The period of the Cold War created an excellent opportunity to expand Soviet Union influence. One of the weakest and most dependent countries in the Middle East was Syria which was constantly powered by Western countries. During the Cold War period Syria and the Soviet Union developed a client- state relationship. Syria, unable to find assistance elsewhere turned to the Soviet Union and was able to receive economic aid, as well as, aid in the form of arms and military training. These aid packages created dependency on the part of Syria allowing the Soviet Union to establish influence over Syria.
What attracted the Soviet Union to the Middle East at the outset of the Cold War was not necessarily the pursuit of oil or the possession of the Holy Lands or even access to the Straits. It would seem that they were more interested in gaining influence over this area. With the fall of British and French empires the Middle East became what has been referred to as a power vacuum. Here was an opportunity for the Soviet Union to extend influence. They wished to provide an alternative option of support to local governments. Unlike historic Russian expansion, this was not a land issue this was about influence.
The original method of Russian expansion, as mentioned above, was to go into previous Russian territories. However, new ideas about expansion had developed in the Soviet era. Stalin considered the former colonies in the Middle East to be “marginal utility in the zero-sum game of international politics. ” Khrushchev initiated a policy of penetrating these former colonial areas. Brezhnev developed the idea of realism. He believed that the Soviet Union should look at the costs and gains associated with the economic, military, and political initiatives. While it is not clearly stated in any sources, it appears that this policy is what was carried out during the years of 1955 forward. This policy focused on defending investments against the West.
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