Will Russia be Egypt’s lifeline?

Putin would have oriented his strategy towards the Arab world of the Mediterranean arch, revitalizing the doctrine of anti-colonial pathos, based on helping the Arab nationalist regimes in their fight against Western influence and which will be reflected in renewed economic cooperation projects and in a intense military cooperation, which together with the evident affective detachment of the Egyptian general al Sisi with respect to Western countries, the recurrent endemism of the failure of the successive rounds of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and the delicate economic situation in which Egypt finds itself (country de jure poor and de facto subsidized), will lead to a tightening of Russian-Egyptian relations that would entail a total geopolitical change in the complicated puzzle of the Middle East.

Egypt in US orbit

Egypt has always been a key player in maintaining US hegemony in the Middle East and North Africa, but Mursi’s unexpected victory in the 2012 Egyptian elections disrupted US geopolitical strategy in the Middle East, consisting of endemic survival in Egypt. of pro-Western autocratic military governments to maintain Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, (Camp David agreement, 1979), to continue the fight against jihadist militias in Sinai and especially to ensure US Navy access to the Canal of Suez, a crucial shortcut for direct access to the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Morsi never controlled the levers of power in the country and only had nominal control over the army, security forces or state intelligence services, which is why he negotiated with Al Sisi the loyalty of the Army to his person entrenched in defense of his presidential legitimacy, but the SCAF carried out a virtual coup against Morsi by not fitting his Islamist project into the US strategy in the Middle East. This coup had the approval of the US as Mursi ceased to be a useful pawn for the US geopolitical strategy in the Middle East, forming part of the new US strategy for the area after the evident failure of the export experiment of the former regime. Erdogan’s moderate and pro-Western Islamist to all the countries that make up the giant chessboard of the Arab-Mediterranean world.

Sisi’s affective detachment from the US

The support of the Egyptian Military Junta would be crucial to maintain the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, (Camp David agreement, 1979), to continue the fight against the jihadist militias in Sinai and especially to ensure access to the Suez Canal. , as Egypt granted the US Navy free passage through the Suez Canal for the dozen warships that cross the canal monthly. Thus, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab allies of the US in the Middle East (with the exception of Erdogan), would have pressured Obama and the EU not to condemn the coup against Morsi, opting for an autocratic regime as bad under the threat of Islamism emerged from the polls.

However, after the bloody repression of the Egyptian army against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Obama Administration announced the cancellation of the biennial joint military exercise with Egypt as a measure of pressure on the interim military government to stick to the agreement of the democratic transition plan as well as the possible review of the military aid granted to Egypt, estimated at 1,500 million dollars per year, causing a Western detachment that was used by Putin to recover the lost influence in Egypt. Remember that according to the newspaper Al Tharir, General Sisi would have “strong ties with United States officials both at the diplomatic and military levels, since he studied in Washington, attended several military conferences in the city and participated in joint war exercises and security operations. intelligence in recent years”, but the pressure measures of the Obama Administration provoked the affective detachment of al-Sisi after reproaching Obama that “you. you abandoned the Egyptians, you turned your back on the Egyptians and they will not forget it.”

Putin’s new strategy in the Middle East

The new Russian geopolitics in the Middle East was embodied in the determined support for the Syrian regime of Al-Assad and Iran with the aim of establishing its position as an unavoidable collaborator in the search for a global agreement for the entire East PROME. Thus, aware that he was playing with an advantage in the face of the inability of the US and its European allies to take the initiative in the conflicts in the Middle and Near East (Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Iran), Putin took advantage of the great opportunity that was presented to him recover the international influence that Russia had lost in recent years through the master move of convincing Assad to hand over his entire arsenal of chemical weapons and the scant international support received by Obama to start his military operation against Syria.

Thus, the withdrawal by the US of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and the destroyer USS Gravely from the Mediterranean after Obama canceling the attack against Syria “in extemis” (Operation Free Syria) was used by Putin to reinforce his fleet in the Mediterranean with 18 warships. Thus, according to the Itar Tass agency, Russia will reinforce its naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus with the aim of reviving the extinct Mediterranean Fleet (dissolved in 1992 after the extinction of the USSR), whose backbone will be formed by the Fleet the Black Sea, the North and the Baltic (with the Varyag as flagship) but the instability of the Syrian conflict would force Russia to seek a new alternative for its naval base on Egyptian soil, (Damietta or Port Said) as well as reopen the Sidi Barrani military base, operational until 1972, something that the US never achieved and for which Mubarak was overthrown.

Egypt would be a country weighed down by its excessive energy deficit and by the high rates of grain imports in a society immersed in the culture of subsidies (around 30% of the country’s budget is earmarked for subsidies), so in the new scenario drawn, Egypt’s needs for grain and technology could be met exclusively by Russia. Thus, during the Mursi mandate, Egypt requested technical assistance from Russia to build the Dabaa nuclear power plant near the Mediterranean coast and develop the Inshas experimental nuclear reactor, outside Cairo, as well as the technology necessary to exploit the country’s uranium mines, located between the Nile and the Red Sea coast, since Russia, through the Lukoil and Avatec companies, would already have a significant presence in the Egyptian oil and gas fields.

The new geopolitical role of Egypt

Al-Sisi was in favor of restoring the traditional status of the army in the socio-political life of Egypt and after being elected President of Egypt in 2014, he would have established a presidential regime with clear autocratic overtones which, together with the growing detachment of the elites Egyptian military with respect to Western countries and the delicate economic situation in which Egypt finds itself (a de jure impoverished country and de facto subsidized), could make Sisi raise the flag of a new pan-Arabist movement of Nasserist affiliation that will extend its mimetic effect to the rest from Arab countries of the Mediterranean arch (Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Lebanon as well as Jordan and Iraq). Likewise, in the event that control of the Suez Canal passes into Russian hands, the geopolitics of the United States in the Near and Middle East (East PROME) would be totally mortgaged and would mean a total geopolitical change in the complicated puzzle of the Middle East, passing Russia to be a reference element and strategic partner of Egypt and turning Egypt into Russia’s continental aircraft carrier, (recalling Khrushchev’s policy when Egypt was the main partner of the USSR in the region and its President Nasser was decorated with the Star of Hero of the soviet Union).

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Germán Gorráiz López

Germán Gorráiz López is a political analyst writing on economic and geopolitical issues. His articles appear in a number of publications in Europe and the United States.

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