The Decline of the Soviet Union and the Transformation of the Middle East

By David H. Goldberg; Paul Marantz | Go to book overview

states might, as their internal situations stabilized and their foreign policies grew more self-confident, ultimately adopt a relatively independent "European" position on the Middle East, closer to that espoused by the European Community than that of the United States. Meanwhile, new opportunities existed for the P.L.O. to forge direct ties to the leaders and Islamic populations of the newly independent republics of Central Asia. 78

Yet, none of these countervailing benefits seemed likely to materialize soon. Although the P.L.O. did succeed in quickly establishing diplomatic relations and exchange of mission agreements with Georgia and four of the Central Asian republics ( Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan), 79 it seemed unlikely that any of these countries could or would figure prominently in future Arab-Israeli diplomacy. In most of Eastern Europe, Palestinian relations were officially warm, but in practice of marginal importance. 80 In any event, given the political and economic strains attendant in the transformation of all these countries, domestic factors would predominate in the preoccupations of post-Soviet successor states for some time to come.

The same was true of Russia, the most important of the new states. Palestinians were not cheered by the leadership of Russian Republic president Boris Yeltsin, who had shown little interest in or sympathy for Palestinian aspirations. In any event, Palestinian reactions to the 1991 coup hardly endeared their cause to him. Russian policy seemed to be even more dominated by Washington than had that of the old Soviet Union, at least as far as the Middle East was concerned. Indeed, political confusion in Moscow meant that to the extent that a Russian Middle East policy existed, it was liable to confusing signals and unpredictable change, perched uncomfortably between the grandeur and influence of the past and the realities of the new world order. Due to bureaucratic and political paralysis, many decisions seemed to be made on the spot by Russian diplomats in the Middle East or at the United Nations. Commenting on the chaotic state of Russian foreign policy, one Palestinian diplomat exclaimed in frustration, "not even Mozambique does things that way." 81 This lack of Russian vision and the subordination to Washington's Middle East policy was made clear throughout the bilateral and multilateral components of the Arab-Israeli negotiations. Although Russia was, as successor to the Soviet Union, technically the cosponsor of the negotiations, it played little effective role in what was essentially an American diplomatic affair.


Conclusion

By the spring and summer of 1993, changing global and regional realities had combined to present the Palestine Liberation Organization with perhaps the gravest political challenge of its nearly three decades of existence. Not

-174-

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