JERUSALEM (Jul. 19)
Neither Cabinet ministers nor senior Foreign Ministry officials were prepared to comment today on yesterday’s announcement by President Anwar Sadat that he has ordered Soviet military advisers with the Egyptian armed forces to leave the country. The exodus of Soviet personnel was reported to have commenced. According to the latest reports, they are leaving Cairo in aircraft dispatched from Moscow for the purpose.
Authoritative sources here told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this morning that there were too many unknown factors to make any meaningful evaluation of the situation at this stage. Premier Golda Meir is expected to state Israel’s formal reaction following Sunday’s Cabinet meeting or on Monday.
It was unclear in Jerusalem today just how big the Soviet withdrawal is. There have been conflicting reports out of Cairo, some saying that only military advisers will be leaving. Also uncertain is the impact the withdrawal will have on Egypt’s future political and military policies. Some observers here have expressed reservations over the general feeling of satisfaction over the Soviet discomfiture. The newspaper Haaretz said this morning, “It is quite possible that the anti-Soviet move made by Sadat implies a first step closer to the United States.” The paper added that there were many in the US State Department who would welcome such a development.
The concensus here is that Sadat’s move stemmed from growing frustration attributable to Israel’s firm position over the last five years. To that extent it is viewed as a success for Israel’s policies. Military circles believe the Soviet withdrawal lessens chances for war between Israel and Egypt but increases the likelihood of small incidents along the Suez Canal.
MILITARY IMPACT SEEN
Among Israeli military experts it was agreed that the ouster of Soviet personnel was bound to undermine the operational capabilities of Egypt’s armed forces. The absence of Russian advisers will be felt especially in the Egyptian Air Force and the antiaircraft defense network, both highly sophisticated branches, the experts said. Maintenance is bound to deteriorate when Egyptian technicians take over the radars, the advance warning system and the computer control systems operating them. The departure of the Russian technicians is expected to have less of an impact on the Egyptian armored corps and artillery. In those branches the Russians’ role was of instructors rather than directly operational.
Military sources said, however, that the crucial point is which Russians are leaving and which are remaining; is the Russian exodus total or is it a selective one undertaken with Moscow’s consent?
East Jerusalem and West Bank Arabs indicated today that they were “shocked” by President Sadat’s ouster of Russian military personnel. El Kouds, the leading Arabic daily in East Jerusalem called the move an Arab defeat no less severe than the one suffered in the Six-Day War and predicted that the evacuation of Soviet advisers would lead to a complete rupture of relations between Cairo and Moscow.
Some West Bank spokesmen thought the Arab position was weakened. Others believed the US would replace the USSR in Egypt.