Russia and Egypt will discuss multibillion-dollar arms deals as President Vladimir Putin seeks to capitalize on the U.S. decision to cut defense aid to the military-backed government.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are in Cairo today to meet their counterparts Abdelfatah al-Seesi and Nabil Fahmy, the highest-level contact between the two countries since the military led by al-Seesi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.
“The visit by our defense minister to this friendly country is a major event in our bilateral relations and we will of course discuss cooperation in the military-technical sphere,” Lavrov said in an interview with Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram, posted on the Russian ministry’s website yesterday. “Russia and Egypt are determined to forge a closer partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation.”
The Obama administration last month suspended some military aid to Egypt, including $260 million in cash and deliveries of F-16 fighter jets, helicopters and tanks in an effort to prod the North African country toward democracy. More than 1,000 people have been killed since Mursi’s removal in clashes between security forces and his supporters.
While no immediate military deals are expected to be signed at the Cairo talks, the two sides will agree on a framework for the defense contracts, the Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported today, without citing anyone.
Egypt is seeking as much as $2 billion of Russian weaponry, including MiG-29 fighter planes, air-defense systems and anti-tank missiles, according to Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Russian Defense Ministry’s advisory board and head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow.
Egyptian officials are seeking financing from an unidentified Persian Gulf country to buy as much as $4 billion of Russian arms, Palestinian newspaper Dunia al-Watan reported Nov. 6, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have pledged at least $12 billion to Egypt’s new government.
Egypt is discussing the possibility of spending $4 billion on Russian weapons and renovation of the Aswan Dam, Asharq al-Awsat reported Nov. 11, citing unidentified Egyptian government officials.
Egypt, an American ally for more than three decades, received about $1.3 billion a year in military aid from the U.S. prior to Mursi’s ouster.
Egypt and the Soviet Union became allies in the 1950s when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev forged ties. Egypt received Soviet military assistance, including during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, and the Soviets financed infrastructure projects such as the Aswan Dam to irrigate land and supply electricity.
The ties lapsed after Nasser’s death in 1970, when the Arab nationalist was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who set the regional power on a pro-U.S. track that accelerated under Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in 2011. In 1972, Sadat expelled thousands of Soviet military advisers and in 1976 ended a treaty on friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union.
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