P0 L C Y B A C K GR 0 U N D
LIt. lIR Y
INTERVENTION THE THIRD PHASE
SflUI eT mA N;E l
S;AM-11115 MOVIE INPTO SUEZ CANAL BAfTTE ZON~E
EMBASSY OF ISRAEL
3uly 7, 1970
-SA14IIII MOVEINTOSUEZ ANALBATTL'ZON
RUSSIAN MILITARY INTERVENTION THE THIRD PHASE
SOViET-MANMNED SAN-II'S MOVE INTO SUEZ CANAL BATTLE ZNE
1. The Soviet operation of SA-III missiles against Israeli
aircraft in the Suez Canal battle zone represent a further
and unprecedented phase of direct Russian military eacelation.
The new SAM-III's are a part of the sophisticated g ound-te-
air missile system covering the Suez Canal sector which
Russian military personnel have helped set up in recent days.
Some details of the nwa system were revealed in a public
annoiunement on July 6 by the Chief of Staff of the Israel
Oafensa Forces, Lt. General Haim Bar-Ley. He .eaid
"3oint efforts have been made in recent weeks by
the Russians and the Egyptians to emplace ground-
to-air missiles in the area of the Canal with the
aim of depriving us.of freedom of action in tha.
air along the length of the Canal, and to enable
the Egyptiane to concentrate and secalate their
uar effort in this region. About a. dozen SA-II
missile batteries have been put into position, as.
well as at least another two SAM-III': batteries.,
designed to cover the SAM-II's of longer range.
We discovered the system fairly quickly and attacked
it. In these attacks three of our planes were hit
by SA-II missiles. I believe that five SAN-II
batteries received direct hits by our planes and
another two wera partially damaged..
"To the beat of our knowledge .the SAM-I :Le i
(manned by the .Russians. The SAM-II is, sue think,
manned by Egyptians, but there are a number of
Russian officers attached to each battery who serve
as more than advisors. The Russian hand is clearly
felt throughout the whole of this system, in design,
operation and direction of the batteries."
The: Chief of Staff Went on to state that -SAM-II's were :among
the hundreds of missiles that have been fired at Israeli air-
craft since the ground-to-air system was put into operation, on
the night of June 29-30. Its range covers the central
:sector of the Suez Canal.
Three Phases of acalaston
2. The emplacement of the missile system to cover the Canal
battle zone represents the third phase in the progression of
aescalatory military steps undertaken directly by the Soviets.
ain:e fMarch. .In that month Russia first introduced ite SA -
lIIs into the Egyptian heartland and brought in thousands of
Aii4tary personnel to install and man them.
The second phase came in mid-April huan Russian :pi.tI,
beaed on Egyptian airfields and flying !ig-21':a, began carrying
out combat missions over Egyptian esitpace, with orders to
intercept and engage Israeli planes, thus assuming responsibility
for the air defense of the Egyptian interior. Thie, in turn,
released RNaeser':s resources in order to resume his strategy of
attrition after a period of deescalation that Iarael.a air .
responses had brought about. Freed from the need to disperse
his forces inside Egypt, Nasser was able to move unite from the
rear into the Canal zone. These included SAM-II's which had
been emplaced around. military installations inside Egypt, as
wvel as a substantial number of anti-aircraft unite.
What has now uocour"ed the extBMnson of-the ground to-ixr
missile n-atork fPrO the Egyptian heartland to cover. the Canal
proper.- is the latest manifestation of the Soviet decision to
provide direct military support to the Egyptian armed forces.
In so doing, the Soviet Union has registered tuo new facts:
t has nou, itself, entered thie war of attrition aga.eint aer:el
as a :diect belligerent; end it has escalated that: Sar to new
and crucial height.
3. In the view of the Israeli analysts, this contingency wes
rendered inevitable as the Soviet build-up continued through
March, April, May and Jun: without vigorous coniurse f:roM the
UWet. Already in Match the trend of direct Soviet military
involvement began to emerge, end it was clear that in the absence
of some appropriate response the Soviets would continue to
salate i:their presence. Israel, on its part, had mlad an urgent
aee fo:r additional aircraft. supplies. It had asked the U.S.
for plane, knowing all tooe well that, without them, the:. already
fragile arms balance would deteriorate to a perilous degree.
