WASHINGTON (Dec. 18)
The State Department sought to minimize today the dangers created by the Soviet military build-up in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. State Department press spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said the Russian actions did not “pose any immediate military threat” to the United States and her allies. But Russian activities “do bear careful watching,” he added.
Mr. McCloskey’s remarks pertained to the massive Soviet resupply of weapons to the Arabs and to reports of greater Soviet naval and air activity in the region. He declined to estimate the number of Soviet military advisors in Egypt. Other State Department officials saw no cause for alarm over Russian activities in support of the Arabs. They said the public should not assume that all the Russians in Egypt were military men because many were engineers and technicians aiding with irrigation and agrarian reform projects.
Questions were raised at the State Department today about the American evaluation of Soviet military operations in the Middle East because of anxiety expressed by some NATO countries. The NATO foreign ministers, at their annual winter meeting in Brussels last week, approved a proposal for the study of the growing menace created by Soviet activity in the Middle East. Israel has also indicated that she regards the Russian buildup and shipments to the Arabs as dangerous to Israeli security.
Russia now has over 50 warships in the Mediterranean, including her latest guided-missile cruisers. Additionally, there are estimated to be between 10 and 20 submarines and numerous support ships of various types.
Opposition Congressmen have recently accused the Administration of responding only to the Communist threat to Vietnam while ignoring a dangerous Russian movement into the Middle East and Mediterranean.