The Sovi­et-Israeli War, 1967 – 1973: The USSR’s Mil­i­tary Inter­ven­tion in the Egypt­ian-Israeli Conflict

Isabel­la Ginor and Gideon Remez
  • Review
By – November 2, 2017

The Sovi­et-Israeli War, 1967 – 1973: The USS­R’s Mil­i­tary Inter­ven­tion in the Egypt­ian-Israeli Con­flict by Isabel­la Ginor and Gideon Remez | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

In this book, Isabel­la Ginor and Gideon Remez con­tin­ue their inves­ti­ga­tion of Sovi­et mis­chief-mak­ing in the Arab – Israeli con­flict begun in their last book, Fox­bats Over Dimona.

In Fox­bats Over Dimona, the authors posit­ed that the Sovi­et Union did its best to insti­gate the Six-Day War — but was thwart­ed by the speed and scope of Israel’s light­ning vic­to­ry. The results of the Six-Day War proved to be a major embar­rass­ment for the Sovi­et Union; Israel’s deci­sive vic­to­ry was seen as a tri­umph of West­ern-sup­plied weapon­ry and tac­tics over Sovi­et ones. And even with strong Sovi­et sup­port fol­low­ing the war, the Sovi­ets were unable to dis­lodge Israel from any of the con­quered territories.

The Sovi­et-Israeli War chron­i­cles the enor­mous effort under­tak­en by the Sovi­et Union in the inter­war years (1967 to 1973) to pre­vent a recur­rence of a mil­i­tary deba­cle when the next Arab – Israeli war broke out. Giv­en the con­tin­ued ten­sion between the Arab world and Israel, most observers expect­ed the region to erupt in war at a future point. What was unknown (and unex­pect­ed) was that the next war would break out a mere six years after the rout of 1967.

The book focus­es not only on the new weapon sys­tems sup­plied to Egypt in the inter­war years, but also on the fact that Sovi­et mil­i­tary per­son­nel, so-called advi­sors,” oper­at­ed in tan­dem with Egypt­ian army units down to the low­est lev­els. In addi­tion, the Sovi­et advi­sors were sta­tioned along the entire length of the Egypt­ian side of the Suez Canal, which often became an active bat­tle zone. Sovi­et pilots made recon­nais­sance mis­sions over Israel, and air defense mis­sions over Egypt’s interior.

At the time, the full extent of Sovi­et involve­ment was denied by the Sovi­et Union, and it was in the inter­ests of the Unit­ed States and Israel to down­play the mat­ter. The Unit­ed States was still bogged down in the Viet­nam War, and Pres­i­dent John­son did not rel­ish the prospect of hav­ing to con­front the Sovi­et Union in yet anoth­er part of the world; Israel want­ed to keep things qui­et because rais­ing the mat­ter pub­licly might well have caused the Sovi­ets to dou­ble-down on their deploy­ment once the secret leaked. The Sovi­et-Israeli War relies in part on inter­views and state­ments of for­mer sol­diers who were based in the Suez Canal area in the inter­war years. Although every Sovi­et sol­dier assigned to Egypt dur­ing this peri­od was forced to eschew any pub­lic admis­sions con­cern­ing activ­i­ties in Egypt — or even the Sovi­et pres­ence in Egypt — there was a short inter­val fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union in which for­mer sol­diers were will­ing to dis­cuss their mission.

By focus­ing on the mas­sive Sovi­et effort and will­ing­ness to pro­vide its own man­pow­er, the authors shed light on an often-over­looked aspect of the Cold War, and demon­strate to what lengths the Sovi­et Union would go to sup­port its allies. In addi­tion, mod­ern Rus­sia may have adopt­ed the modus operan­di of the Sovi­et Union dur­ing the inter­war years as demon­strat­ed by its recent non-mil­i­tary” inter­ven­tions in both Crimea and the Ukraine. The Sovi­et-Israeli War is worth read­ing in order to under­stand just how such inter­ven­tions can be successful.

Gil Ehrenkranz is a lawyer in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia spe­cial­iz­ing in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions law and inter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tions. He has been pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in MID­STREAM Mag­a­zine includ­ing an arti­cle con­cern­ing Israeli mil­i­tary options regard­ing Iran’s nuclear weapons pro­gram., as well as in the Mid­dle East Review of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs

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