This past week, it was reported that Russia has supplied Syrian President Bashar Assad with a considerable amount of weapons and machinery. Russia, and the Soviet Union before it, has long had an ambiguous relationship with the Middle East, erred on the side of Arab support.
Though the Soviet Union voted in support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, after the mid 1950s, the Soviets came to view the Middle East through the lens of the Cold War, providing support for the Arabs and condemnations of U.S.-backed Israel. But the Soviet Union chose not to disclose both the nature and extent of their aid until 1960, when Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin acknowledged that the Arab states were receiving “extensive aid” from the Soviet Union so “they can successfully defend their legitimate national rights.”
Details of this massive flow of Soviet arms into Arab states were then revealed in a Senate speech by Senator Jacob K. Javits, who reported statistics revealing that about three-fourths of all Soviet military assistance to non-Communist states — $580,000,000 out of a total of $780,000,000 — went to the United Arab Republic, Iraq and Yemen, from 1955 to 1959.
In 1968, JTA reported that the Soviet Union “saturates countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq, with modern Soviet arms, equipment for airfields, ports, repair facilities, small armies of Soviet technicians,” so that Arab arms outnumber Israeli arms by at least 3-1. In 1976, the Soviet Union began accusing Israel of genocide against the Arab population. Soviet aid and rhetoric continued until the fall of Communism.
Though Israel celebrated the democratization of Russia, it urged all Jews to leave the country anyway. In 1991, the first delegate in 25 years from Moscow arrived in Israel. Despite the governmental change, Russia continued to support the Arabs. Most notably, Russia provided money and resources for the nuclearization of Iran. Additionally, Russia has equipped numerous states with extensive arsenals, much to Israel’s consternation. In 2005, Israel was concerned with $1 billion arms deal between Russia and Syria.