Libmonster ID: SE-343
Author(s) of the publication: A. M. VASILIEV

The tragic events of 1990-1991 related to the capture of Kuwait by Iraq and the subsequent Gulf War, which ended with the liberation of Kuwait and the defeat of the Iraqi military machine, continue to attract the attention of researchers. The reasons for this are clear: the UN-approved war at that time was genetically linked to the already illegitimate invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies in March 2003 and the consequences of that invasion. The situation in the Persian Gulf remains tense and is fraught with a new armed conflict - this time with Iran.

A. M. VASILIEV

Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences

It is worth reminding the reader that both the Iraqi invasion of Iraq and the military campaign of the anti - Iraqi coalition in 1990-1991 were the main international topics of the entire Soviet press of that period. Therefore, while studying those tragic events, we will try to look at them through the prism of publications in the Soviet press.

It should be noted that the materials collected by the author only from the central newspapers - Pravda, Izvestia, Sovetskaya Rossiya, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Krasnaya Zvezda, Rabochaya Tribuna, Truda, and Literaturnaya Gazeta-amounted to almost 100 printed pages for the period from August 2, 1990 until the end of March 1991 1 Therefore, when evaluating publications, the author is forced to almost completely-

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I would like to reject information that described the events themselves, their chronicle, the transfer of US and allied military forces to the region, the diplomatic vicissitudes of the struggle around Kuwait and in repelling Iraqi aggression. The emphasis is placed on reflecting the Soviet Union's policy in the Soviet press in the form of statements by the President, the Government, the Supreme Soviet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and comments on the events in the Gulf. The reports of Soviet correspondents from Iraq, Kuwait or around Kuwait were taken into account.

Very interesting are the materials that reflected the internal political struggle in the USSR related to the crisis in the Gulf zone. It is easy to see that in the very presentation of information that was given by various newspapers, even if there were no comments, you can see the likes and dislikes of both editors and authors.

From reading the materials, it is clear that, for example, Sovetskaya Rossiya preferred to publish articles first hidden, then increasingly open anti-American orientation, speaking in defense of Kuwait, but with great sympathies towards Iraq. Pravda maintained a largely pro-government line, although it was clear that inside the newspaper, too, different journalists reflected events in different ways, expressing great doubts about American intentions. The comments of Komsomolskaya Pravda, with some exceptions, roughly coincided with the line of the newspaper Pravda. Krasnaya Zvezda emphasized the importance of cooperation with Iraq, and on the eve of the land war published articles that quite naively assessed the " military power of Iraq." Izvestia was already leaning towards a more pro-American position, although some of its reviewers ' opinions showed the realism that a few years later became dominant in some parts of the Russian, post-Soviet press. Naturally, TASS never went beyond the limits set by the Soviet leadership.

The events in the Gulf and the formation of the foreign policy course of the Soviet leadership almost immediately became the object of an implicit, but rather fierce struggle between various socio-political trends within the Soviet Union, which was then heading for its collapse. If those who gradually grew into a pro-Atlantic, pro-Western group, that is, the "radical Democrats", certainly defended the American position in its purest form (they were joined by Eduard Shevardnadze), then, on the contrary, those who formed the core of the left and patriotic forces in the future, without denying the need to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation and After the restoration of its independence, attention was immediately drawn to US plans aimed at establishing complete dominance in the region and ousting the Soviet Union from it. Certain forces (part of the military-industrial complex and part of the bureaucracy) took a pro-Iraqi position and supported Saddam Hussein. From some of these groups, the movement of Stalinists, radical communists, and other forces of the same shade later grew up in Russia.

The difficulty of the position of the then political leadership of the country headed by Mikhail Gorbachev (whatever the author's personal negative attitude towards this figure) was that it had to act in line with its new policy aimed at getting out of the confrontation with the United States and the West as a whole, at ending the Cold War, and joining the Soviet Union. Integration of the European Union into the international community as part of it. At the same time, some of its members (in particular, E. M. Primakov, who, not being among the country's top officials at that time, made several visits to Baghdad on Gorbachev's instructions) tried to protect national interests within the framework of this course.2

At the same time, the United States did not change its objectives or its methods, did not abandon either its allies or its friends in the Arabian Peninsula, and defended both its oil and military-strategic interests in the region. The Soviet Union was forced to oppose its former semi - ally, a military dictator with an "anti-imperialist" coloring, like Saddam Hussein, against a country where the USSR had very large economic interests, cooperation with which gave the maximum foreign exchange earnings at that time-up to one and a half billion dollars a year, although there were Soviet interests in the Gulf.

