9. Paper Prepared by Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff1

ANALYTICAL SUMMARY

A US Strategy for the Region of the Soviet Southern Flank

In response to your requests at the SRG meeting on NSSM 182, the State Department has produced a short paper (immediately [Page 52]following) on what regional strategies might look like if we were to think in terms of the entire area from the Indian subcontinent to the eastern Mediterranean and Horn of Africa. This paper is essentially a think-piece which tries to define possible strategies. Once an approach is defined, the next stage would be to think through in more detail what courses of action one might follow in implementing such strategies. The paper now contains a variety of suggested actions to illustrate the differences between the two suggested strategies, but their purpose at this point is essentially illustrative.

The principal issue is how to define the strategies. This has been difficult and there has not been agreement. This summary will describe the issue. At sub-tabs in the attached State paper you will find alternative formulations—one is State’s, the other is mine.

Following is a summary of the main points in the paper:

I. How the Soviets see the region.

The paper judges that, while both the US and USSR take actions that affect the entire region, the Soviets probably have less of an integrated concept of the region than we do. They tend to see it in two ways: (1) as a part of the Asian rimland stretching from Turkey to Korea which is vital to them both because parts of it lie along Soviet borders and because other parts encircle China; or (2) as a series of individual countries or conflict situations toward which they must develop policy approaches. They have several interests:

—Their general determination to play a global role compels them to want to assure that no important decisions can be taken here, as elsewhere, without Soviet interest being taken into account.

—The paramount Soviet interest here is national security.

—A third objective is the avoidance of any risk of nuclear conflict in this area.

—The Soviets also have an interest in the current pursuit of détente with the West. But while the inter-related concerns of security and détente have had some impact on Soviet actions in the area, this impact has been differentiated by area and activity. Nowhere does the Soviet pursuit of détente seem to have played a major constraining role on efforts to increase Soviet influence.

—The Chinese impact on Soviet policy is not, on balance, a bad one from the US viewpoint. It reinforces the current Soviet leaders’ predilection to be a status quo power, to discourage regional conflicts or even domestic turbulence which might provide Peking with opportunities for anti-Soviet exploitation. Probably above all, Moscow is concerned about the prospects of Sino-US collusion in the area.

Thus, the paper concludes that the Soviets lay claim in the Middle East to at least equal influence with the US and in South Asia probably feel that they are entitled to preeminence. Their success in the final analysis will depend on how well they satisfy the aspirations of the [Page 53]individual countries there. On this, the prospects do not look bright, at least without cooperation rather than competitive rivalry with the West and the US in particular.

II. How the US views the region.

Historically, the US has formulated its policies toward this region on the basis of two perceptions, often held simultaneously, never fully reconciled and sometimes in conflict:

—One perception has been that the Soviet threat is the overriding reality with which we must deal. In this view, conflicts, rivalries and alignments within the region are secondary considerations subordinate to the Soviet factor when it comes to assigning priorities and making policy choices.

—The second perception has been that the separate sets of local conflicts and problems within the region arising largely from indigenous factors constitute the overriding realities with which we must deal. Policies based on this perception have emphasized strengthening our bilateral relationships across the board while seeking to defuse or resolve local conflicts and to keep a foot in both camps in local conflict situations.

The paper points out that a further characteristic of the US view of this region has been a tendency to compartmentalize our approach into sets of largely, though not exclusively, separate subregional policies in South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf, the Arab-Israeli area and the Horn of Africa. While we have tended to a compartmentalized view of the region, the leaders and governments in the area often do not see it this way. It is one of the new elements on the scene that there is a complex of cross-regional relationships that suggest that we need to broaden our perception of the region in recognition of that fact that our compartmentalized view does not accord with the perceptions of many of those in the area.

One other major new element in the equation of US-Soviet relations in this region is the presumed Soviet desire to avoid situations that will seriously jeopardize US–USSR bilateral relations and détente in Europe and could foster the coalescence of a US-Chinese community of interests in this region. The priority the Soviets attach to these new considerations and the price they are prepared to pay for them in this region in terms of modifying their traditional policies remain to be seen.

