Opinion: Implications of partnership between Egypt, Russia



Wed, 27 Dec 2017 - 05:29 GMT


Wed, 27 Dec 2017 - 05:29 GMT

On November 19, 2015, during Russian president Putin's visit to Egypt, Egypt and Russia signed an initial agreement under which Russia will build and finance Egypt’s first nuclear power plant in the city of Dabaa.

On November 19, 2015, during Russian president Putin's visit to Egypt, Egypt and Russia signed an initial agreement under which Russia will build and finance Egypt’s first nuclear power plant in the city of Dabaa.

On November 19, 2015, during Russian president Putin's visit to Egypt, Egypt and Russia signed an initial agreement under which Russia will build and finance Egypt’s first nuclear power plant in the city of Dabaa. The signing of the agreement is a crucial step towards raising the status of Russian-Egyptian ties to a consistent strategic alliance between the two countries that could last for centuries. Nuclear technology cooperation lead to long-term strategic partnerships, and this project, for one, includes establishing four units over the course of 10 to 12 years, and such units are scheduled to operate for 80 years from the date of launching the first of them in 2022.

The signing of the Dabaa agreement asserts the independence of Egyptian decision-making. It also affirms that the Russian approach towards Egypt was not merely a transient impulse, but rather a solid alliance growing stronger on many fronts. Egyptian-Russian relations are growing deeper, and this is particularly evident in a joint press release issued by the presidential offices of both countries.

The visit also included signing the agreement for the Egyptian-Russian industrial city, another humongous project which will add considerable dimensions to the economic and technological partnership between the two countries. This is especially noteworthy when it comes to industries which feed heavier ones such as vehicles, airplanes, engineering products, computers and others. The city is planned to be built east of Port Said in the Suez Canal Corridor region; it will be built on a 5 million km3 area over the course of 13 years, with investments of up to $7 billion and construction costs of up to $190 million. The city will reinforce Egypt's role as a window of African and Middle Eastern investments.

The visit by Sergey Shoygu, Russia’s Minister of Defense, to Cairo last month heightened the sentiment of optimism about the future of Egyptian-Russian relations. What further heightened this state of optimism was the fourth session of the Egyptian-Russian Military and Technological Cooperation Committee. During this event, an aviation safety agreement was signed between both countries whereby they agreed to resume mutual aviation services as a means to deepen their strategic alliance in the face of terrorism. The event asserted bilateral strategic cooperation in facing common threats, as well as the security and stability of the region. This entails security and intelligence cooperation, exchanging information about the moves of terrorist elements and their migration towards Egypt, Libya and other neighboring countries, in addition to exchanging information about terrorist organizations' abominable plans so that security apparatuses in Egypt can terminate them and can thwart their attempts to destabilize Egypt.

Russia possesses very advanced intelligence and information apparatuses as well as up-to-date technologies. In addition, the Russian view on terrorist organizations matches its Egypt’s. Russia has a very distinguished experience in fighting terrorism by security and developmental means, owing to its internal, ongoing anti-terror battles.

Russia considers the eradication of ISIL and other terrorist organizations to be the main and the most important challenge in the region. Russia had previously announced its determination to deny these organizations any chance to return to Russia and its neighbors, to eradicate them inside their foster countries, and to completely uproot terrorism in the Middle East. The region is the strip to the south-west of Russia through which terrorist funding infiltrates Russia.

Russia is also considered a strong military partner for Egypt, and their cooperation in this field is a necessity for the building up Egypt's military abilities as well as guaranteeing the safety of Egypt and the Egyptian people. Moscow is the ideal military partner for Egypt since the Egyptian military code is still Eastern and has barely changed since the mid-twentieth century. In his visit, President Putin asserted Russia's aim to expand the scope of cooperation in this field and that it is prepared to provide Egypt with the latest military technology in different missile and defense systems. This is besides to providing assistance in reviving Egypt's military industries and considering new deals which can heighten Egypt's military abilities, actively contribute to upgrade the Egyptian army and update it with the latest defense systems. Besides this, military cooperation in the field of training still goes on, and the first of such joint Egyptian-Russian exercises was the Friendship Bridge maneuver in 2015 which took place on the Mediterranean coasts during June 6-14, followed by the Defenders of Friendship maneuver in 2016.

On the other hand, Russia is considered to be a huge market for various Egyptian products. The volume of trade between the two countries at present, $ 4 billion, is incomparable to potential opportunities in the Russian market for a huge range of Egyptian agricultural and consumer products. Therefore, according to what President Putin explicitly noted in this respect, the need for increasing and even multiplying the size of trade between the two countries rises significantly. It is a well-known fact that Russia provides Egypt with a number of strategic goods and equipment. Since Russia is the largest exporter of grains in the world; it also provides Egypt with 40% of its needs of wheat valued $1.1 billion.

Finally, an agreement was inked between the two countries whereby a free-trade zone was established between Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. This deal will open new markets for Egyptian products and promote Egyptian exports to Russia. Additionally, it was agreed that Russia will partake in Egypt’s project of establishing an international logistic center for storing and trading in grains.

On a separate note, the recent US decision concerning Jerusalem and the complete American alliance with Israel has led to the loss of trust in Washington as a mediator in the peace process. Arabs potentially see Russia as a genuine mediator advocating a just resolution to the situation in Palestine in accordance with international legitimacy and UN resolutions on the matter. This view is supported by the fact that Moscow was the second sponsor of the peace process in Madrid in 1991. Afterwards, it was a member in the international quartet formed by the UN to push the resolution forward. Moscow is seen to fully comprehend the dimensions and developments of the issue.

In conclusion, Egypt’s national interest and Arab national security strongly push for an Egyptian-Russian partnership to the end of the century and beyond.

Dr. Nourhan el-Sheikh is a professor of Political Science at Cairo University.



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