Superpowers Face Off : US and Russian Involvement in the Six Day War

Friends, we have covered lots of ground over the past two days!  Thanks for joining me in the journey, and I hope you’ll stick with it, as we continue down the path.  In understanding why Jerusalem Day is such a celebratory holiday, we have looked at Israel’s Greatest Hour of Danger and Six Days that Changed Israel’s Future.  Now, we press on toward these ideas:

  • Superpowers Face Off – US and Russian involvement in the Six Day War
  • Six Days of Miracles – God brings the victory for Israel
  • Biblical Significance of the Six Day War
  • Aftermath of the Six Day War

Let’s tackle the superpowers!  Did you know the Six Day War came very close to igniting major action between the US and Russia?  As the world’s greatest military forces of the era, the two superpowers were pitted against one another, and some say only a miracle of God kept conflict between the two from erupting.

When Israel launched the preemptive strike on Egypt, beginning the Six Day War (June 5, 1967), Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol notified US President Lyndon Johnson of Israel’s actions.  In the message to the President, Eshkol said:

“Israel’s existence and integrity have been endangered…prevent the Soviet Union from exploiting and enlarging the conflict…[in our] greatest hour of danger.”

For Israel, the stakes could not have been higher.  They faced destruction if they did not take action, and they faced utter annihilation if the Soviets engaged.  The Jewish state indeed faced its greatest hour of danger, and they desperately needed the backing of the US.

Israel’s initial strikes on Egypt prompted a “hotline” call from Soviet Premier Kosygin to President Johnson in the pre-dawn hours.  Kosygin’s message: if the US does not get Israel to stand down, the Soviet Union would take direct military action, elevating the conflict to a level far beyond a Middle East conflict.  In fact, it appeared World War III was imminent.

Previously, during the buildup of conflict, the US had threatened to cut off political and military support to Israel if they initiated a preemptive strike.  Therefore, the Prime Minister and his advisors took a huge gamble that President Johnson would not stand by his threat.  However, with the Soviets involved, a new dynamic was in play and it broadened the scope of engagement from simply an Israeli-Arab conflict, to a potentially global US-Soviet conflict.  As a show of strength, President Johnson immediately sent the Sixth Fleet into the Mediterranean.

Miraculously, despite threats and chest-puffing, the Soviets never took action.

As for the US, involvement in the Six Day War was actually influenced by its involvement in the 1956 Suez War.  Israel had taken land in the Sinai, but then-President Dwight Eisenhower pressured Israel to withdraw in return for Israel’s guaranteed right of passage in the Straits of Tiran.  Thus, during the run up to the Six Day War, Israel remembered that deal forged by the Americans and expected their support in regaining access to the Straits following Egypt’s blockade.

However, mired in the Vietnam conflict, the US was less than eager to get involved in the Arab-Israeli spat.  President Johnson was unsuccessful in diplomatic efforts, and silent in warnings to the Arab world.  As seems to always be the case, American neutrality emboldened the Arabs, eliciting threats of Israeli annihilation from the likes of Egyptian President Nasser and others.

Meanwhile, Soviet actions (and lack thereof) seem to be an enigma.  Scholars disagree regarding whether or not the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or “Soviet Union”) was responsible for the outbreak of hostilities, and if so, why.  Did Moscow instigate the war in an attempt to increase Arab dependence on the Soviets?  Or perhaps to unify Middle East forces and consolidate the Soviet position in the region?

Nikita Khrushchev was overthrown in late-1964, so some believe Soviet leadership was divided.  Premier Kosygin and his followers seemed unsure of the Arabs preparedness to go to war against Israel, while Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and his followers pursued a more aggressive policy, including escalation of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Conspirators even go so far as to propose that the conflict in the Middle East was to improve the domestic position of Brezhnev and his party.

Yet another idea is that the Soviet Union did not encourage its Arab clients to wage war, but that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser assumed Soviet consent to block the Straits of Tiran and did so without consent.

Regardless, the two world superpowers both refrained from further escalation, and America’s Sixth Fleet show of strength was apparently just enough to keep escalation at bay.

Dear friends, there is a reason the Bible emphasizes the importance of blessing Israel.  (Genesis 12:3)  Throughout history we see those who come against Israel destroyed.  Where are the Canaanites?  Where are the Amalekites?  Where are the Jebusites and the Hittites?  What about the Philistines?  Nowhere to be found, except in history books!  You see, my fellow truth seekers, God is faithful to His Word!  With a strong and mighty right hand, He will strengthen and uphold Israel!  (See Isaiah 41:8-13)  God is on her side and enacting miracles at times!  We will revel in miracles of the Six Day War tomorrow.  Be sure to come back for that!


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