117. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, April 13, 1956, 3 p.m.1


  • Soviet Aims in the Middle East


  • C—Mr. MacArthur
  • NEA—Mr. Allen
  • NEA—Ambassador Bohlen
  • O/FS—Mr. Hare
  • S—Mr. Russell
  • S/P—Mr. Mathews
  • NE—Mr. Burdett
  • EE—Mr. Blake
  • EUR—Mr. Lister
  • CIA—Mr. Roosevelt
  • CIA—Mr. Eichelberger
  • Defense—Captain Wagner
  • S/S–RO—Mr. Kirk

Ambassador Bohlen observed that the Soviets talked little about their policy in the Middle East and that our conclusions about it must be speculative.

The Ambassador said the Soviet leaders feel able to move diplomatically into areas which they could not get to before. Their efforts are on a government-to-government rather than on a party-to-party basis, and, in fact, he was not sure they desired communist regimes in some countries of the Middle East at this point.

The Ambassador noted that the Soviet Union was already in the Middle East and the problem was to control and counteract them in the area, not how to keep them out of it. He felt the Soviet Union did not want war in the area because of the danger of such a war spreading. The Soviet leaders feel that we are building up a war scare in the area in order to push them out of the Middle East. Due to their inexperience, the Soviets oversimplify and probably feel that an Arab-Israel war could not break out if the UK and the US did not wish it to.

The Ambassador stated that talks with the Soviets on the Middle East had produced no results because we have never gone to them with a real proposition. If the British tell Bulganin and Khrushchev that present Soviet tactics are undermining vital British interests in the Middle East and that Britain may have to take drastic action, the Soviet leaders might be prepared to talk seriously about the problem. If so, they would probably say that the US bases in the area and the Baghdad [Page 279] Pact threatened their security. The Soviets really fear the potentialities of the Pact, and the establishment of the Pact may have triggered their move on the arms deal. The accession of Iran to the Pact had really worried them. The Soviet leaders might agree to a conference similar to the Geneva Conference on Indochina, or a conference under the aegis of the UN which would replace the Baghdad Pact with UN or other multilateral guarantees.

After some discussion, it was agreed that Mr. Mathews would draft a paper examining the possible Soviet response to such an approach by the British and the possibilities of establishing such an arrangement.

During the course of the discussion, the Ambassador noted the Soviets now praised neutralism. They had not always done so, however, and it might be useful to dig up the Soviet 1943 proposals on how to push Turkey and Sweden into the war against Germany. Mr. Kirk was asked to do so.

  1. Source: Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518. Top Secret. Prepared in the Department of State but no further drafting information is given on the source text.