III. Toward a Regional Strategy.

Since there is disagreement on how alternative strategies might be formulated, you will find one formulation in the attached State paper under the sub-tab marked “State Strategy” and a second possible formulation which I have written under the sub-tab marked “Alternative Strategy.”

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In brief, the State Department paper poses the two strategies in this way:

Strategy 1. “We can base our policies on the view that, to protect our interests in the region, we need to move more actively to counter the Soviets where we believe those interests threatened. While continuing to seek improvements in our bilateral relationships in the region and the elimination of sources of local tension, we would not let such considerations stand in the way of actions we deemed necessary to carry out the main thrust of this strategy.”

Strategy 2. “We can base our policies on the view that our interests will best be served and Soviet influence checked and reduced by concentrating on the resolution of local conflicts and the improvement of our bilateral relationships where they are unsatisfactory in the region. This strategy would be based essentially on the premise that (1) local conflicts, in which the Soviets align themselves with one side, have been a principal vehicle for the expansion of Soviet influence, and (2) once the pressures of those conflicts are relieved, the forces of nationalism and fear of Soviet domination will operate to limit Soviet inroads.”

The shortcoming of these formulations is that they are not real alternatives. One says we should counter the Soviets and the other says we should counter the Soviets by reducing local tensions. It seems to me (Saunders) that one can assume that we will be working to increase our influence relative to the Soviets and that the issue is how to do it. Therefore, I have tried two different formulations and put them under the State paper as an alternative ending to the paper. My formulations would go as follows:

Strategy 1. We could base our policies on the view that it is, above all, important for the US to be identified as much as possible with those nations in the area historically friendly toward us and with the power to dominate their respective neighborhoods. This approach would be a sort of neo-containment strategy. By providing strong support to current points of strength across a wider area now that the USSR has leap-frogged CENTO, we would try to close the Soviets’ option of extending their influence through the military adventures of proxies in the area. This approach would give the US a capacity through these friends to encourage their use of force in support of other friendly governments without necessarily involving ourselves militarily. It would also provide for the assertion of influence in non-military ways since those countries that would be identified as points of strength are also nations of considerable economic weight.

Strategy 2. We could base our policies on the view that, while building a strong relationship with the military powers in the area, we would concentrate on encouraging the widest possible network of associated states friendly to us. Many of these relationships are already being cultivated by the leaders in the area—Shah-Hussein, Shah-Bhutto, Shah-Faisal, Hussein-Faisal, Jordan-Oman, Iran-Oman, Pakistan-Iran-Saudi Arabia-Abu Dhabi-Jordan, Saudi Arabia-Egypt, Israel in unique ways with Iran, Jordan, Turkey and even Lebanon.

The assumption of this strategy of promoting regional associations is that it would provide the most durable means of enabling the nations [Page 55]of the region to absorb any Soviet thrust. In promoting these associations, we would recognize that sometimes this might require us to give the major regional powers something less than total and unquestioning support. We would also have to recognize that this strategy would require more careful and continuous attention to policy in this region than the first strategy above.

These may not provide the most desirable formulations of possible US strategies, but they do seem closer to what is going on in the area and what we have to work with there.

I would recommend that we and State take another crack at these formulations after hearing your views. It would help to know what issues concern you in relation to your dealings with the Soviets and Chinese on global issues.

