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What are the different theories explaining the inconsistent attitude Soviet Russia had towards the nascent State of Israel between the years 1947 and 1953?

Communist Russia's hate of Zionism is well documented but so is its support for a Jewish state in 1947. It also seems that Russia changed its outlook once again by supporting Israel's Arab enemies in ensuing wars. What are the possible factors explaining this seemingly inconsistent view on the Jewish state?

Since Russian foreign policy at the time was undoubtedly dictated by Stalin this question inevitably involves an insight into his mindset and rationality.

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The policies of Soviet Union were never determined by "hate" or other emotions. They were always pragmatic. (For example, they "hated" Nazism when they found it useful, and then suddenly made a U-turn and started to support Nazi Germany, when they saw potential benefits of this. And did this until they were attacked themselves).

Israel was founded by people with socialist views and in the beginning Soviet Union hoped to exercise great influence in it. (At least Israel looked very anti-British at the moment of its creation). Some communists were intentionally sent there from Soviet Union (as immigrants) to organize Israeli Communist party etc. Soviet union indeed played an important role in the process of creation of Israel (using its influence in UN), and in the first Arab-Israeli war. Soviet union did not support Israel openly during the war, but allowed its East European satellites to do this (Czechoslovakia supplied Soviet arms). But soon it became clear that Israel will not be a Soviet satellite in the Middle East, especially when it allied itself with France and England in the invasion of Egypt (1956), and Soviet policy turned to support of Egypt and other Arabs which they saw as "anti-imperialist". In general, the "principle" of Soviet Union foreign policy during the Cold war was to support anyone who opposes US, UK their Western allies. With Israel, they miscalculated.

  • Interesting -- I would guess that pragmatism has generally shaped the policy of countries but there are certainly counter examples. One could argue that nazi Germany was very non-pragmatic or at least short sighted in their anti-Jewish policy. Not sure if modern countries like Saudi Arabia are anti Israel because it is useful or because of religious solidarity. I have read that the USA will never again be engaged in a war with Great Britain but is that for cultural reasons or pragmatic ones? – Jeff Jan 3 '18 at 16:21
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    Most countries are pragmatic in their policies. In Soviet Union (and Russia) sharp U-turns are simplified because of their despotic rule: just one person decides the general direction of policy. – Alex Jan 3 '18 at 17:35
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In 1947 Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, and Iran were extremely friendly towards the British and the Trucial States and Aden were British protectorates. Saudi Arabia was extremely friendly with the USA.

Even if Israel itself was not a perfect fit for the Communist Bloc, it could still be used as a proxy against Western assets. When Nasser overthrew the King of Egypt in 1952, he demonstrated that Egypt and pan-Arabism was a more natural ally of the Soviets than Israel could be.

Indeed, by sponsoring Nasser, the Soviet Union gained influence in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, North Yemen, and weakened still pro-Western Jordan and Iran.

Nasser even inspired African American Nationalism in the United States and his rhetoric of anti-colonialism weakened American resolve in Vietnam.

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The Soviet Union's policy in the Middle East was "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Despite the Soviet distaste for Israel's pro Democratic leanings, the Soviet Union initially tilted towards Israel because of 1) its enmity toward Britain, 2) its fear of the Moslems, and 3) the somewhat "socialist" character of the new Israeli state, which gave the Soviet Union common ground with Israel.

The attitude of the Soviet Union changed during the early to mid-fifties in favor of the Arabs. A major reason was the rise of socialist and populist leaders in the Moslem world. One of the them was Iran's Mohammed Mossadegh, who tried to nationalize the British-controlled Iranian oil industry before being overthrown by the U.S. CIA. Another, more successful one, was Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, who started a successful revolution against the pro-British monarchy in 1952, bought arms from Czechoslovakia in 1955, and tried to "nationalize" the Suez Canal in 1956, only to be opposed by Britain, France, and Israel. Clearly, the Arabs were better allies against the British (and later the United States), while Israeli had moved firmly into the British (and later the U.S.) camp.

  • On your 2nd point. Why would the fear of Muslims make them natural allies? Was Soviet Russia afraid of a Muslim uprising in some of its satellite states at the time? – El Shteiger Jan 9 '18 at 22:57

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