Egypt's move towards Russia hints at shifting regional alliances

Analysis, posted 02.24.2014, from Egypt, in:
Egypt's move towards Russia hints at shifting regional alliances (Photo: Reuters)

Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s recent visit to Russia marks a major turning point in strategic relations between Cairo and Moscow, and also served to hand a “yellow card” to Washington.

But it is important to look below the surface of the obvious symbolism of the visit, and to consider the underlying political dynamics.

The US is in the process of formulating new and comprehensive regional security arrangements in the Middle East after having acknowledged that its influence in the region had reached an unprecedented nadir. At the same time Russian foreign policy is acquiring a stronger profile in the region.

It is a moment that Egypt capitalised on from a purely cost-benefit standpoint. But one must also bear in mind that it is not a moment of Russian-US conflict or a revival of the Cold War.

Opinion in the US varies on the implications of strengthening ties between Cairo and Moscow. While many hold — or, at least, pretend to hold — that this development will not affect relations between Washington and Moscow, others argue it is a clear sign of how shaky the relationship between Cairo and Washington has become.

The latter will also stress that Egypt hopes that Washington will reassess its position in this relationship because it does not want to sustain the costs of mistakes caused by misinformed or short-sighted foreign policy decision-makers in the US.

In New York Ahram Online met with Leslie H. Gelb, whose career has led him through a series of senior posts in the Departments of State and Defence as well as at various think tanks. He admires Field Marshal El-Sisi for his political realism and believes that the US should engage him in dialogue more actively. He also accepts and understands why El-Sisi has turned to Russia.

“I do not have a polite way to express my opinion of what US foreign policy makers are doing in the region,” he says. “They have no clear idea about what is happening there.” This applies to Egypt in particular.


By Ahmed Eleiba

[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]