Harold H. Saunders

Attachment

Paper Prepared in the Department of State

A U.S. STRATEGY FOR THE REGION OF THE SOVIET SOUTHERN FLANK, FROM THE SUBCONTINENT TO THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN AND HORN OF AFRICA

I. How the Soviets See the Region

In an area as diverse as the Region from the Subcontinent to the Eastern Mediterranean and Horn of Africa, no power can have a totally unified view of the Region or a single policy toward it. Both the U.S. and the USSR do, however, take actions that affect the Region in the broader sense, and fit its component parts into some sort of framework for analytical purposes. For a variety of reasons, the Soviets probably have less of an integrated concept of the Region than do we. Over the last two years we have more and more looked at the Middle East, Persian Gulf, Arabian Peninsula and South Asia in overall strategic terms, while recognizing each of the aforementioned areas has problems unique to its own immediate concerns in an increasingly overlapping context. The Soviets tend to see the Region through two focuses:

—As part of the Asian rimland stretching from Turkey to Korea that is of vital concern to them both because parts of it lie along Soviet borders, and other parts of it encircle China. Moscow has increasingly focused on this concept of Asia in recent years—Brezhnev’s advocacy of an Asian security system is the best known expression of this concern.

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—As a series of individual countries or conflict situations toward which the USSR must develop policy approaches. This traditional approach remains the mainstay of Soviet policy and provides the framework within which we and they have, so far at least, interacted.

Thus there is probably no precise, overall Soviet “grand design” peculiarly tailored to the Region under discussion. As elsewhere, Soviet policy is largely opportunistic, exploiting what opportunities it perceives filtered through its special amalgam of national interests and Communist dogma. The probable absence of a precise, overall “grand design,” however, may make little difference. Diverse considerations of both a global and a regional nature in fact impinge on large parts of the Region. Regional states are themselves forming ties across the various segments of the Region. Consequently, we need to take account of the various factors that bear upon Soviet activities in the Region with varying degrees of intensity.

—The USSR is fully determined to play to the hilt its new role as one of the world’s two super and global powers. As Gromyko has put it, the Soviets contemplate a world where no important decisions can be taken without the interests of the Soviet Union being taken into account. But the Soviets have definite priorities:

—Paramount is USSR national security. This is a dominating motivation in Soviet policy toward the countries on the USSR’s southern border, and an important consideration in Moscow’s Middle East policy generally.

—A second overriding objective, and the major mutual interest the Soviets share with the U.S., is to avoid any serious risk of nuclear conflict.

—Still another Soviet consideration is Moscow’s current pursuit of détente with the West. Brezhnev has described it as basic strategy, not tactics, and for a variety of reasons this seems to be true. It is added reason for Soviet restraint on such critical issues as the Arab-Israeli conflict, and also on other issues in the area which are of vital concern to the West. For example, the Soviets are unlikely to disrupt Middle East oil supply to the West, even if they could, and the more so since they are currently in no position to replace the West either as consumer or broker. They would certainly like to have a major voice eventually in the disposition of the area’s energy supplies, which in the long run they may need themselves. They certainly entertain this fond expectation, but as a distant goal and not feasible within the next ten years at least.

The China factor looms large in Soviet foreign policy formulation, but its importance also varies according to area and country. China is not of major significance for Moscow in the Arab-Israeli conflict or other important Middle East issues simply because the Chinese do not [Page 57]have the capability to exert major influence in these areas. However, Moscow’s concern about China is of paramount importance in Soviet policy formulation on the subcontinent, and probably also in Moscow’s desire to extend its influence into the Indian Ocean.

The China impact on Soviet policy is not, on balance, a pernicious one from the point of view of U.S. interests. To the contrary, it reinforces the current Soviet leaders’ predilection to be a status quo power, to discourage regional conflicts or even domestic turbulence in individual countries which might provide Peking with opportunities for anti-Soviet exploitation. Probably above all, Moscow is concerned about the prospect of Sino-U.S. collusion in regional conflicts in the area such as it professed to see in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

The interrelated concerns of security and détente have had some impact on Soviet actions in the area, but this impact has been differentiated by area and activity. In the Middle East, the Soviets are much more acutely aware of the security problem and the danger of confrontation with the U.S. Their posture there emphasizes military aspects and is more cautious. In South Asia, their approach is more political and under fewer restraints since they see less risk of a collision with the U.S. Nowhere, however, has the Soviet pursuit of détente thus far played a major constraining role on efforts to increase Soviet influence through such time-honored techniques as military and economic assistance. And nowhere in the area does the USSR grant the U.S. pride of place. In the Middle East, they lay claim to at least equal influence, and in South Asia probably feel that they are entitled to preeminence. In the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula, they are seeking to consolidate their positions in Iraq and, by their support of Aden and military assistance programs to Somalia, attest to the strategic importance they attach to the tip of the Arabian Peninsula and entrance to the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula.