Therefore, the course of the Russian leadership from the very beginning contained several elements: first - to prevent the annexation of Kuwait, restore its sovereignty and withdraw Iraqi troops; second - to save the lives and ensure the safety of almost 9 thousand Soviet citizens in Iraq and Kuwait; third - to protect the principles of international law and act within its framework and through UN structures Fourth , try to solve the problems by peaceful, political means, while preserving the economic potential of Iraq and the possibility of further Soviet-Iraqi cooperation.

When it became clear that the United States and its allies had gone far beyond the mandate given to them by the United Nations, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was already bound by his geopolitical strategy, could not oppose this with anything but beautiful statements.

This was a period when the rapidly weakening and disintegrating Soviet Union was still a superpower. In the end, even if the USSR did not participate in military operations against Iraq, it did not take part in the war itself.

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the fact that it emerged from the confrontation and turned from an enemy into a partner of the United States allowed Washington and its allies to transfer most of NATO's strike power to the Middle East, secure free hands through UN Security Council resolutions, and smash the Iraqi military machine to smithereens with the least losses, while at the same time turning this country into a testing ground for

The timid and perhaps naive steps taken by the then Soviet leadership to reanimate the activities of the Military Staff Committee of the Security Council 3 ended in nothing. The United States was not going to allow its armed forces to be subordinate to anyone other than the American leadership in any of the conflicts. The Soviet Union's calls for action only within the UN framework were at best met with polite declarations and ignored in practice.

Of all the UN resolutions that the United States and the USSR voted for together (except for the first one, which fundamentally condemned aggression), the last, twelfth resolution (No. 678), which authorized the use of force against the aggressor and legalized the war of the United States and its allies against Iraq, caused the most controversy both in the USSR and in the "third world". Many people have asked and still ask whether the Soviet vote for this resolution did not contradict the USSR's sincere desire for a political settlement. The following explanations are put forward.

"On November 29, the UN Security Council, by adopting Resolution No. 678, issued a final warning to Iraq about the inadmissibility of further ignoring the will of the international community," the USSR Foreign Ministry said in a statement. - At the same time, the resolution in its spirit and letter gives a real chance to prevent the worst scenario - a military explosion. The decision of the Security Council defines the temporary space within which it is possible and necessary to find a political and peaceful solution to the conflict. And we must make sure that this chance is not missed, in order to turn the situation in the direction of a non-military choice. The Soviet Union is convinced that Iraq now has the final say."

In principle, the Soviet Union could have abstained from voting, as China did. However, his cooperation with the United States went too far, and Mikhail Gorbachev apparently feared that this step would be misunderstood in Washington and would seriously complicate Soviet-American relations in all other major areas of world politics for the USSR.

Now it is difficult to say to what extent the position of Soviet diplomacy taken in connection with the Gulf crisis influenced the criticism of Eduard Shevardnadze by his political opponents. It was a question of internal struggle in the highest echelon of power, and on December 20, 1990, he resigned. A. A. Bessmertnykh, who succeeded him as Minister, generally continued the policy of cooperation with the United States in the crisis.

But even when authorizing the use of force against Iraq, the Soviet leadership tried to find a political solution that would meet both the task of liberating Kuwait and the national interests of the then USSR. At the same time, what remained from the era of "special relations" with parts of the Arab world, including Iraq, was used - the remnants of some kind of mutual "credit of trust", channels of personal connections. In this sense, the missions of the special representative of the President of the USSR, Yevgeny Primakov, to Baghdad are characteristic, and he expressed this trend most clearly in personal terms.

