By a rather unfortunate coincidence, a consensus has been reached among Western observers on an analytical framework within which to view Soviet foreign policy in areas of the Third World like the Middle East, at the very moment when the rules of that game, it would appear, are being rewritten rather drastically. The decade of the 70s has seen a steady erosion of Soviet influence in the region as a result of an active diplomacy on the part of the United States and some of its European allies. The precedents shattered by the recent Soviet intervention in Afghanistan have come as a surprise to many, but it is in fact only the logical culmination of a shift in tactics begun by the Soviets over the last four or five years, designed precisely to overcome the generally-recognized weaknesses in their earlier position. This paper will begin with an overview of the traditional mode of Soviet behavior in the Middle East as it evolved in the two decades between 1955 and 1975, with special reference to its difficult experience in Egypt and Iraq. It will then analyze the steps that the Soviets have taken over the past half-decade to ensure that their expulsion from Egypt would not be repeated elsewhere, and will conclude with a discussion of the implications of this shift for the Western alliance.