The Soviets will seek to pursue their traditional tactic of exploiting regional disputes to further their own influence, endeavoring simultaneously to work both sides of the fence. They will take advantage of the special opportunity that Iraq offers them to advance their interests in the Middle East and Persian Gulf area, while at the same time striving to maintain good relations with Iraq’s major rival, Iran, and getting the Shah accustomed to live with the situation. Moscow appears to want to show some greater even-handedness toward India and Pakistan, even though it is obvious that in a crunch India will be favored. The Soviets also endeavor to take advantage of Somalia’s concerns and ambitions vis-à-vis its neighbors to obtain facilities that will enhance Soviet strategic capabilities in the Indian Ocean, yet they carefully cultivate Somalia’s neighbors. And Soviet exploitation of the conflict between the two Yemens, and between South Yemen and [Page 58]Oman, has the same objectives and is characterized by the same attempt to maintain a balance on both sides. The tactic to date has been highly successful in expanding Soviet influence into the area, reinforcing its geopolitical advantages and in giving the USSR a voice as major arbiter in its affairs.

Soviet standing in the final analysis will, however, depend on how successful Moscow is in satisfying the aspirations of the individual countries there. Here the prospects do not look too bright, at least without cooperation rather than competitive rivalry with the West, and the U.S. in particular. Moscow’s impotence in achieving progress toward a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been demonstrated in Soviet unwillingness to run risks of major confrontation and their inability to influence the major country in the equation—Israel. Their presence in the volatile Arab countries of the Middle East is tenuous, as the example of Egypt has shown, and involves a heavy political/economic commitment. And Moscow’s hope to be the major arbiter of affairs on the subcontinent could raise the prospect of heavy economic commitments to India which could impose a serious burden on Soviet resources. In sum, the Soviets are on the make, but are paying a price, and the price is constantly going up.

II. How the U.S. Views the Region

Historically, we have formulated our policies in this Region on the basis of two perceptions, often held simultaneously, never fully reconciled and sometimes in direct conflict.

One perception has been that the Soviet threat is the overriding reality with which we must deal. In this view, conflicts, rivalries and alignments within the Region are secondary considerations, not to be ignored but subordinate to the Soviet factor when it comes to assigning priorities and making policy choices. It is largely this perception that has led us to sponsor and support regional defense groupings (the abortive Middle East Defense Organization, the Baghdad Pact and CENTO) and to concentrate on strengthening militarily key states in the Region opposed to the Soviets or to Soviet-supported neighbors (Ethiopia, Israel, Turkey, Iran and—until 1965—Pakistan).

The second perception has been that the separate sets of local conflicts and problems within the Region, arising largely from indigenous factors, constitute the overriding realities with which we must deal. In this view the Soviet factor—while not to be ignored—is often a kind of secondary infection rather than a primary cause, so that measures to cope with it directly must be subordinate to policies aimed at dealing with local situations within the Region. Policies based on this perception have emphasized strengthening our bilateral relationships across-the-board while seeking to defuse or resolve local conflicts and to keep a foot in both camps in local conflict situations.

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When these two perceptions (and the policies flowing from them) have come into conflict in deciding how we should act or respond in specific situations, the former has historically tended to prevail. The result has often been that our perceived need to demonstrate strength directly and/or through our friends vis-à-vis the Soviets has exacerbated certain of our bilateral relationships in the Region and limited our ability to influence the resolution of local conflicts.

