Libmonster ID: KZ-2274

WHAT PREVENTS THE TWO COUNTRIES FROM REACHING A NEW LEVEL OF COOPERATION?

NURHAN AL-SHEIKH

Doctor of Political Science

Cairo University

Keywords: Russia, Egypt, bilateral relations, nuclear energy, military cooperation, fight against terrorism

On November 19, 2015, Egypt and Russia signed an agreement on the construction of the first Egyptian nuclear power plant in the Dabaa region using the latest Russian technologies. This is an important step in the development of Russian-Egyptian relations on the way from partnership to strategic alliance.

It is worth noting that cooperation in the field of nuclear technologies is one of the strategic directions aimed at establishing long-term partnerships. According to the statements of S. The project provides for cooperation between the two countries for a period of 100 years and includes the construction within 10-12 years of four nuclear power units with a capacity of 1,200 MW each, with a minimum service life of 80 years. Russia will provide financial support to the NPP construction project and allocate an interstate loan to Egypt for a period of 35 years.1 Thus, it will open the way to the conclusion of a contract.

The signing of this agreement confirmed the independence of the Egyptian government and its desire to expand ties with Russia.

It is obvious that Egyptian-Russian relations are moving towards a closer partnership, as Egyptian President Al-Sisi also stated: "Russia and Egypt have a great potential for cooperation to ensure the prosperity of two countries and two peoples... Relations between our countries are very good, and they are only developing. " 2

The leadership of the Republic of Egypt understands that strategic partners should be sought not only in the West, but that it is necessary to develop its partnership relations with other states and turn its eyes to the East, to Russia, its no less long-standing partner.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's visit to Cairo at the head of a Russian delegation of 26 heads of various departments interested in strengthening strategic and military-technical cooperation between the two countries also inspired optimism about the future of Russian-Egyptian relations. It took place shortly after the signing of the agreement on the construction of the nuclear power plant. This is the second visit of Sergei Shoigu to Egypt in the last two years, in between which his counterpart, the head of the Egyptian Defense Ministry, also visited Russia. Subhi.

There is no doubt that numerous meetings of the leaders of the two countries-Egypt and Russia-play a significant role in the development of cooperation. So, over the past year and a half, five such meetings have been organized. On May 9, 2015, Al-Sisi participated in the celebrations dedicated to one of the most significant events in Russian history - the 70th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War. And at the end of all the celebrations, Sisi was one of the heads of state with whom Russian President Vladimir Putin met. Putin held separate meetings. Such a partnership is particularly important in the context of exerting pressure on Russia at the regional and international levels.

Russia is a serious partner of Egypt in various fields, especially in the military sphere. Moscow expresses its readiness to supply Cairo with samples of the latest technologies and weapons for the air and naval forces, as well as various missile and defense systems, and to help with the restoration of its own military industries.

So, an important event for

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The first meeting of the joint Russian-Egyptian commission on military-technical cooperation, which was held in Moscow in March 2015, was a key element of military cooperation between the two countries, which has not been properly developed in recent decades. Following the event, a Protocol on military cooperation between the two countries was signed, an agreement was reached on the completion of transactions on which joint consultations have already been held, and prospects for cooperation under new contracts were outlined.

This will certainly help Egypt overcome the difficulties of military cooperation with the United States. In addition, the first joint Russian-Egyptian naval exercise "Bridge of Friendship-2015"was held in the Mediterranean Sea from June 6 to 14 last year3.

There is no doubt that Egypt needs military cooperation with Russia to strengthen its military capabilities and ensure the security of its borders. In fact, part of Egypt's military arsenal still consists of samples of Soviet military equipment and weapons supplied by the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s of the last century4.

Russia is a large and important market for Egyptian goods and various products. Russia is developing modern technologies in various fields, including nuclear, energy, space exploration, as well as in the modernization of industrial infrastructure, introducing advanced agricultural technologies, especially for growing agricultural crops on sandy soils, etc. Russia provides up to 40% of Egypt's wheat needs.

Evidence of the development of bilateral ties is the agreement reached, following several negotiations between Moscow and Cairo, on the creation of a free trade zone between Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. This will open up new markets for Egyptian goods and help increase Egyptian exports to Russia. In addition, the parties agreed on Russia's participation in the Egyptian project to build a global logistics center for grain storage and processing, as well as on the creation of a Russian industrial zone in Egypt - in the Ataka region, near the Suez Canal - which will specialize in the production of spare parts for cars, aircraft, computers and electronic devices, as well as some engineering products.

THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM IS THE MAIN TASK

Russia sees Egypt as a strategically important partner in the Middle East.

Today, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen are in chaos and war. These countries form a belt of instability that threatens not only their neighbors, but also other states that seek to establish security and stability in the world as a whole, and this, first of all, is Russia. In this regard, Egypt can play an important role in establishing peace in the region, since it, like Russia, faces the problems of terrorism and is forced to confront extremist organizations.

Russia is following the escalation of terrorism with particular concern, especially in the post-Soviet countries that border it. It views the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization as a direct threat to its national security, particularly after the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus militants pledged allegiance to IS in June 2015. As you know, this organization has committed numerous terrorist acts on the territory of Russia in recent years, including the terrorist attack at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport in January 2011.

ISIS sees Russia as its enemy and threatens to launch attacks on the Moscow Kremlin and "liberate" Russia, Chechnya and the entire Caucasus. Then the Russian energy sector, which is the most important area of state interests and ensuring national security, is at risk. It should be taken into account that the main source of funding for the IG is oil, which it steals from the fields it has captured in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and then sells on the "black" market, receiving considerable income-up to $3-4 million. in the day.

In view of the above, Russia sees its main task as the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Russia shows interest in the region and, in particular, in Egypt, and has begun to pursue an active foreign policy here as a state with power and influence. The new Naval Doctrine, which President Vladimir Putin approved on July 26, 2015, focuses on restoring the permanent presence of the Russian Navy in the Sea.-

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Egypt, as you know, has a fairly long maritime border), as well as strengthening the strategic positions of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea, due to the advancement of NATO's military infrastructure to its borders and the actions of the United States against the background of the crisis in Ukraine 5.

In this regard, in the context of the growing global terrorist international, it is necessary to further expand cooperation between the two countries in the field of combating terrorism and ensuring security, as well as the exchange of information and intelligence. Russia has all the latest developments in obtaining such data. It has its own list of terrorist organizations whose activities are prohibited on its territory. The Muslim Brotherhood was also included in this list in 2003.

Like Russia, Egypt recognizes the need to counter terrorist groups and is taking measures to combat terrorism in the north of the Sinai Peninsula and elsewhere in Egypt.6

In view of this, the exchange of information between the Russian Federation and Egypt about the plans and movements of terrorists will help the Egyptian security forces to detect their locations and prevent new terrorist acts that are aimed at undermining stability in the country. In addition, cooperation with Russia will allow Egypt to receive information about new technologies for detecting explosives, as well as the latest methods for combating terrorism.

The crash of a Russian plane in Sinai on October 31 last year and the death of 224 passengers, most of them Russian citizens, set the task of improving security cooperation between the two countries. Moscow's subsequent decisions to evacuate Russians from Egypt, in particular tourists, as well as to stop air traffic between the two countries, were made for security reasons due to the possible repetition of terrorist acts against Russian citizens and had no political motive.7 However, the economic consequences for Egypt were severe. Tourists from Russia formed the basis of the tourist flow to Egypt, where tourism is an important branch of the national economy and one of the main sources of income and foreign exchange earnings. Recent statements by Russian leaders indicate the possibility of resuming tourism in the context of increased security measures.

FACING OLD AND NEW CHALLENGES

The "June 30 Revolution" of 2013 and subsequent events opened a new page in the history of our country. There is a real opportunity to expand the Russian-Egyptian partnership to the level of a strategic alliance, which, however, is not so easy to implement due to the fact that Egypt, like Russia, is forced to face various challenges, experiencing pressure at the regional and international levels.

First, Egypt continues to experience a period of instability, despite the end of the transition period and the holding of parliamentary elections in autumn 2015. This is accompanied by the deterioration of the living conditions of many Egyptians and the flourishing of corruption. A significant part of young people cannot find work and become easy prey for extremist organizations.

After the Islamists lost power in 2013, ideological supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, many of whom are radical, continue to infiltrate various institutions and structures in the country. They try to influence the minds and moods of Egyptians, mainly the younger generation, employees or those who sympathize with them.

