It was difficult to foresee in the middle fifties exactly what form the radicalization in the Middle East would take in the years to come. The communist camp was still united; no rival centers had arisen to shake the monolithic bloc. We are much wiser now. During this past decade the importance of communist parties has on the whole decreased; there has been a far-reaching rapprochement between a number of Middle East countries and the Soviet Union, but it has largely by-passed the official communist parties in the area. Military dictators and new political groups (such as the neo-Ba'th) have been of far greater significance in this context. Even in the nineteenfifties there were reasons to doubt the relevance of the doctrinal discussions in Soviet writings as a key to the understanding of Soviet policy in the Middle East. These books and articles were of some interest because they helped to explain shifts in policy; occasionally they reflected internal dissension. Today I feel even more sceptical about their relevance, for they shed very little light on the real mainsprings of Soviet policy. The interests of Russia as a great power have played a role in Soviet foreign policy from its earliest days, and this was, of course, inevitable. As the years passed their specific weight has steadily increased and that of Leninist ideology has steadily declined. It has declined, but not altogether disappeared. Official Soviet doctrine still survives almost in its pristine state, but the discrepancy between theory and practice is still growing, and it is now very difficult to ascertain to what extent even those making the doctrinal pronouncements believe in them. The Soviet political and military leaders are, of course, communists, and any attempt to explain their foreign-policy decisions solely on the basis of traditional power politics is ultimately futile. But what does it mean to be a leading communist in the Soviet Union today? The writings of Marx and Lenin alone are unlikely to provide a satisfactory answer. For this reason I have dealt with doctrinal disputations in this book
only in passing; it is still a legitimate subject of study, though no longer a very important one. I have had to neglect some other aspects of Soviet policies in the Middle East, and of Middle East reactions, in order to concentrate on the central issues. To treat the issues touched upon fully and exhaustively, each chapter would have to be expanded into a separate monograph.