A further characteristic of the U.S. view of this Region has been a tendency to compartmentalize our approach into sets of largely (though not exclusively) separate sub-regional policies. This approach has changed in the last eighteen months in the aftermath of the British exodus from the Gulf, the upsetting of the balance in South Asia, and the increasing awareness of our energy resource needs from the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Thus a brief description of our policies in the Region would look something like this:

A. South Asia—disengage from an active U.S. role, let the Simla process work, and adopt a low-key posture in our bilateral relations.

B. Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf—play a supportive role in fostering a regional security consciousness and cooperative measures among the states of this sub-region; strengthen key states militarily—Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait—against the threats they perceive to themselves and their neighbors from Soviet-supported states in the area; seek to deepen our relations with the key oil producers to safeguard our energy supplies, and to insulate this sub-region from the spillover effects of the Arab-Israel problem.

C. Arab-Israel—encourage a negotiating process among the parties leading to a political settlement or, failing that, to agreement on interim steps that will defuse the situation; meanwhile safeguard the ceasefire by maintaining the military balance through military supplies to Israel, and strengthen the Arab moderates (Jordan and Lebanon) to withstand radical pressures.

D. Horn of Africa—continue to give priority to close relations with Ethiopia and Kenya while seeking to broaden our dialogue with Somalia and encouraging resolution of Somali-Ethiopian problems within an African context.

The leaders and the governments in the area see matters primarily in overall regional strategic terms, and there is a deep suspicion of Soviet-sponsored subversion, a lingering fear that détente will blur America’s perception, awareness and responsiveness to continued Soviet probes of soft spots and creeping expansionism. The Shah is concerned not only about the Gulf but also about Pakistan and the threat he sees from Soviet-Indian ties. India is seeking to strengthen ties with Iraq. Pakistan has tightened its links with Iran and has military assistance relationships with Jordan and Arab Gulf states. Saudi Arabia [Page 60]and Egypt have increasingly close ties, and Sadat is seeking to enlist Faisal’s political as well as financial and rhetorical support in the Arab-Israel context. Hussein is looking increasingly eastward to his role in the Lower Gulf, Oman and Yemen, and has special ties with the Shah. Israel maintains a close relationship with Iran and Ethiopia and also has ties with Turkey—a quadrumvirate which in Israeli strategic thinking should, with U.S. backing, constitute the basic structure for countering Soviet inroads into the Region. In Ethiopia, the Emperor sees his country not just as an African country with African interests but as a bastion in the path of Soviet ambitions in the Near East.

The foregoing observations suggest that we need to heighten even more our perceptions of the overall strategic elements of the Region in recognition of the fact that a compartmentalized view does not accord with the perceptions of many of those in the area, which need to be taken into account in our approach to the Region and to our relations with them. This broadened perception makes sense independent of any Soviet role or overall Soviet perception, although it could be most useful in dealing with Soviet trans-regional activities. At the same time we should recognize the basic instability of most of the states of the region and that their perceptions, consequently, are liable to sudden change—e.g., following the division of Pakistan or the overthrow of the Mosadeq regime in Iran.

Finally, our thinking and approach must also take into account the new emphasis in the equation of U.S.-Soviet relations in this Region which has not been historically present. This is the presumed Soviet desire to avoid situations that will seriously jeopardize U.S.-Soviet bilateral relations and détente in Europe and could foster the coalescence of a U.S.-Chinese community of interests in the Region. The priority the Soviets attach to these new considerations and the price they are prepared to pay for them, in terms of modifying their traditional policies in the Region, remain to be seen but should be tested. Certainly the Soviets will not easily abandon those policies, if at all—the exploitation of local tensions; the provision of arms, economic aid and political support to tie countries of the Region to them; the probing for weak spots to undermine the U.S. position and extend their own. Today the Soviets are pursuing a policy of seeking to disarm the West and Europe while trying to maintain, develop and enhance their position in the Middle East, South Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. They can do this today with less risk of confrontation with the U.S. than in times past.

