JERUSALEM (Jul. 20)
Within 24 hours of his announcement that he had requested the Soviet Union to withdraw its military personnel and advisors from Egypt, President Anwar Sadat was beginning to make overtures to the United States, reliable sources reported here today. (See special news report on Page 4.) The sources quoted Western diplomats as saying that Sadat has instructed his ministers to seek a top level meeting with US officials.
The first move in that direction may well have been made Monday when Sadat’s advisor on security affairs, Hafez Ismail, met with the senior American diplomatic official in Cairo Joseph Greene Jr., the sources said. They said Sadat’s immediate aim was to seek an early reopening of the Suez Canal, presumably under a partial settlement with Israel. The sources said further that Sadat informed the Central Committee of the Arab Socialist Union of his resumption of contacts with the US at the meeting Tuesday when he broke the news of the ouster of Soviet personnel. The Union is Egypt’s only political party.
(Tass, the Soviet news agency declared last night that Russian military personnel would be withdrawn by mutual consent from Egypt because they have completed their assigned task of instructing the Egyptians how to “master Soviet military equipment.” The Tass report was the first official admission from a Soviet source that Russian armed forces advisors were instructing Egyptians in the use of Soviet weapons.)
Reaction in Jerusalem to the Russian exodus continued to be guarded today. Officials pointed out that the extent of the withdrawal is still not known. The semi-official Cairo newspaper Al Ahram said today that some “instructors” would remain. Sadat himself had spoken of “advisors and experts” being asked to leave. Israeli circles are not clear on the difference between these various categories. It also remained unclear whether, all or some of the Russian bases and airfields in Egypt are being vacated or whether Soviet pilots and anti-aircraft missile operators will be removed or will remain.
Gen. Haim Laskov, a former Chief of Staff of Israel’s armed forces, said in a radio commentary today that he could not believe that Egypt would deliberately divest itself of the ability to deploy the complicated electronic equipment which she has received from the Soviets and which only Soviet personnel are qualified to handle.
DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF PERSONNEL
Israeli sources noted that there are a number of types of Russian military personnel on Egyptian soil. One group, about 5000 strong, consists of advisors. They are deployed all over the country with the Egyptian Army and are found from General Headquarters all the way down the line to batallion headquarters where they advise batallion commanders though they do not themselves command.
Another group consists of instructors who are professionals and technicians. These man the sophisticated anti-aircraft missile defense system and are there for purely strategic purposes and have little or nothing to do with Egyptians. These formations include the long-range Tupolev-16 bomber wings which maintain a close watch on NATO forces and the American Sixth Fleet; various naval units at Egyptian bases and smaller units assigned to protect vital strategic areas such as Cairo, Alexandria and the Aswan High Dam. Also included in the Soviet personnel are the pilots and service crews assigned to the MIG-23 fighters, the world’s fastest combat planes which have been deployed in small numbers in Egypt. It is not known whether any of these units have or will be pulled out.