The development of this situation leads to the fact that there is no clear position on the political future of the country, which forces have real power. Disagreements and the likelihood of a new social explosion are growing again in society. This raises the question of how Russian-Egyptian relations will develop as long as Egypt continues to solve its internal problems and confront old challenges.

Second, Egypt has not yet got rid of the remnants of the past and the old bureaucratic machine that remains from the reign of former President H. Mubarak. This hinders the progress of many Russian-Egyptian projects, since a large amount of time passes from the moment of reaching an agreement and signing an agreement at the bilateral level. This circumstance is one of the main obstacles to the development of partnerships.

Moreover, many of the major projects that Egypt and Russia are currently negotiating were agreed upon earlier, during the Mubarak administration. However

page 49

most of them remained on paper. To give a concrete example, the creation of a Russian industrial zone in Egypt was discussed under H. Mubarak. At that time, it was assumed that it would be located in the city of Burj al-Arab. Then they started talking about suspending the project, and today they are trying to implement it again and open an industrial zone, as mentioned earlier, in the Ataka area, near the Suez Canal.

Third, Egypt and Russia have different positions regarding the solution of a number of existing regional problems, in particular, due to the fact that Egypt is influenced by Saudi Arabia.

Moscow's attempts to reach cooperation with the countries of the Persian Gulf, especially with Saudi Arabia, which plays a certain role in the Syrian issue, acting on the side of anti-government forces to overthrow the regime in Syria, as well as influencing world prices for" black gold " as one of the major exporters on the world oil market, primarily to fight with joint efforts Efforts to combat terrorism, which also threatens these countries, have not yet been crowned with success.

In general, there are disagreements between Russia and Saudi Arabia regarding regional threats, such as Iran's policy, the attitude towards the ruling regime represented by Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and the attitude towards terrorist groups. In this regard, Egypt seeks an alliance with Russia, but it is necessary to take into account that Saudi Arabia is currently a strategic partner of Egypt in the field of security and economic development.

For example, despite Egypt's belief in the necessity and effectiveness of Russian Air Force strikes in Syria to combat terrorism, the leadership of Egypt cannot openly declare this or even provide more effective support to the Russian side, because this will cause a negative reaction from Saudi Arabia, which condemns Russia's actions in Syria and considers them as a threat to the security of the providing assistance to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Egypt has joined a Saudi-led military coalition against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen.8 Russia, for its part, expressed clear concern about what was happening in the region and the stability of the situation in the future after the start of the Storm of Resolve military operation in late March 20159. Moscow insisted on the cessation of hostilities in the Republic of Yemen and the need to step up the efforts of international organizations, including the UN, to find ways to resolve the conflict peacefully and establish a dialogue involving all political and religious forces in the country.

Moscow has also expressed serious concern about the expansion of the conflict zone to other countries in the Middle East region.

However, Russia's position on the operation in Yemen and Egypt's participation in the military coalition did not affect the state of Russian-Egyptian relations. In their foreign policy, both countries strive to take into account mutual interests, and at the same time not focus on differences regarding the development of the situation in the region.

The last thing that prevents Egypt from turning to Russia and building a strategic partnership with it is the desire to restore the old relations with the United States, with the future American administration. Some Egyptian officials, who have high powers and are responsible for making foreign policy decisions, still feel nostalgic for ties with Washington. Although it is known that America's foreign policy guidelines will not change dramatically. It may seem strange how the United States and other Western countries behaved after the "June 30 revolution", which regarded Mursi's removal from power as a military coup and suspended aid to Egypt.

In this regard, it should be noted that major changes and foreign policy reorientation took place during the reign of Anwar Sadat in the mid-1970s. The United States began to play a key role in Egypt's domestic and foreign policy. 10

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. The United States remained the only pole of power and began to actively influence the situation at the international and regional levels. Egypt then lost all freedom of choice, let alone an independent foreign policy, and its relationship with Washington was more like a commitment. In the following decades, America has increased its influence in Egypt through loyal government officials, the political elite, big business owners, academics, and the media.

During this period, many political forces in the country, in particular, Islamists began to move into the arena, and they began to actively compete with each other in order to gain trust

page 50

Washington, because there was a belief in political circles that the United States decided who would rule Egypt! Pro-Americans or those who were educated in America held important positions in various institutions and organizations in Egypt in order to follow the interests of Washington.

