Gorbachev's Middle East Policy:
The Arab Dimension
Carol R. Saivetz
Following Mikhail S. Gorbachev's accession to power in March 1985, Soviet foreign policy changed dramatically. Based on "new political thinking," foreign relations in the late Soviet period aimed at lessening East-West tension and at creating an international environment conducive to perestroika at home. The Soviet acceptance of on-site verification and asymmetrical cuts in nuclear and conventional forces, the non-intervention in Eastern Europe in the fall of 1989, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and finally the search for solutions to regional conflicts were all signs of novoe myshlenie in action. This is not to say, however, that Moscow, prior to the abortive putsch of August 1991, completely abandoned older foreign policy objectives or that the Kremlin intended to withdraw from the Third World.
Until August 1991, this combination of the new and the old was readily apparent in the Middle East. On the one hand, the U.S.S.R. urged a peaceful resolution to the area's on-going conflicts and looked to coordinate positions with the United States. On the other hand, Moscow definitely indicated that it would not abandon its investment of over thirty years in the Arab world. Thus, Moscow's then on-going involvement in the area facilitates an understanding of the potential contradictions among the Kremlin's new and old policies and their impact on Soviet relations with the Arab states--for as long as the U.S.S.R. existed.
The first section of this chapter will explore those aspects of new thinking which relate directly to Third World activities. These include questions pertaining to conflict resolution and to the choices of foreign policy instrumentalities. The next section will survey Soviet policy toward the Arab states between March 1985 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The third section will look at Soviet policy toward the Persian Gulf crisis, with a view to assessing what it showed us about Moscow's conflicting pol-