[Marxism] Egypt's Sisi strengthens ties to anti-imperialist camp
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Wed Aug 27 08:36:31 MDT 2014
Sisi’s visit to Russia is message to the West
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تاريخ المقال: 13-08-2014 11:30 PM
The visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Moscow yesterday
[Aug. 12] seemed more practical than ideological. Egypt today is not the
Nasserite Egypt [of the 1950s]. And Russia is not the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, the visit happened in an atmosphere evocative of the
1960s. A swarm of Russian fighter jets escorted the Egyptian
presidential plane, while a military ceremony was set up on a ship from
the Black Sea Fleet, reflecting Russia’s desire to build new alliances
to face the repercussions of the Ukrainian crisis.
Sisi’s visit to Moscow has taken a special dimension for Russia, and
this dimension is no less important for Egypt. After the faltering of
relations between Egypt and both the United States and the European
Union, following the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim
Brotherhood, Cairo is greatly in need of balance in its foreign
relations and for some breathing room in the Levant to deal with the
Western pressure on Egypt.
In this context, Sisi, who met Putin at the latter’s residence in the
coastal city of Sochi on the Black Sea, said, “The entire Egyptian
people are following my visit to Russia with interest and are expecting
strong cooperation between our two countries … and I think that we will
achieve the hopes of the Egyptian people.”
In addition to the political aspect, the United States' hesitation to
provide arms to Egypt in light of the challenges faced by Cairo, due to
the escalating terrorism on its eastern and western borders, has made
Cairo look to Russian arms. Meanwhile, there are rumors that Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are ready to finance a massive
Russian arms deal to Egypt. Putin alluded to this during a joint press
conference with Sisi by saying, “We are working on increasing
cooperation in the field of arms.” He also spoke about “the possibility
of establishing an Egyptian logistics center on the Black Sea coast,”
and about “continuing to cooperate in the field of space.”
On the economic front, the sanctions imposed on Russia by the European
Union and the United States represent a good opportunity to open the
markets between Russia and Egypt. Putin said Russia will provide Egypt
with at least 5 million tons of wheat in the current year and will
increase its imports of Egyptian agricultural commodities. Putin said
his talks with Sisi addressed establishing a free trade zone with the
Moscow-led Eurasian Customs Union, which is composed of Belarus,
Kazakhstan and Russia.
The economic cooperation between Egypt and the Soviet Union had tangible
results in building heavy industry and the arms industry in Egypt, and
in training technical personnel in different areas. And there are new
horizons for this form of cooperation after Sisi announced that he
discussed the establishment of a Russian industrial zone in Egypt as
part of a project to develop the Suez Canal with Putin.
In the field of energy, Egypt is looking forward to building the
al-Dabaa [nuclear] reactor with Russian help. Egypt and the Soviet Union
once cooperated in building the Anshas nuclear research reactor.
But it seems that cooperation between the two countries will include
traditional sources of energy, especially since Egypt needs Russian gas,
as well as Russian investments and expertise to explore for and extract
oil and natural gas [in Egypt].
At the political level, the visit comes at a crucial time. Russia is now
an international player, primarily in the Syrian crisis, which has
turned into a cross-border crisis that is knocking on the doors of the
Gulf states and Egypt with the emergence of the danger of the Islamic
State and the other jihadist danger coming from Libya.
Perhaps coordinating Egyptian-Russian positions on regional issues,
whether in Syria, Iraq, Libya or Palestine, has become necessary for
both sides. Russia’s Middle East presence is in decline and Egypt is
facing efforts that could marginalize its regional role to the benefit
of other parties, especially Turkey and Qatar. For example, Egypt was
excluded from the Paris meeting that discussed the Israeli aggression on
Putin has supported Sisi in the latter’s war on terrorism. Putin said
that “Russia shares Egypt’s position” on this issue. Sisi went so far as
to say, “There is a uniformity between us and Russia on international
With regard to Syria, Sisi stressed the importance of negotiation and
coordination within the framework of applying Geneva II and in helping
Syria reach a political solution to put an end to the bloodshed and
achieve the Syrian people’s aspirations.
On Iraq, Sisi said, “We and Putin have emphasized our commitment to Iraq’s
unity, regional integrity and its response to terrorism,” calling for
“the formation of a government of national consensus [that includes
everyone] in Iraq without excluding any party.”
He continued, “We have agreed with Russia that Libyan territory should
remain united and that the outside [powers] should not interfere,”
adding that he coordinated with Putin on the means to settle the
Commenting on Sisi’s visit to Moscow, Mohammed Farraj, an Egyptian
expert who specializes in Russian affairs, told Al-Safir, “Evoking the
era of the 1960s during Sisi’s visit to Russia may be just an awakening
by the Soviet’s old friends and the traditional left.” But the
transformations in the region may have begun to affect international
In this context, Farraj said, “We see today that Saudi Arabia is moving
to finance the arms deal between Cairo and Moscow despite the fact that
it contradicts its alliance with the United States. But after the danger
from the extremist groups reached Saudi Arabia’s border, Riyadh thinks
that only the Egyptian army can face this danger. … And given America’s
[unpredictability] toward Egypt and [how that is affecting US arms to
Egypt], Saudi Arabia has no choice but to finance the purchase of
weapons to Egypt from Russia.”
As to how the West may react to Egyptian-Russian relations, Farraj said,
“This convergence will not make America or the European Union happy.
Most likely, Washington will try to pressure Cairo indirectly, whether
by fueling chaos in Libya or by marginalizing Egypt’s role in the
Arab-Israeli conflict,” as well as by ramping up diplomatic or economic
Farraj said, “The visit is taking place when there are new signs of the
Cold War. The Egyptian move comes in response to changes in the regional
and international situation. [Those changes] require [a country to have]
diverse political and economic alliances and arms sources. … This is an
important shift in Egyptian foreign policy.”
In an interview with Al-Safir, Ahmed al-Khumaisi, a writer interested in
Russian affairs, said, "Egyptian-Russian relations are based on a
history that goes back to the era of Muhammad Ali [in the early 19th
century], [a history where] the Russian state never entered into a war
with Egypt, unlike Britain, France and America by proxy, i.e., Israel."
He said, "Restoring these relations is a good step, provided that we don’t
fall into the illusions of the past."
He added, “The visit may impose repercussions that come from the past.
But those repercussions are incorrect. The Russian president is not like
the one who knocked on the UN platform with his shoe, or like the one
who directed an ultimatum to Paris and London threatening to strike them
with missiles,” in reference to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. “So,
the visit must be seen in the context of the present moment and not go
Despite his reservations about evoking the 1960s legacy, Khumaisi said,
“The visit is very important. There is no doubt that Egypt needs to
diversify its foreign relations, politically, economically and
militarily, despite the fact that this diversification will be inside
the same camp, since there are no longer two camps.”
The margin of maneuver in Egypt’s foreign relations is no longer tight.
There are ways for Egypt to face outside pressure. Russia has warmly
welcomed the Egyptian initiative to assert that Western pressure
regarding the Ukrainian crisis will not isolate the Russian bear. [Was
Sisi’s visit] just intended to tell his original allies to stop their
pressure? Or is there a genuine shift in Egyptian diplomacy?
Perhaps the answer to that question depends on how the various regional
and international parties behave in the next phase.
This article was first published in Arabic on 13/08/2014. Read original
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