But if the failure of Soviet policy initiatives to prevent bombing was entirely the result of Saddam Hussein's gross miscalculations, then the failure to prevent a land war was entirely the result of President Bush's precise and precise calculations. The head of the US administration needed a purely military victory, a complete defeat of Iraq, which no one doubted, a personal triumph over Saddam Hussein, a personal success in the United States, and the fulfillment of the obligations given to Israel. Therefore, Soviet attempts to find a political solution in the last days before the start of ground operations were met with polite but poorly concealed irritation. A last-minute agreement reached between President Mikhail Gorbachev and Saddam Hussein to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait was rejected by the United States, which issued an impossible ultimatum for Iraq in response. A land war was inevitable. A few days later, a frustrated Gorbachev even used the word "fragility" to describe Soviet-American relations.

The attitude to the Arab-Israeli conflict during the crisis and war was a source of some friction between Moscow and Washington. The Soviet proposals to seek approaches to the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in order to facilitate the solution of the Iraq-Kuwait conflict were considered in Washington as an unacceptable "linkage" that Israel could not accept. Moscow reasonably objected that it would be useful to knock out the" Palestinian card " from Saddam Hussein's propaganda deck. But Israel's position was, as usual, more important to the US administration. In this sense, the fate of the Baker-Bessmertnykh statement of January 28, 1991.4 is characteristic.

In a joint document, the USSR and the United States declared that a cessation of hostilities in the Persian Gulf would be possible if Iraq gave an unequivocal commitment

page 47

withdraw from Kuwait, backed by immediate concrete steps. It was noted that addressing the causes of instability and sources of conflict, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, would be of particular importance, and that this would not be possible without a full-scale peace process that would promote just peace, security and genuine reconciliation between Israel, the Arab States and the Palestinians. It was believed that overcoming the Gulf crisis would greatly facilitate and enhance the joint efforts of the USSR and the United States, undertaken in contact with other parties in the region, in order to promote peace between the Arabs and Israel and regional stability.

But in Tel Aviv, the "linking" of the settlement of the Middle East conflict with the end of the Gulf War was seen as a hint of the need to convene an international conference, which was then opposed by the Israeli government. In turn, Washington was very sensitive to the mood of Israel, trying to deter Israelis from a "retaliatory strike" on Baghdad in response to the Iraqi rocket attacks. Its result could be the collapse of the anti-Iraqi coalition. Therefore, when faced with Israel's displeasure, representatives of the White House and the State Department, in fact, did nothing but what ... they belittled the significance of the document, which was also signed by them, which was noted in the Soviet media.

The episode is really characteristic. The point is not that the positions of the USSR and the United States on the Middle East settlement could become close or even coincide. The wording of the joint communique was quite streamlined and expressed only good intentions in the most general form. But in Israel, at that time, not only the idea of the USSR's participation in the Middle East settlement was rejected, but also the possibility that Washington should speak with a different voice than that of Tel Aviv.

However, if we look for other reasons for the USSR's behavior during the crisis, it is obvious that not only the principles of foreign policy, the real interests of the USSR in the Middle East, but also the personal prestige and personal interests of President Gorbachev were taken into account. Moreover, perhaps for the first time in Soviet history, public opinion and its real split were taken into account.

Of course, the fate of Kuwait, Iraq, and Saddam Hussein's regime was foreign to most of the citizens of a tortured, sick country - the then Soviet Union. But it turned out that quite a few Soviet citizens highly appreciate Saddam Hussein and almost as many support actions against him.

The internal factor was taken into account by the Soviet leadership when it sought to prevent the outbreak of hostilities in the Gulf zone, and then tried to prevent a land war. But it understood that there were also external conditions. The American victory, which no one in the Soviet leadership doubted, could (and did) lead to the " arrogance of power." After the victory, the United States could take less and less account of the USSR, and "what is the cost of a service that has already been rendered?"

Materials from the Soviet press are also valuable because even then the most discerning observers emphasized that the West, and in particular the United States, was increasingly less likely to treat the Soviet Union (as it later did Russia), and was unceremoniously ready to oust the country from the region, maintaining only decorum with appropriate scraping, which in a year or two would be completely abandoned. they refused.

Now, from the height of the past years, we can safely talk about who was the winner in that war and who was defeated. The author does not have convincing facts that the United States was ready to sacrifice Kuwait in order to lure the Iraqi dictator to this country, and then under this pretext crush his military machine, as many researchers claim. But this version has a right to exist (as evidenced by the vague position on Kuwait of the US Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspy, during her conversation with Saddam Hussein shortly before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait)5, although the facts, if any, will remain a closely guarded secret for many decades to come. Now it is clear that then Washington was heading for war from the very beginning, and Moscow's attempts to resolve the matter peacefully simply hindered it.

