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Report Moscow Ready for Talks on Mideast Arms Control to Block Sale of Phantoms

May 8, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Soviet Union has initiated efforts to create an impression that Russian-American arms control talks may be in the offing, a maneuver apparently timed to deter U.S. sale of Phantom jet aircraft to Israel. The Phantoms would balance the massive Soviet arms build-up in the Arab states since last June. State Department officials said they had no firm information about any such talks and were skeptical. But other sources within the department indicated that a Russian approach would definitely be welcomed because Washington wants to avoid an arms race in the Middle East.

The Soviet maneuver seems calculated to coincide with a specific period, from now until the November election, when the Administration is deliberating action on the sale of the Phantoms to Israel. Huge quantities of sophisticated Russian arms, accompanied by Soviet technicians and advisers, have been poured into the Arab states. Time is now required for the Arabs to absorb the new arms and for the Soviet advisory teams to train personnel. During this interval, the Russians obviously would like to stall off balancing U.S. shipments to Israel — using the bait of possible “talks” — a promise that might prove illusory. Knowing that the United States is eager for Soviet cooperation in seeking peace for Vietnam at Paris, the Russians are attempting to consolidate their position in the Middle East and isolate Israel from the United States as an arms source.

Moscow was said to be especially eager to frustrate the Phantom jet transaction. Arab air power has already been built up by Russia to a strength greater than that which existed before the Six-Day War.

(Soviet Russia has altered its Middle East policy from one that was seeking a political solution of the Arab-Israel dispute to one with more ominous connotations, according to Jon Kimche in an article published in the London Evening Standard today. He said that the Soviet Government had advised a number of Arab governments, including Jordan, that should “Israel fail to respect the Security Council resolution” of last Nov. 22, the Soviet Union “would have no alternative but to consider other steps to enable the Arab countries to regain their lost territory.” What was meant by “other steps” was not spelled out, Mr. Kimche wrote.)

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