5 JULY 1975, Page 4

Russian arms policies

Sir: Nicholas Ridley MP (The Spectator, June 21) performed a signal service to true understanding of Middle East issues by drawing attention to (among other things) the real reason for the Egyptian and Syrian attempts to obtain control once again of the Sinai Desert and Golan Heights. Egyptian and Syrian propaganda in fact has been so strident and incessant on the matter that many actually believe that both these countries have some sort of sentimental interest in the Sinai and Golan, whereas, of course, the only real use they have ever made of these vast and empty territories is to utilise them as a means of either threatening or attacking Israel.

'Another of Mr Ridley's important points, a point not nearly appreciated enough, is the "Russian policy of pouring arms into every part of the world where someone is prepared to fire them against the West . ." And while all this is (unfortunately) only too true, and treated with far too much complacency in the West, I was yet sorry to 19 note your correspondent to a certain extent equating America with Russia in their Middle East arms policies. For the policy of the USSR there, as everywhere, is one of aggression, overt as well as covert (hence the unlimited arms they poured into Egypt and Syria before and after the Yom Kippur attack on Israel) whereas American policy has been to restrict arms to Israel, and also of course, to bring about peace in the ME (albeit at Israel's expense).

In all this it should not be forgotten that the détente policies agreed between the USA and the USSR in April 1972 provided for both countries not only to diminuate tensions but also to notify each other of potential war dangers in their respective spheres of influence, with Russia (as per the most recent Institute of Strategic Studies ME publication) completely aware of Arab war plans — and moroever aiding them by placing arms at their disposal both quality and quantity wise unknown even by Warsaw Pact standards — but yet failing to inform the White House of an impending Arab attack.

As regards the Russian bending of the detente agreement, who has ever heard of any dictatorial power caring for the niceties of international agreements? And it must be said that if the Americans are guilty of anything at all in the Middle East (as elsewhere) it is the tendency of Dr Kissinger and others like him to place any trust whatsoever on a regime which, throughout its history has cynically and callously "done its own thing" with Moscow's backing of the invasion of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese a case in point. In its ME policy, the Soviet Union has been motivated by two factors; one to provide an easy means of getting its Black Sea naval forces to the Indian Ocean and two, to smash the Western oil position by making Western communications to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf impossible in any times of stress or war. In this connection it seems to me that far from its being a question of Israel or oil, as Nicholas Ridley described American thinking on the Middle East, it is rather a question of the existence of a strong and secure Israel being the greatest help to the West in its struggle to ensure continuity of oil supplies. It is high time indeed that the West (and in fact the Arab oil-bearing countries themselves) realised that the danger to their oil is the Soviet Union and its Pan Arab allies such as Egypt and Iraq; countries who have displayed in the past, and who would no doubt display in the future, covetous eyes on the oil resources of the Arabian Peninsula, the Arab Emiratates and Libya come to that. It is customary to write of Western "imperialism," but in fact when studying Soviet and Pan-Arab policies it is they who are being imperialistic in their attempts to take over, by fair means or foul, countries adjoining them in a bid to extend their lands and resources.

And while writing of the dangers to the West of rampant Soviet imperialism in the Middle East may I also comment on Commander Young's letter (June 28) in which he had the nerve (or ingenuousness) to try to persuade us that just because the Soviet Union has proposed an Indian Ocean policy of dismantling bases there that they actually believe in it. I know it is part of Communist and/or neo-Communist policy to try and "fool all the people all the time" but most of us — surely — must be aware of the lengths to which the Soviet Union has gone in order to control both the Northern and Southern approaches to the Suez Canal with this meaning in turn controlling communications to the Persian Gulf, the entire Indian Ocean and the Southern Hemisphere. It must be well known — surely — that as the West has withdrawn from Middle East bases so has the Soviet moved in, or tried to in most cases. Aden and the island of Socrata, vital areas guarding the Southern end of the Suez Canal are examples of this with Russian forces also firmly ensconced in Somalia (as evidenced by last week's American satellite photographs revealed to the press). Elsewhere on the African continent they have supplied arms to Uganda on a fairly massive scale (and not because of ideological reasons, needless to say!) and off the African mainland the USSR has established naval base facilities in he Seychelles and Mauritius, not forgetting the fact that they are attempting to do the same in Mozambique. A similar pattern exists with Iraq, with a special port built by the Red Navy near Basra at the Northern end of the Gulf (no doubt in exchange for supplying the Iraqais with arms with which to vanquish the Kurds), and with a similar pattern in the Mediterranean where they have been allowed to build a base at Mersa Matruh on the Egyptian litoral (again in return for the supply of arms) with this also taking place in Syria, where Red forces have the use of Latakia as a naval base. And this is not forgetting the latest Russian attempt to control the Southern end of the Med. by promising arms to Libya on a massive scale — the same Libya that has declared its hatred of communism time and time again.

All this is indeed but part of the story of Soviet attempts to complete a stranglehold of Western communications to the East and if possible to establish a unilateral USSR hold on an area that is of paramount importance to the West (especially in view of the end of the Simonstown agreement). I think then, that the Americans will be excused if they seek some sort of protection for the West by acquiring base facilities at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and I also think that the public at large will be pardoned if we find the apologias of Commander Young and Co. on behalf of the Soviet Union rather sickening.

Morris Gershlich 29 The Drive, Westcliffe-on-Sea, Essex.