The new Egyptian government is taking steps to reduce Egypt’s strategic dependence on the US. Ever since Camp David in 1978, Egypt has received very large amount of military and civil aid from the US and as a consequence, its presidents have been firm supporters of almost anything that came out of the White House.
Only a few weeks ago, the US said it was suspending a large part of the $1.3 billion (Dh4.78 billion) in aid it gives to the Egyptian military. Therefore, it was not a shock to see Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visiting Cairo to discuss a whole arrangement of joint activities, including arms deals which might be worth as much as $2 billion.
It is the first such high-level Russian visit to Egypt in decades and is reminiscent of the switch in 1956 by Egypt’s then president Jamal Abdul Nasser when he stopped US support to build the Aswan High Dam and successfully sought Russian support. The Soviets dominated Egypt’s international political scene for some time, until Camp David moved the Egyptians back into the American camp. If a new relationship develops, it will offer Russia a much more stable Arab ally than the troubled Syrian government. In the heat of the moment, Egypt may welcome moving out of the direct American sphere, but in the long term, it will need to maintain all its relationships very carefully.