Modification of such Soviet policies would help the U.S. position in the Region, which is certainly not a goal of Soviet strategy. The extent to which they may nevertheless be prepared to move in this direction will depend on their assessment of the relative costs and [Page 61]benefits of not doing so—an assessment which will in turn depend on the extent to which we are prepared to take risks to make those costs and benefits clear to them. Also, of course, the Soviets will expect us to make reciprocal concessions. The Soviets are acting now in the area on the assumption that there is wide strategic latitude, and they have not been particularly inhibited—short of confrontation—in seeking to exploit opportunities in the area. For example, to compensate for the Egyptian loss there has been a meaningful increase of Soviet supply of Syria and a continuance of Soviet supply of Iraq and Aden. Even in Afghanistan—while there is no evidence they had a direct hand in the coup—no such coup could take place without at least the acquiescence of the Soviets who have military advisors at every level of the Afghan Army.

III. Toward a Regional U.S. Strategy

From the foregoing, it seems possible to state certain assumptions on which to base a regional strategy:

A. The Soviets seek predominant influence if not hegemony in this area, although they may have no overall, well-coordinated “grand design” there.

B. The region is so important to the U.S. that we will want to remain in a position to influence developments there.

C. Thus both the U.S. and the Soviet Union will be competing for influence vis-á-vis the other. One important standard for measuring success will be the ability of each side to help nations in the area to fulfill their aspirations, one of which is preserving their own security and independence.

D. The issue for the U.S., therefore, is what combination of U.S. actions and what kind of relationships with and among the nations of the region will enhance U.S. influence there. Since this is a diverse area with many conflicts cutting across it, the choice for the U.S. is how to build the strongest possible position in the area consistent with its many interests, one of which is maintaining or enhancing its influence vis-á-vis the USSR.

Before attempting to define two possible strategies for discussion, two other approaches need to be mentioned:

A. It is assumed that the U.S. will continue to conduct active bilateral relations with most of the nations in the area, taking into account the special problems of each of the main sub-regions in the area. That has essentially been the U.S. policy. All of those relationships together could continue to comprise a U.S. approach to the area. This approach is not dealt with in detail here because the purpose of this paper is to examine whether a new dimension would be suggested by looking even more broadly at the area as a whole.

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B. It is also assumed that in connection with any strategy mentioned in this paper, we could probe to see where Soviet cooperation might be enlisted in reducing local tensions.

Conceptually, we can adopt one of the two broad strategies outlined below in our approach to this Region. In the real world, it is difficult to envisage a situation where we would follow totally one or the other. Any set of policies and actions is likely to involve some mix of the two. However, if we define them in this way and opt for one or the other as the basic framework for our approach to the Region, this will provide a consistent guide as to where we place our emphasis, how we determine priorities when there are choices to be made, and how we assess the risks involved.

Strategy One

We can base our policies on the view that, to protect our interests in the Region, we need to move more actively to counter the Soviets where we believe those interests threatened or, alternatively, build up proxies who can do the job. While continuing to seek improvements in our bilateral relationships in the Region and the elimination of sources of local tension, we would not let such considerations stand in the way of actions we deemed necessary to carry out the main thrust of this strategy.

In terms of specific regional situations, the policy implications flowing from this strategy could include the following:

A. Build up according to their requests the military capabilities of the major military powers in the region—Iran, Israel, Ethiopia, and Turkey. We would go on providing arms to other countries in the region but (1) would be guided by the major regional powers’ views on any limits on type or quantities of equipment that should be imposed and (2) would make no effort to limit their own equipment regardless of the sensitivities of others in the area.

B. Rely heavily on the military action of those countries to confront aggression in their areas (e.g., Iran to support Kuwait and Pakistan against Iraq and India, Israel to support Lebanon and Jordan against Syria and Iraq) or to restore stability (e.g., Iranian action in a chaotic situation in a Gulf state, Israel in Jordan, Iran in Pakistan).

