Egypt attempts to redress regional balance with Russia visit, says expert
CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to Russia is seen as a pivotal change in pace for Egyptian foreign policy and its ties with world powers, analysts have said.
Although the agenda for the trip initially focused on economic cooperation, reports have since emerged that Egypt is seeking advanced weaponry from Russia and discussing its desire to develop nuclear power by building nuclear reactors.
The reported arms deals under discussion between Egypt and Russia are a statement directed at the US, according to Dr. Mohammed Kadry Saeed, an expert on military studies at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
“The statements are intended for the US, probably as a response to the pressure the US places on Egypt through the aid it provides. The American Congress is always debating whether to renew the aid, asking whether Egypt is on our side. So this is a message to the American Congress, Saeed said.
The statements coming out of Russia regarding elevated military cooperation are a new development, he said; adding that it is the first time that arms have been declared top of the agenda for a visit to Russia.
He also said that Egypt has traditionally dealt solely with the United States in arms – as a major part of American aid to Egypt – while arms deals with Russia usually entail replacements and spare part acquisitions.
Saeed added that it seems Egypt is looking to increase its arms suppliers, a move which could mark a return to a historical policy that was discarded when the country moved closer to the US. Hanna Ebeid from the International Relations Unit of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told The Daily Star Egypt that Russia is a “counterbalance in the peace process. “[Russia’s] traditional role has always been as a power sympathetic to Arab concerns, she said.
Ebied added that in light of the close ties Russia and China boast with Syria and Iran, there will likely be discussions on trying to soften the Western stance against the two nations, or at least mediate for each side to conduct some sort of diplomatic discourse between them. And the Egyptian delegation intends to visit both Syria and Iran after leaving Russia.
Egypt seeks to eliminate the Western categorizations of Arab countries into friendly states and antagonistic ones, she told The Daily Star Egypt.Concerning the closesness of Egyptian-Russian relations, Dimitry Tarasov, ITAR TASS (Russian News Agency) correspondent in Egypt, told The Daily Star Egypt, I dont think this is anything new. The tradition of our history of relations [shows] this is just a continuation of the cooperation between the two countries on many levels. As for discussions being held on the stalled peace process, Tarasov added that, Russia has been playing a great role in the peace process. Recent statements by Putin have indicated that it would be good to pick up [the pace] of the peace process, and that it will be imperative for Egypt to play its role in this as well. When asked about the relatively close ties Russia enjoys with Syria and Iran and how it could use these to end the antagonism between these two countries and the international community Tarasov told The Daily Star Egypt. Russia is doing all it can to build better relations between Syria and Iran and the rest of the world. It s doing its best to bring them back into the international [fold] and also involve them in the Middle East peace process. On Thursday, the Egyptian delegation to Russia, which includes the ministers of trade, industry and investment, also explored the possibility of establishing a Russian industrial zone in Egypt.