The United States and the
Soviet Union in the Middle East
Bernard Reich and Stephen H. Gotowicki
The relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Middle East was governed for more than four decades, from the end of World War II to the end of the Reagan presidency, by the Cold War, with all of the attendant assumptions, concepts, institutions, and policies essential to "fight" the Cold War. American views of the Soviet Union and of the Soviet bloc and the policy requirements deriving from that perspective formed the core of United States foreign and security policy worldwide. Wherever and whenever a policy was framed, and challenges were identified and met, the lens through which the policy was seen had a Soviet filter, with accompanying Cold War assumptions. This was particularly true in the case of the Middle East, which became a major venue of Soviet-American competition soon after the Cold War began. Over the course of more than four decades, the competition and rivalry of the superpowers in the Middle East was a central if not dominant theme in international relations.
The end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe cast doubt on prevailing assumptions and called into question the policies that were designed to deal with regional issues. Nowhere have these assumptions been more soundly challenged than in the Middle East.
The United States and the Soviet Union became the major external powers of consequence in the Middle East in the period since the end of World War II but particularly since the mid-1950s and the retirement of British and French influence from the region. The superpowers had similar and conflicting interests, and their policies often clashed, but they avoided direct conflict while their respective clients were involved in war. 1