want to be outsiders anymore."

Mr. Shevardnadze said as much in a joint press conference with Secretary of State Baker at a Moscow airport Aug. 3.

"Despite the traditional good relations we've had with (Iraq), we are being forced to take these steps and make these statements, because what is being done in Kuwait and this aggression is inconsistent with the principles of new political thinking and, in fact, with the principles of civilized relations between nations. …

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