It believed, too, that their supply at that time, in March,
would have served to effectively demonstrate to Russia that its
act had not gone unregistered. Instead, on RMrch 23, a.orl than
a ueek after Rulsian SAN-I1. 's and combat unit: had ent.teed
Egypt, Washington announced that the decision on lsraul'e air-
craft request .uas being held jin: abeyance." This, plu the
assertion that the :SA-l : i:asiles had been installed in Egypt
for 'defensive' purposes only, opened the way for further
Soviet esca.la:tion. ZIsael atongly contested the U.S. assesent.
It argued that the instalai o enof ?the issiles urn an aggressive,
not a defensive act; that they were there in support of Nasear's
offensive attrition strategy and hence must be seen as fulfilling
an offensive function. This was soon proven to be correct whan
Nasser resumed his attrition war during that same month. By
labelling the missiles 'defensive', a degree of license was
accorded the very Russian military presence, and Roscow
interpreted it in this light.
Israeli spokesmen expressed the view that the apparent
tolerance towards the Soviet positioning of combat unite and
missiles in Egypt, coupled with the vacillation displayed towards
Israel's legitimate aircraft needs, must inevitably invite
further Soviet boldness. This fear was expressed in a "Policy
Background" paper issued by this Embassy on March 26, after the
public announcement that the decision on Israel's order for air-
craft was being held in abeyance. The following observation
"Certainly, the U.S. decision is rendered particularly
grave when measured against the Russian actions to
increase the Arab military potential, backed by an
increased Soviet military presence in Egypt. The
absence of a positive U.S. response to Israel's request
for aircraft at this time is liable to be interpreted
by the Soviet Union as an assurance that its continued
military and political support for the Egyptian "
attrition strategy may go forward and be further
intensified without hindrance.,
Regrettably, the forecast proved correct. A few weaks later,
in mid-April, the Russians began flying their combat missions over
Egyptian skies. Once again, this phase-two of the Russian
involvement entered into effect with hardly a ripple of canaura,
thus emboldening the Soviats to proceed to the third phase, namely
the installation of the SAM-II and SAM-III missiles covering the
Canal area. One must but assume that the Soviets are now waiting
to see what concrete response, if any, their latest action is
going to evoke. It might be reasonably predicted that if the
response is again to be passive they will push on to stage four,
and the prospect of Soviet pilots entering the Canal zone proper
and beyond is not to be discounted.
The Soviet-Egyotian Alliance
4. Much as it may ring obsolete in terminology and strategy,
tha fact is that Russia is playing power politics in the Middle
East and it cannot be expected to daeecalate unless given
3ULY 7, 1970
reasonable cause to do so. What it seeks is hegemony and out
of this ambition stems the intrinsic alliance of interests
between the Soviet leaders and Nasser. Through this alliance,
President Nasser is provided by the Soviet Union with all the
support, military and political, direct and indirect, to wield
the power he seeks as the unchallenged regional ruler. He, in
return, has provided the Soviets with the base they have long
sought to penetrate teo Middle East in depth and establish
hegemony over it. The quest for dominion of the one is the
instrument for the expansion of power and influence of the other.
Hence the Soviet refusal to cooperate with, promote, or even
entertain any plan for a settlement that might lead to a true end
lasting peace. What the Russians seek is to dictate the terms of
a new Mideast order, one uhich in deference to the client states
will deny Israel both peace and security.
This explains why Russia has entered Egypt, why it has now
engaged directly in the battle against Israel, and why it will
continue to escalate that battle unless given grounds to desist.
The immediate arena is the war of attritibn. The goal, however,
is hegemony in the Middle East, to be achieved in either of two
ways: The dictation of a Soviet-styled settlement by political
measures, or the subjugation of Israel by military measures with
the Soviet Union providing the assistance necessary to make Arab
arms effective. In both oases, the Soviet predominance over the
region will have been achieved.
This is the crux of the issue now being contested along the
Suez Canal cease-fire line. Immediately at hand is the attempt
to rest control of the Canal region airspace from Israel'
hands, the command of the air being the key element in Israel's
ability to maintain the cease-fire line. The Soviets have come
a long way in providing Egypt with assistance towards that end.
The battle is a crucial one because on its outcome depends
the future national integrity of democratic Israel and also, in
large measure, the future course of the Middle East as a whole.
Israel's position has been clearly enunciated. It has made
plain its resolve not to be intimidated or deterred, but will
continue to defend itself along the cease-fire lines for the
sake of its own security and eventual lasting peace.
JULY 7, 1970