Egypt is looking to Russia to provide them with military equipment. If the deal is finalized, Russia will be selling $2 billion worth of arms as President Vladimir Putin grabs the opportunity to capitalize on the decision of the United States of America to cut the defense aid to Egypt.
Some of the said equipment could be air defenses, attack planes, and short range anti-tank missiles, according to Vedomosti, a Russian newspaper.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu were in Cairo to meet their Egyptian counterparts Nabil Fahmy and Abdelfatah al-Seesi. This was the highest level contact between the two countries since Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the military 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. “Russia and Egypt are determined to forge a closer partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation.”
“We continued discussion of projects on military and military-technical cooperation, agreed that in the near future we will take steps on the legal framing of our agreements,” Shoigu also said.
The Russian Defense also minister added that Russia and Egypt will be working together quickly to enact the military pact.
“We agreed that in the nearest future, we will take steps for the legal implementation of our deals,” said Shoigu.
Decision makers from Russia have confirmed that they are now making a more active stance in the Middle East after years of having a passive policy.
“Today, Russia is returning to a number of regions lost during the 1990s,” Margelov said. “This is the African continent and the Middle East.”
“Even before the ‘Arab Spring’ Russia did not hide its interests in these regions and began strengthening with these countries military-technical, economic, and trade cooperation,” Margelove added citing Jordan, Lybia, and Syria as examples.
It’s still unclear when the arms-deal will be enacted.
Several experts have predicted Russia’s recent actions saying that the withdrawal of U.S.A. from Egypt has created a power vacuum.
“This news doesn’t really come as a surprise,” Anna Borshchevskaya, a fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy said. “When we cut off aid to Egypt, we lost leverage over Egyptian military, and others were more than happy to fill the void.”
She also said that Russia has been waiting for the right time to “reassert itself in the Middle East,”
“It’s working to revive some of its Cold War relationships there,” said Borshchevskaya. “Of course they are happy to sell military equipment to Egypt—Putin wants to position Russia as a counterweight to the West in the region. This is a perfect opportunity, it fits with this plan.”
Aside from Egypt, Russia has also been growing closer to Iran.
According to the chair of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Committee Mikhail Margelov, Russia will be providing the arms that the U.S. denied to provide to Egypt.
The United States has been Egypt’s source of F-16 jets and other kinds of advanced warplanes to fight terrorists in Sinai and other disputed regions.