In any case, as a result of all these events, Kuwait was a victim, having suffered enormous losses in people and in its well-being for a small country, and although it was able to restore its prosperity and quality of life, the wounds inflicted on it continue to hurt to this day. The winner of the war was the United States, Israel, and Iran, which calmly watched as its regional rival was crushed. Among the losers was, of course, the Soviet Union and its successor, Russia. Yes, diplomatic relations have been restored or established with a number of States in the Arabian Peninsula. But these countries did not become major economic partners, much less allies for the new Russia. The total volume of economic cooperation with them was still long behind this indicator for Iraq before 1990. The economic losses of the Soviet Union, and then Russia, from the embargo and economic blockade of Iraq were estimated at many, many billions of dollars.

It would seem that the opponents of Iraq, both the oil states of the Arabian Peninsula and the moderate regime of the president, have gained a certain amount

page 48

H. Mubarak in Egypt. However, the reaction of the "Arab street", that is, the masses of the population, to the actions of the United States and the West, the subsequent bombing of Iraq by the United States under real or far-fetched pretexts, arrogant behavior towards the peoples and governments of Muslim countries-all this already in the 90s of the last century gave an impetus to the growth of anti-Western, anti-American in the colors of political Islam. The American "arrogance of power" indirectly gave rise to a wave of terrorist attacks.

As difficult as it was to review the foreign policy priorities of the Soviet Union at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, it was also painful to start sobering up, returning at the turn of the third millennium to the real policy of Russia, which became the successor of the Soviet Union. Many of the thoughts expressed then are becoming relevant today. In this sense, a reference to very recent history, reflected in the mirror of the Soviet press of that period, is valuable for understanding both the current situation in Russia and its policy in the Middle East, in particular in the Gulf.


1 Let us note for future researchers the main publications in TASS and in central newspapers:

tass. 1990: 02.08, 09.08, 25.08, 26.11, 30.11, 1.12, 3.12, 12.12; 1991 city of: 18.01, 20.01, 21.01, 22.01, 23.01, 25.01, 30.01, 31.01, 12.02, 13.02, 15.02, 19.02, 22.02, 23.02, 24.02, 26.02, 1.03. True1990: 13.08, 18.08, 19.08, 21.08, 23.08, 28.08, 30.08, 06.09, 11.09, 13.09, 18.09, 27.09, 21.10, 28.10, 30.10, 5.11, 1.12; 1991 city of: 8.01, 14.01, 18.01, 11.02, 12.02, 15.02, 23.02, 25.02, 23.03, 04.04. Izvestia1990: 06.08, 07.08, 14.08, 15.08, 16.08, 21.08, 22.08, 26.08, 29.08 - 1.09, 15.09, 27.09, 3.10,4.10,16.10,19.10, 22.10, 24.10, 26.10, 29.10,30.10, 31.10, 1.11, 2.11, 26.11, 6.12, 19.12, 23.12, 30.13; : 18.01, 28.01, 15.02, 20.02, 27.02, 01.03, 05.03, 07.03, 11.03, 12.03, 15.03, 19.03, 25.03, 02.04, 03.04, 04.04. Soviet Russia1990: 04.08, 08.08, 18.08, 22.08. 26.08, 19.09, 19.10, 23.10; 1991 city of: 31.01, 1.02, 5.02, 6.02, 20.02, 26.02, 27.02, 06.03, 09.03. Komsomolskaya Pravda1990: 05.08, 01.09, 16.10; 1991: 15.01, 31.01, 06.03. Red star1990: 17.08, 26.08, 11.09, 25.09; 1991 city of: 16.01, 24.01, 31.01, 11.02, 28.02, 05.04.

2 Literaturnaya gazeta, 07.11.90; Komsomolskaya Pravda, 15.01.91; Literaturnaya gazeta, 27.02.91 (see also the book: Primakov E. M. Confidential: The Middle East on stage and behind the scenes (first half of the 20th-beginning of the 21st century). Moscow, 2006.

3 Krasnaya Zvezda, 17.08.90.

4 TASS, 30.01.91.

5 Izvestia, 21.03.91.


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