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Egyptian historic breakthrough with Russia, not a strategic shift yet

By       Message Nicola Nasser     Permalink
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By Nicola Nasser*

 


Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Egypt's Army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Feb. 13, 2014
(Image by REUTERS/Mihail Metzel/RIA Novosti)
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The recent two-day first official visit in forty years by an Egyptian defense minister to Russia of Egypt's strongman Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, accompanied by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, was indeed an historic breakthrough in bilateral relations, but it is still premature to deal with or build on it as a strategic shift away from the country's more than three-decade strategic alliance with the United States.

 

The US administration sounds not really concerned with this controversy about an Egyptian strategic shift as much as with the Russian President Vladimir Putin's welcome of al-Sisi's expected candidacy for president.

 

"Egypt is free to pursue relationships with other countries. It doesn't impact our shared interests," said State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf, on this February 13.

 

The United States, which has been waging, by military invasion and proxy wars, a campaign of "regime changes" across the Middle East, was miserably hypocritical when Marie Harf invoked her country's "democratic" ideals to declare that her administration "don't think it's, quite frankly, up to the United States or to Mr. Putin to decide who should govern Egypt."

 

However, Pavel Felgenhauer , writing in the Eurasia Daily Monitor  on this February 13, described the visit as a " geopolitical shift" that "could, according to Russian government sources, "dramatically reorient international relations in the Middle East'." The People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, on the following day described it as an "historic breakthrough" in Egyptian-Russian relations and a "transformation in the strategic compass of Egyptian foreign policy from Washington to Moscow."

 

The main purpose of al-Sisi's and Fahmy's visit was to finalize an arms deal reportedly worth two to four billion US dollars, al-Ahram daily reported on February 13. The joint statement released after the meeting of both countries' ministers of defense and foreign affairs in Moscow on the same day announced also that the Russian capital will host a meeting of the Russian-Egyptian commission on trade and economic cooperation on next March 28.

 

This is serious business; it is vindicated also by the arrival in Cairo on this February 17 of the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Lieutenant General Victor Bondarev, heading a six-member team of his commanders, on a four-day visit, according to the Egyptian Almasry Alyoum online the following day.

 

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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