ABD AL-NASIR'S EGYPT AND THE SOVIET UNION: AN EGYPTIAN VIEW, 1952-1970. THE IMPACT OF DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ARAB SOCIALIST AND MARXIST-LENINIST IDEOLOGIES
AuthorKabbara, Mahmoud Farouk
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe Cold War and the Palestine question determined the course of Egyptian-Soviet entente, a course both tortuous and tragic. In pursuing the completion of Western containment of the Soviet Union, the United States and its allies proposed the inclusion of the Arab world in a Middle Eastern alliance which was directed against the Soviet Union but which ignored Arab anxieties about Israel, at whose hands the Arab nation had recently suffered a crushing defeat. Egypt, under the newly established revolutionary regime led by Jamal Abd al-Nasir, refused to join any military blocs. Instead, it opted for non-alignment. Following Egypt's lead, all Arab states except Iraq refrained from participating in the proposed alliance. In effect, Egypt succeeded in scuttling Western military arrangements, thereby incurring Western displeasure which was manifest in political, economic, and military pressures. The Soviet Union was impressed by Abd al-Nasir 's success. It overcame its initial suspicion of Abd al-Nasir 's military regime and decided to come to its aid in order to withstand Western pressures, thus connnencing a constant view which identified the survival of the Nasirist regime with the security of the Soviet Union. It extended military, economic, and diplomatic support to sustain Egypt's independent, non-aligned, anti-imperialist, and anti-colonial foreign policy which, in effect, worked to the detriment of Western interests. The primary determinant of this attitude was the security interest of the Soviet Union as a state involved in a global contest with the United States. Marxism-Leninism took a back seat to political decisions and was utilized to justify these decisions. Soviet ideologues responded to the calls of their political leaders and attempted to establish a lowest common ideological denominator which would justify Egyptian-Soviet cooperation. Accordingly, Egypt was gradually reevaluated until it was identified as a progressive state along the non-capitalist path of social development. Egypt's attitude toward the Soviet Union was equally pragmatic and was governed by strict compartmentalization. Abd al-Nasir never tired of clearly distinguishing between the Soviet Union as a state and the Soviet Union as the fortress and guardian of Marxism-Leninism. With the former he was willing to cooperate because of the convergence of interests. With the latter he consistently retained disdain and hostility. He refused even to tolerate Soviet relations with or Soviet intercession on behalf of Arab communists. When the Soviet Union defended them, it was engaged by Egypt's potent media machine in an unequal and eventually losing propaganda war. Only after the Soviet Union abandoned Arab communists to their fate did relations between the two countries deepen. The best proof of this contention may be found in the non-existence of a communist party in Egypt in 1970. Abd al-Nasir launched a social revolution in Egypt whose ideological underpinning was Arab Socialism. The adherents of Arab Socialism exerted every effort to distinguish it from Marxism-Leninism, both in principle and in application--especially those elements which dealt with Islamic justification, private property, and social harmony. This should be contrasted with the concerted Soviet endeavors to establish affinities between Marxism-Leninism and Arab Socialism. Both the Soviet Union and the United Arab Republic, as Abd al-Nasir 's Egypt was known, pursued opportunistic policies. The Soviet Union exploited UAR-Western conflicts. The UAR, similarly, exploited East-West rivalry. Ironically, however, these same conflicts and rivalries caused them to part company. This became abundantly clear in the aftermath of the UAR's defeat at the hands of Israel in June of 1967. The Soviet Union could not recover what Egypt had lost without a confrontation with the United States which would not permit a Soviet solution to the Palestine question. Conversely, the Soviet Union could not permit an American solution which the United States seemed able to achieve. The community of interests between the UAR and the Soviet Union was transformed by the consequences of the Six-Day War into a conflict of interests of the two states. Thus Egyptian-American rapprochement became inevitable. It was left to Anwar Sadat, Abd al-Nasir 's successor, to carry it out.
Degree ProgramGraduate College