Alternate Suez Outcome
The Suez Crisis of 1956 was a pivotal period
in many ways. It was an early conflict of “proxies” in the cold war
(ostensibly Communist backed Egypt under Nasser and the Western backed Israeli
Defence Force). It was also the final shift of power from the traditional
European behemoths (France and the UK) towards a world influenced by two
superpowers (the US and the USSR).
The basics of the crisis are as follows:-
A military coup in Egypt overthrew an
Egyptian monarchical regeme that was little more than a British puppet
government. This coup had been preceeded by a gradual lessening of the
traditional purpose of the Suez Canal – the lifeline between Europe and its
Eastern colonies. With the dissolution of Empires in general, and the British in
particular, the excuse that the canal should remain under a European sphere of
influence was wearing rather thin.
Nasser, the man who oversaw the coup,
immediately turned to the communist block for support. While not particularly
socialist or communist himself, he was canny enough to recognise that the only
way he could possibly stand up militarily to France and Britain was with soviet
weapons. To this end he opened diplomatic relations with communist China in an
effort to get that country to persuade the USSR and her puppets to supply arms
Nasser also nationalised the canal, which
outraged France and Britain, who were the owners at the time. These two nations
secretly met with Israel, and formed a plan for Israel to invade the Sinai
Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, extending its borders to Egypt. Following this,
Britain and France would intervene militarily to separate the warring nations,
gaining control of the canal at the same time.
It was a plot that was pure 19th
century power broking, and at first worked perfectly. Unfortunately it
discounted the fact that this sort of action could not really exist in the
polarised world of the early Cold War. This latter fact lead to the US forcing
France and Britain to withdraw when the USSR threatened to intervene on
Egypt’s behalf by launching an all out war on Europe, including threatening to
use nuclear weapons.
The end result was the final nail in the
coffin of the Egyptian-Israeli relations (which had actually been relatively
cordial until the early 1950s). It also was a bad humiliation for France and
Britain, firmly relegating them to the position of second tier players in the
new world’s power structure. It also forced the resignation of the British
premier, Sir Anthony Eden.
Instead of obeying the US directive to
withdraw from Suez, France and Britain stubbornly hold on to their military
The first and foremost would almost
certainly be military action by the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. Considering that
there were substantial British and French forces in the Eastern Mediterranean at
the time (no less than 5 aircraft carriers with supporting forces), this
escalation would almost certainly have involved a far more aggressive deployment
in Egypt, supported by Israeli ground forces.
For its part, the Warsaw pact would have
made moves in Europe. Considering that the USSR’s nuclear deterrent did not
include ICBMs until 1957, we would see an effort for nuclear weapon equipped
bombers to strike major Western European cities. I would think that some would
get through, but given the extended ranges involved, I could very easily see a
second Battle of Britain seeing off what few bombers managed to successfully
traverse the gauntlet of bases in Western Europe.
I doubt London would have been hit with a
nuclear weapon, but I think it is safe to assume that what few German cities
were more or less intact by the late 1950s would have been hit, alongside
several French cities, including perhaps Paris. There were a lot of US troops in
Western Europe at the time, as well as increased mobilization in France and the
UK. Germany would have been the weak link in the chain, hampered as it was by
the harsh armament policies imposed by the victors after World War II.
So we would almost certainly see a European
war sweep away the shattered remains of Germany. Battles would once more be
fought along the Rhine, and whole army formations would disappear in tactical
nuclear explosions while both sides expended their relatively limited arsenals.
Then the turning point would come.
In our timeline, the USSR would not deploy
an ICBM until the R-& was successfully tested in 1957. On the other hand,
the US had working ICBMs several years earlier, and while they could not deploy
large numbers until the early 1960s, they certainly had some available in 1956.
So, a United States which is furious with
its European Allies but who is committed to making sure that the USSR does not
sweep them away and gain control over Europe ships some ICBMs to Turkey, several
years earlier than it did in our timeline. These ICBMs end up decimating several
key Soviet cities from a range longer than anything else on the battlefield
The USSR immediately sues for peace, hoping
to buy some time to finish off their own ICBMs, although the ruins of several of
their major cities has demoralised the people and isolated rebellions break out
from those who blame communism for yet more of their woes. Doubtlessly they
would put down these rebellions in their own territory, but they may well lose
control of fractious Warsaw pact members like Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
Thus we end up with continental Europe being
devastated yet again, barely ten years after the end of World War II. Germany
would cease to exist for all intents and purposes, possibly evening de-evolving
into smaller states. France would have been badly mauled by tactical nukes, and
thus would concentrate on rebuilding France its self, leaving Britain in
de-facto control of what started the whole thing off – the Suez Canal.
The USSR would take a very long time to
recover, but when it does, it could very well find itself in a world in which
the US is once again aggressively isolationist after a third European war, a war
caused by its “allies” France and the UK.
A world in which these things happened would
be vastly different from our own. In some ways, it would have been far less
polar. The USSR was broken, possibly for several years. Eastern Europe had
breathing room in which to assert its self, possibly leading to Western-European
friendly governments in several nations.
Germany may not ever recover, reverting to
the old feudal states and alliances geographically. The US may tend towards a
policy of non-intervention, possible allowing powers such as Britain to retain
more of their world influence than in OTL. France would rise again, but the main
powers in Europe would be Britain and its continental allies – Scandinavia and
whatever Eastern European countries fought free of the USSR.
Israel and Britain would almost certainly
end up as very close allies due to Arab anger at the war’s outcome. This may
end up with a more “adventurous” period of neo-colonialism and a slower
deterioration of the Imperial Remnants, with oil, not trade routes, as the
We would see an almost constant period of
small scale warfare in the Middle East, possible warfare in the ruins of Europe
as extremists of one stripe or another pop up all over the place. It is also
likely that China would be the philosophical backer of the communist rebels of
Africa and South America, not the USSR, since the latter would have enough of
its own problems.