11 November 2013, 16:52

Russian defense minister to bank on country’s reputation as reliable partner in upcoming visit to Egypt

Russian defense minister to bank on country’s reputation as reliable partner in upcoming visit to Egypt

Russian weapons’ exporters are returning to the Middle East and to Northern Africa. After Russia resumed its military and technical cooperation with Iraq and Libya, then came Egypt's turn: according to some sources that country is getting ready to purchase over four billion USD worth of weapons. Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu is planning to visit Egypt on November 12-15.

The military and technical cooperation between Moscow and Cairo, which was stopped at Egypt's initiative in the first half of the 1970s after Egypt's president Muhammad Anwar as-Sadat decided to reorient procurement towards the USA, has a good chance of being resumed in the next few months. To a limited extent it was resumed back in the 2000s when Russia upgraded the following systems that it had supplied to Egypt in 1960s and early 1970s: the S-125 Pechora surface-to air missile system (in the Pechora-2M version), the Kvadrat surface-to-air missile system (which received the missiles and some control elements of the system from the modern Buk complex) and the self-propelled anti-aircraft Shilka weapon systems, which were repaired and upgraded by adding portable infrared homing surface-to-air Igla systems to them. In addition, Egypt received new medium-range complexes Buk-M1-2 and short-range complexes Tor-M1E.

The total volume of military trade between Russia and Egypt is not great, but none the less significant – it amounted to 1.852 billion USD from 2005 to 2012 (which equaled 19.4% of the market). With that volume Russia is rated second among all the weapons suppliers to Egypt. The first place is held by the USA, which over the same period supplied to Egypt weapons and military equipment worth 6.865 billion USD (71.8% of the market). China is the third with its military trade volume of 341 million USD (3.56%), followed by the Netherlands with 165 million USD, Italy with 139 million USD, Spain with about 100 million USD and some smaller suppliers.

The potential volume of four billion USD currently discussed would greatly increase Russia's share in the Egyptian arms market, which in the event of such plans being fulfilled would allow Russia a chance to take first place, currently held by the USA. The forecast of US supplies for the years 2013-2016 amounts to 3.41 billion USD. So far second place is helf by Spain with the forecast of 300 million USD, while the current volume of planned contracts with Russia, which is in the third place, amounts to 108 million USD.

The processes that started in winter 2010/11 in Tunisia and Egypt, which then engulfed most of Northern Africa and the Middle East under the title of the Arab Spring, gave rise to conviction among Russian military experts that future military and technical cooperation between Russia and the countries in that region would come to an end as the new regimes took root there. Initially it appeared that the end of cooperation with Libya confirmed such a forecast. However, as the situation stabilized, everything started to return to its original path. The contract with Iraq, where a new regime was installed even prior to the Arab Spring and not after an internal revolution, but with the help of America's military force, was the first major breakthrough. Nevertheless, as time went by and as the US control of the situation weakened, having realized its national interests, Iraq's new leadership started improving its relationship with neighboring Iran and resumed its military and technical cooperation with Moscow. The fulfillment of the four-billion-dollar contract started in the fall of 2013 with the supply of Mi-35M helicopters.

That same fall, the relations with Libya were resumed, which received the self-propelled Khrizantema anti-tank systems, which had been ordered by the Gaddafi government.

And finally, the Russian delegation is going to Egypt to discuss not the past limited contracts that have been typical of the last few years, but to return to the full-scale cooperation reminiscent of the 1960-70s. It is obvious that the political and economic processes that were set off by the Arab Spring turned out to be too complicated for those who tried to run them or forecast their development. It is also obvious that Russia's strict position on the Syrian issue did Russia a lot of good. Its uncompromising support of Syria's lawful government in its war against international terrorism, including timely supplies of weapons, restored Moscow’s reputation as a reliable partner capable of defending its allies even in situations of harsh external pressure. There is no doubt that this reputation will work in favor of the Russian Defense Minister during his visit to Egypt.

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