WASHINGTON (Oct. 29)
The Soviet Union may have caused the sinking of the Israeli destroyer Elath and otherwise escalated tensions to establish “a second front in the Middle East, to take the heat off North Viet Nam,” Rep. Edward J. Derwinski, Illinois Republican, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said today.
In a weekend statement issued here, the Congressman charged that Russia might have used guided missiles against the Elath “as an answer to the increased American aerial activity in North Viet Nam. The sinking rekindled the Arab-Israeli conflict and made Egypt more dependent on Soviet military forces. There is much more to this crisis than a mere Arab-Israeli confrontation.” Rep. Derwinski urged the Administration to “take cognizance of Russian efforts to establish air and naval bases in Egypt and other Mideast lands to neutralize the U.S. Sixth Fleet.”
The Congressman demanded that the Administration disclose “the extent of recent Soviet actions in the Middle East and the serious implications for American policy.” He said: “It is high time that we had some indication from the Administration of these sinister developments. The Russians are obviously exploiting our preoccupation with Viet Nam and troubles in NATO to pull a dangerous sneak end-run into the Mediterranean.”
Rep. Derwinski charged that “Russia is rapidly building bases for their military establishment in both Egypt and Syria. He said Soviet strategists are trying to outmaneuver the U.S. aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean through conversion of Egypt and Syria into “unsinkable carriers.” He noted that the sinking of the Elath caused “a predictable flare-up quickly exploited by the Russians to send additional Red navy ships, military equipment, and technicians to Egypt. Soviet military specialists are now attached to every important Egyptian naval, air, missile, armored, and artillery unit.”
The Congressman said the Russians were penetrating every level of command in Egypt. “We may next hear of the arrival of Soviet, naval long-range jet bombers, allegedly to protect Egypt, manned by Russian crews.” He said that “there is more Russian weaponry in Syria now than before the June war.” and a Soviet base has been established at Latakia.