The Global Six-Day War

Arab League Summit 1964

Fifty years ago, war transformed the Middle East. Today, Sources and Methods presents new sources and analyses of the war’s global impact

The events of June 1967, now called the 1967 War or Six-Day War, shocked combatants and outsiders alike. The crushing defeat of a three-nation Arab coalition by Israeli forces reshaped the Middle East. Its consequences rippled around the world. As some leaders struggled to cope with the significance of these events, others leapt to take advantage.

On the war’s 50th anniversary, Sources and Methods provides new insights and perspectives into the minds of these leaders through newly declassified foreign documents. Highlights Include:

“Did the Soviet Union Deliberately Instigate the 1967 War in the Middle East?” by Hassan Elbahtimy

  • In late-May 1967, Egyptian and Soviet officials met in Moscow to discuss the possibility of conflict with the US and Israel.
  • Despite public declarations of support for Egypt, Soviet delegates pled with Egyptian officials to avoid a conflict that could involve the USSR and the United States.

“Propaganda and Protest during the Six-Day War” by Uri Bar-Noi

  • Israel directed its diplomatic missions to stir up demonstrations outside Soviet embassies around the world, to help sway international opinion.
  • After the USSR and other East European countries cut off diplomatic relations with Israel, Israeli diplomats were instructed to name the Soviet Union as the sole cause of hostilities in the region.
  • Israel recognized the need to win the propaganda war as an equally important aspect of their fight with the USSR and its Arab allies.

“The Six-Day War: Implications for the Warsaw Pact” by Malcolm Byrne

  • When Soviet-backed Arabs lost to American-backed Israelis, the Kremlin leadership took it as a personal defeat.
  • The outcome unsettled Soviet Union’s Warsaw pact allies, who no longer felt secure from the threat of War with NATO. Some leaders feared aggression from NATO’s smaller countries—if Israel could crush three Soviet-backed armies, what was West Germany capable of?

“How the GDR Capitalized on the Arab-Israeli Conflict” by Lorena De Vita

  • East German leaders sought to take advantage of the war to gain a foothold in the Middle East and increase its standing with the Soviet Bloc.
  • East Berlin declares West Germany as an enabler of war through its reparation payments and non-denouncement of Israeli aggression.
  • Ulbricht pledged full support to Arab allies and condemned Israel after Romania refused to do the same.

“At the End of the Sixth Day” by Yair Even

  • Moshe Dayan feared Israeli triumph would precipitate Soviet intervention. Nasser openly plead for same intervention.
  • Nasser requested Soviet military support and troops, fearing that Israel would build on its success and seize Suez Canal.

“Ceausescu and the Six-Day War: The View from Washington and London” by Sielke Kelner

  • Ceausescu interpreted the defeat of Arab armies as a sign of weakness and used the war as an opportunity to assert his independence from the Soviet Bloc.
  • By acting (or at least pretending) as a neutral party for bilateral negotiations between the Arab coalition and Israel, Ceausescu sought to raise his international standing.

“Brezhnev’s Secret Six-Day War Speech” by Stefan Meining

  • In speech to Central Committee, Brezhnev called to strengthen Warsaw Pact in face of Arab rout and takes credit for “saving” Damascus.
  • Soviet leadership blamed US “global strategy” for provoking the conflict, and took credit for saving Damascus.

“Czechoslovakia and the Six-Day War” by Guy Laron and Jan Koura

  • Documents obtained by Jan Koura detail Czechoslovak negotiations with Egypt over massive arms deals leading up to and immediately following the Six-Day War.
  • In order to limit their exposure in providing arms to Arab allies, the Soviet Union enlisted Czechoslovakia to orchestrate the deal.
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Kian Byrne is a Program Assistant with the History and Public Policy Program.
More posts by Kian Byrne