Today, supporters of an alliance with the United States are in a state of panic or even seized with a phobia, which in our country is also called the "Russians have come" phobia, because of the possible activation of Russian-Egyptian cooperation. This raises concerns that rapprochement with Moscow will be built instead of cooperation with the United States, which will then lose its influence on Egypt. This would be a blow to the interests of the old pro-Western political elite.

The "June 30 Revolution" showed that there is a big gap between this political elite and ordinary citizens of Egypt, and in al-Tahrir Square, Egyptians carried posters with the image of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moreover, during his visit to our country in February 2015, ordinary people took to the streets in recognition and gratitude for Russia's support for the "June 30 revolution" and what it resulted in - the removal from power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the United States supported. Thus, the events of June 2013 provided a real opportunity to develop Russian-Egyptian cooperation in various fields.

Russia's position on the "June 30 revolution" was just another proof of the Russian-Egyptian friendship that has lasted for many years. So, it is worth remembering, for example, the events during the Suez crisis in October 1956 and the role of the USSR in ending the aggression against Egypt. Also, our country will not forget the huge assistance of the Soviet Union in the construction of the high-rise Aswan dam, including technical support provided by Soviet specialists.

The USSR supported Egypt during a difficult period in 1967 and broke off diplomatic relations with Israel due to aggression against Arab countries. The Soviet Union supplied the most advanced weapons by those standards to rearm the Egyptian army so that Egypt could give a worthy military response to Israel in the 1973 war.

* * *

Summing up, it should be noted that many Egyptians are convinced that their country's true ally and friend is Russia, which is ready to lend a helping hand in difficult times. There is no doubt that 2015 is the year of Russian-Egyptian relations, as it was in 2015 that relations between the two countries reached a new level of development.

However, Egypt and the Russian Federation will still have a long way to go to ensure the stable development of relations. This will contribute to ensuring the security of the two countries, which means that the two peoples will strive for development and prosperity.

Translated from Arabic by K. V. MESHCHERINA, Editor of Asia and Africa Today magazine


1 Mysr tadhulu al-asr an-nawawiyyah: ittifaq mysrirussi li bina 'mahatta ad-dabaa (Egypt is included in the "age of the atom". Egyptian-Russian agreement on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Dabaa) / / Elwatannews, 19.11.2015 -http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/840384

Mutawali Ahmed S. 2 Mysr wa Rusia tamlikani al-qasir li tahkiq al-izdihar li-sha'ebayhima (Egypt and Russia have a great potential for cooperation to ensure the prosperity of their countries) / / Al-Ahram, 10.05.2015 - http://www.ahram.org.eg/NewsQ/386645.aspx

3 "Jisr al-Sadaqa 2015"... dyda khajamat javiya ("Friendship Bridge-2015" ... from air strikes) / / Sputnik News, 10.06.2015 - http://arabic.sputniknews.com/arab_world/20150610/1014568467.html

Ginat R. 4 The Soviet Union and Egypt. 1945 - 1955. Gainsborough House. Great Britain. 1993. P. 205.

Oliphant R. 5 Putin eyes Russian strength in Atlantic and Arctic in new naval doctrine // The Telegraph, 27.07.2015 -http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11765101/Putin-eyes-Russian-str ength-in-Atlantic-and-Arctic-in-new-naval-doctrine.html

6 Sisi creates unified military command to combat terrorism in Egypt's Sinai // Ahram Online, 31.01.2015 -http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/121835/Egypt/Politics-/Sisi-forms-new-milita ryentity-to-combat-terrorism.aspx

7 Moscow Banning Egypt Flights Not Political // Sputnik News, 17.12.2015 - http://sputniknews.com/world/20151217/1031903286/putin-egypt-flights-ban.html

8 Egypt sends up to 800 ground troops to Yemen's war -Egyptian security sources // Reuters, 09.09.2015 -http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-yemen-security-idUKKCN0R91I720150909

9 Later, however, the coalition launched a new operation, Rebirth of Hope. Saudi 'Decisive Storm' waged to save Yemen // Al Arabiya News, 25.03.2015 - http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/03/26/GCC-states-to-repel-Houthi-aggr ession-in-Yemen-statement-.html

10 См., например: Lippman T.W. Egypt after Nasser: Sadat, Peace, and the Mirage of Prosperity. Paragon House. New York. 1989.


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