Kuwait's first arms purchases from the Soviet Union will be strictly cash transactions with no ideological implications, according to two Cabinet ministers who confirmed that the orders have been placed.
Abdel Aziz Hussein, minister of state for Cabinet affairs, and the deputy prime minister, Sheikh Jaber Salem Sabah, said in separate conversations that the weapons were needed to fill gaps in Kuwait's present equipment, which is all from the West, and that no Soviet personnel would come here to teach the Kuwaitis how to use them.
Hussein said Egypt and Syria, whose armies are Soviet-equipped, have agreed to help Kuwait in operating and maintaining the new weapons.
They declined to say what weapons have been ordered, but other sources said that Kuwait is buying sources said that Kuwait is buying the SA-7 antiaircraft missile and the Frog surface-to-surface missile.
The SA-7, a shoulder-fired weapon carried by infantry troops, would complement the 240 Hawk surface-to-air missiles ordered from the United States in 1974.
The Frog missile has a range of less than 40 miles, but even so it will give Kuwait a potentially powerful deterrent weapon in case of an armed confrontation with its only conceivable military foe, Iraq. The Persian Gulf ports of Fao and Umm Qasr, Iraq's lifeline to the outside world, and the major southern Iraqi city of Basrah would be reachable from inside Kuwait territory.
Umm Qasr is the only gulf port regularly visited Soviet warships. Iraq and the Soviet Union have been allies for years and the Iraquis have received some of the Soviet Union's most sophisticated weapons for their own armed forces. How the Iraquis feel about the Soviet decision to sell arms to Kuwait is not known.
Iraq and Kuwait have been engaged in an intermittent territorial dispute from the time Kuwait gained full independence in 1961. At that time the Iraquis claimed all of Kuwait, and when skirmishing broke out British troops came in to restore order, followed by an Arab League peacekeeping force.
At the moment they are at odds again over the rights to drill in an oil field that straddles the border, and the Kuwaitis claim that Iraqi troops have been crossing the frontier.
Hussein, the minister of state, said Kuwait had offered a settlement, in which Iraq would be allowed to take a long-Iraq lease on an island at the mouth of its perilously narrow port channel in exchange for recognizing Kuwaiti sovereignty over it, but that the Iraquis had not responded. The Iraquis say it is they who have made the latest proposal and are awaiting a response.
Even with its new Soviet and American missiles and its French and British combat jets, Kuwait would probably be no match for Iraq in actual combat. Kuwait, with a population of only about a million, more than half of which consists of noncitizens, has an armed force of only 10,000.
Iraq's forces are 16 tines as large, and many of the units are combat-hardened from the long war against Kurdish insurgents in the northern mountains.