‘Nothing to divide Egypt and Russia’
On Wednesday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss different aspects of the countries’ bilateral relations.
RT: How important is this meeting?
Neil Clark: I think it is a very important meeting; it’s the third or fourth meeting that the two presidents have had together since 2013. I think it’s a sign again of the ever closer ties between Egypt and Russia. This is pretty natural really, because if we look back at the history of relations between Egypt and Russia there was I suppose a period of ten years from the mid-70s until the mid-80s when relations were not very good. So the natural position is for these two countries to be very friendly and to have good links and particularly good trade links as well, because there is nothing to divide Egypt and Russia. They’ve got no conflicts of interest; they’ve got no issues where they would be divided. In fact they’ve got a lot of issues to bring them together at the moment - in particular, because since we know that what happened was that the US did actually halt the very large amount – $1.3 billion - of military aid to Egypt from 2014 and then started it again in March. So it was a real motivation for Egypt to build better relations with Russia then.
And of course Russia with the very harsh sanctions imposed on it by the US and the EU over the events in Ukraine meant that it would make it more important to improve trade links with other countries and Egypt is a major market. The statistics I saw was that trade figures have gone up by record amount and there was a very large increase last year in the trade between Egypt and Russia. So it’s good for both sides really.
RT: Is it possible that one day Egypt might join let’s say BRICS?
NC: I think it is a possibility and from Egypt’s point of view they had that period where… They are still the second biggest recipients of US aid, but the US’s halting of military aid to Egypt has made them think again that they do need a more multipolar policy and to build stronger business, economic links with Russia, so it would make sense. Of course in Russia’s perspective extension of BRICS to more countries would be a good thing and Egypt is the most populous Arab nation - it’s geopolitically very important. Russia or the Soviet Union had a very strong relationship with Egypt in the days of Nasser in the 50s and 60s up till the mid-70s in fact. It would be advantageous for Russia to strengthen the relationship with Egypt.
RT: What other common interests do the two countries have?
NC: Again, they have both common interest in this issue of fighting terrorism, because Egypt has been active in trying to deal with the threat of IS not only in neighboring Libya, but in Egypt itself, the attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. And of course Russia has a very big interest in countering IS in the Middle East and on the subject of terrorism and IS in relationship to Syria they’ve got common interests. Remember back when President Morsi was the president of Egypt, he took a very strong line on Syria; he was very strongly backing the so-called ‘rebels’. And Russia was supporting the Syrian government. Now we’ve got an Egyptian president who is not supporting the rebels. He is really strongly opposed to IS as Russia is, so I think there is going to be closer cooperation on this. And if the West, the US, is serious about defeating IS then regional powers like Egypt are going to be brought into this because the government in Egypt wants to defeat IS, Russia does and it needs an agreement between the countries’ cooperation between the regional powers there. That’s the only way that IS is going to be defeated and of course the flow of arms and money to IS through other countries in the region is stopped. Fighting terrorism is something that would bring Russia and Egypt together.
RT: What could an alliance between Egypt and Russia mean for the region?
NC: I think this alliance between Egypt and Russia could mean something, because as I said Egypt is the most populous Arab nation, it’s a geopolitical power and the dynamics have shifted a bit because when Morsi was in power the rebels were getting backing from Egypt, they were supporting them and now they are not, it’s quite the opposite. So I think the balances have shifted. And I think that Egypt and Russia can work with other regional powers here and form a kind of block if you like against those nations who are – and have proved it by actions - really out to destroy Syria and who have been backing violent rebels. This is a positive move because for the interest of peace in Syria it’s essential that the flow of weapons and arms into the so-called rebels is stopped. We’ve got American and British talking about training moderate rebels, we all know what happens to those weapons that go and end up in the hands of IS. Now we’ve got another major power in the region – Egypt – which is taking a different line on Syria to what it did do a few years ago. That’s got to be a positive and will help the cause of peace in Syria, so it’s a good thing.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.