My contribution to the Espionage History Archive on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Syria upon the latter’s request. The details seem, at times, eerily reminiscent of today’s events, as these excerpts from the memoirs of a Soviet diplomat reveal. It is this kind of mix of history, diplomacy, and intelligence that I find particularly fascinating and, thus, a pleasure to translate!
The Soviet Union’s first ambassador to Egypt, Nikolai Vasilievich Novikov, recounts his pioneering role in establishing diplomatic relations in 1944 with Syria. Novikov provides a rich context to the genesis of Russo-Syrian partnership, describing the geopolitical arena and its attendant intrigues conducted by rival great powers like Britain and France. Novikov’s passage serves as an excellent background to an alliance between Russia and Syria that has regained strategic significance in the Great Game of our own day.
One hellishly hot day, June 15, when all the thoughts of Cairo’s residents—charred from heat—turned if not toward the relaxing beaches of Alexandria, then toward a cool bath or a shower, a respectable-looking stranger from Syria showed up at the Soviet Embassy. Met by advisor Daniil Solod, he introduced himself as Naim Antaki, a member of Syria’s parliament from Damascus, and the former Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Naim Antaki
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