[Marxism] Egypt's Sisi strengthens ties to anti-imperialist camp

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Wed Aug 27 08:36:31 MDT 2014

Sisi’s visit to Russia is message to the West
طباعة   ع- ع+
Mustafa Bassiouni
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 
Palestinian issue.

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 
beyond that.”

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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