C. Concentrate special military and economic assistance on Pakistan because of their importance to the stability of Iran. We would do this accepting its negative effect on our relationships with India (1) because of the greater importance of the Persian Gulf than of South Asia and (2) because of the importance of demonstrating to both the USSR and the PRC as well as to other nations in the area that friends of the U.S. fare better than friends of the USSR (like India).

D. We would concentrate special military and economic assistance on Jordan because of its importance to the security of Israel and to the [Page 63]avoidance of Arab-Israeli hostilities which could draw the USSR into the conflict.

E. In the settlement of sub-regional disputes, an effort would be made to assure that our friends negotiated from a position of strength.

F. Step up our naval presence in the Indian Ocean—Arabian Sea—Persian Gulf—Red Sea area and seek opportunities for demonstrations of our military air capabilities in the Region.

G. Promote more active, broadly based and institutionalized regional security measures among friendly states in the area (e.g., Israel, Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey) to the extent local antagonisms—as between Israel and moderate, pro-Western Arabs—make this feasible.

H. Undertake a more direct U.S.G. role to supplement Saudi/Iranian/Jordanian/UAE efforts to strengthen Oman and Yemen militarily, reallocating resources as needed from other areas.

I. Explore possibilities for covert actions against Soviet-supported regimes in Iraq [less than 1 line not declassified], in PDRY and in Syria.

This strategy vigorously pursued would demonstrate to the Soviets that we were not being lulled by détente in Europe and progress in our bilateral relations into acquiescing in the consolidation and extension of their position, whether directly or by proxy, in the Region. It would be a strategy welcomed by a number of our friends in the area, though certain aspects of it [less than 1 line not declassified] would cause concern to other of our friends [less than 1 line not declassified]. At the same time it would tend to polarize local conflict situations and reduce our ability to defuse threats to our interests arising out of such situations—[6 lines not declassified].

Strategy Two

We can base our policies on the view that our interests will best be served and Soviet influence checked and reduced by relying heavily on the nationalism of the regional states and concentrating on the resolution of local conflicts and the improvement of our bilateral relationships where they are unsatisfactory in the Region. This strategy would be based essentially on the premise that (1) local conflicts, in which the Soviets align themselves with one side, have been a principal vehicle for the expansion of Soviet influence, and (2) the forces of nationalism and fear of Soviet domination will operate to limit Soviet inroads, especially once the pressures of local conflicts are relieved.

In terms of specific regional situations, the policies flowing from such a strategy could include the following:

A. Seek to enlist Soviet cooperation in defusing local conflicts and limiting our respective military inputs into the Region, through a systematic dialogue with them about each of our policies toward and [Page 64]interests in the Region as a whole. This could begin by exploring whether our positions are compatible to some degree and whether we can achieve mutual acknowledgment of the importance of the Region to both of us. The 1969 Brezhnev Asian security proposal could provide a possible framework for such explorations.

B. Be less forthcoming with respect to rates and magnitude of delivery and levels of sophistication, in responding to arms requests from our friends, [less than 1 line not declassified].

C. Engage the Soviets, if possible, in agreements for selective mutual reductions in military supply to our respective clients.

D. Maintain but do not increase our present military profile in the Region. Explore with the Soviets the possibility of at least tacit mutual restraint in our military postures, notably in our naval presences in the Indian Ocean (cf. NSSM–110).

E. Seek to persuade friendly states in the area to channel more of their efforts at regional cooperation into economic development rather than military and security-oriented programs. As one example, encourage Pakistan, Iran, the Peninsula/Gulf states and Jordan to develop areas of cooperation that utilize the particular human, financial and technical resources each has to offer. Reallocate from other regions available USG economic and technical assistance resources to help support such efforts in a coordinating and pump-priming role.

