Sunday,19 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1236, (5 - 11 March 2015)
Sunday,19 August, 2018
Issue 1236, (5 - 11 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Cairo to buy fighters jets from Moscow

Ahmed Eleiba on Egypt and Russia’s strategic partnership

Al-Ahram Weekly

Cairo received three high-level Russian delegations last week, one from the Russian National Security Council, a second comprising scientists and technicians in the field of atomic energy, the third a team of manufacturing experts. In the reverse direction, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri visited Moscow, followed by Minister of Defence Sidqi Sobhi.

It is full steam ahead for the Egyptian-Russian strategic partnership that Cairo and Moscow are forging. In the wake of Vladimir Putin’s historic visit to Cairo a month ago three major agreements have been signed.

They cover military and security cooperation, agriculture and trade, and coordination at the regional and international level over the fight against terrorism and other crucial issues, including the crises in Syria and Libya.

A Russian source who has closely followed developments in the relationship told Al-Ahram Weekly that while the warmth between the two countries is reciprocal it is President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi who is the driving force in the relationship.

 “He comes from the same school as Putin. Both leaders appreciate each other’s importance in the regional and international spheres.”

The source continued: “Russian officials have a strong desire to support Al-Sisi, who they see is a clear and resolute leader. But we should not forget that behind this desire is concern over Egypt’s relationship with the US. What will happen if things came to a head and Washington asks Egypt to cool its relationship with Russia? Would Egypt comply?”

He supplies his own answer. “Al-Sisi is a serious man. We need to view the partnership as it relates to a number of issues. A Yemeni delegation from the Houthis was recently in Russia. That delegation then headed to Cairo. Cairo does not share the same degree of friction with Iran as other Gulf countries.

“Russia wants there to be a relationship with Iran to promote stability in the region, given the chaos Washington is creating. Cairo, in cooperation with Russia, could act as a bridge between Iran and the Gulf.”

Egyptian observers do not doubt the seriousness of Cairo’s relationship with Moscow.

“Russia cooperates with us in the fight against terrorism at a time when Washington is supporting a terrorist group in Egypt,” says Nourhan Al-Sheikh, an expert on Egyptian-Russian relations. “Russia offers us a process of development and contracts that do not have political strings attached, which is hardly the case with the US.”

He continues, “Our relations with Washington are strategic and Russia is not an alternative. That said, it is unrealistic for the US administration to think it can behave in ways that drive Egypt away from a strategic approach to that relationship. In the end, Washington left Al-Sisi with no choice.”

During Al-Sisi’s meeting with the Russian security delegation, headed by Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and his deputy, Ivigini Lukyanov, the fight against terrorism and extremism topped the agenda, with the main focus on Syria and Libya.

The visiting nuclear energy delegation included 32 Russian nuclear scientists who participated in a forum on energy uses hosted by the Scientific Research Academy. The Russian scientific delegation also visited Marsa Matrouh to inspect a site for the Dabaa nuclear energy project.

Egyptian officials and the leaders of the Russian delegation stressed that both sides are committed to pushing ahead with the project. According to Anton Muscovin, the head of the Russian delegation, Putin has prioritised the construction of the nuclear station in Dabaa among the myriad projects Russia is committed to beyond its borders.

General Alaa Abu Zeid, the governor of Marsa Matruh, told the Russian delegation that its visit marks the beginning of the implementation of the cooperation agreement between Russia and Egypt to build two nuclear energy stations in Dabaa.

Deputy Minister of Electricity Hassan Mahmoud, who represented the government during the Russian delegation’s visit, noted that alongside four nuclear generators the project will also include a water purification plant.

The Russian source told the Weekly Egyptian and Russian nuclear scientists have already forged a close working relationship. He pointed out that a delegation of Egyptian scientists visited Russia a few weeks ago and that training programmes for Egyptian researchers and technicians are likely to begin soon in Moscow.

According to an Egyptian source close to the ongoing discussions, nuclear energy is just one of several areas of Egyptian-Russian scientific cooperation. He says 25 projects have already been agreed in areas ranging from energy to pharmaceuticals.

The third delegation, comprising eight Russian experts in manufacturing, visited an iron and steel plant in Helwan. The factory is fast becoming a flagship for the renewed friendship between Egypt and Russia, said Mohamed Nagida, chairman of the company that owns the factory. After inspecting the site the Russian team exchanged views with Egyptian experts on its development.

Meanwhile, the Russian press has reported that Cairo is purchasing 12 Su-30K fighter jets, the fourth generation of the famous Sukhoi military aircraft. According to the official Russian news agency, a contract has already been signed with the Russian Irkut company.

The report added that the two sides have initialled an agreement for Russia to supply Egypt with military aircraft, aerial defence and anti-missile systems. Among items on the list are MiG-29M fighters, Mi-35M assault helicopters, S-300VM and Tor ME2 anti-aircraft missile systems, Bastion anti-ship missiles, Kornet anti-tank missiles and Mi-17 troop transport helicopters.

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