F. Promote a closer relationship between Ethiopia and the moderate Arabs and Iran while encouraging Israel to lower the visibility of its program without reducing it. Particularly encourage the cultivation of mutual interests among Ethiopia, North Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

G. With respect to the Soviet-supported regime in PDRY, encourage anti-PDRY area states to concentrate on strengthening the economic, social and political fabric of North Yemen and Oman, [1 line not declassified]

H. With respect to Iraq, foster the present trend toward conciliation with Iran and the Kurds and more pragmatic relations with western nations.

I. In the subcontinent, continue to encourage resolution of Pakistani-Indian-Bangladesh issues on the basis of the Simla agreement, avoiding advocacy of any party’s position. Continue efforts to normalize U.S.-Indian relations on a basis of reciprocity.

J. Temper somewhat our relationship with Pakistan and Israel so as to preserve the possibility of some relationship with India and Egypt. Actively encourage an even closer relationship between Saudi Arabia and Egypt. At some point, this might require less than full support for the diplomatic positions of Pakistan and Israel, although this would not necessarily be the case.

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K. Engage ourselves more directly in diplomatic efforts to move the Arab-Israeli issue off dead center, even though this would inevitably involve some strains in U.S.-Israeli relations.

L. Encourage India and Iran to talk out their differences and cooperate in ensuring the security of the Western Indian Ocean region.

In pursuing this strategy, we would start with certain advantages. Taking the Region as a whole, we have a number of strong assets. For the most part we, not the Soviets, have the militarily strong and economically viable friends in the area. The Soviets, being both powerful and geographically contiguous, are seen as a greater longer-range threat by nationalistic local governments—even by those presently allied with them. We only seek to prevent Soviet domination of the Region, whereas the Soviets seek dominant influence if not hegemony.

Against these advantages, the strategy outlined above has two principal risks for us:

(1) It could be interpreted as weakness on our part by the Soviets and extremist elements in the area, encouraging them to press for additional advantages if we pursued to the fullest the course of attempted accommodation this strategy suggests.

(2) It would have a seriously unsettling effect on our friends in the Region, leading to shifts in their policies that could make even more intractable the local conflicts we seek to resolve.

IV. Conclusions

These two options are not mutually exclusive and in fact we have been successfully pursuing the elements of both with the results that we are limiting Soviet gains and in some instances even reversing the trend. On balance, our basic interests of preventing Soviet domination and maintaining access for ourselves, including to the Region’s petroleum resources, have been preserved despite the undeniable fact that the Soviets, while they have experienced some setbacks, have improved their overall position in the Region as a whole on the last decade. But, given the unnaturally low base from which the Soviets started in the 1950’s, this is hardly surprising. As we weigh our future strategy, the critical questions are these:

(1) Can we assume that a continuation of policies based more on a Strategy One than a Strategy Two approach will continue to protect our vital interests in the Region? This question is especially applicable to the Arab-Israel area, where a continuation of the present impasse, in circumstances where we are seen as fully identified with Israeli policies, casts a growing shadow over much of the Region and in particular the Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf area, playing into the hands of the Soviets and extremist elements and creating crosscurrents that could increasingly affect our ability to meet our growing energy [Page 66]demands. In South Asia, where we would be backing the weaker horse in Pakistan, this policy could also prove costly.

(2) Are we prepared as an ultimate sanction to make clear to the Soviets that our relations in this Region are an integral part of our total relationship, and that this relationship with all its evolving and complex advantages to both of us will be at stake?

(3) To support such a position, are we prepared to invoke the prospect of U.S.-Chinese collaboration in this Region?

(4) Are the Soviets prepared to accept the check on their historical thrust into this Region which an approach along the lines of (2) and (3) above would seek to achieve?

  1. Summary: Saunders prepared a paper analyzing a Department of State study on U.S. Strategy in the Middle East.

    Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 71, National Security Council, Committees and Panels, Senior Review Group, March 1972–July 1973. Secret. This paper was attached as Tab A to the July 19 Saunders memorandum to Kissinger published as Document 8. Attached is the signed analytical summary from Saunders critiquing the paper. The points in this summary are reproduced in the July 19 briefing memorandum from Saunders to Kissinger published as Document 8.