Moscow has agreed to arm Egypt with air defense missile systems, announced Sergei Chemezov, the head of Russia’s state-controlled industrial holding company. He wouldn’t elaborate on the specifics, but added that Egypt also expressed interest in other Russian weapons, including combat planes and helicopters.
The announcement comes during a time of strained relations between the United States and Egypt that began after Washington criticized the July 3 military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
President Obama initially refused to call the takeover a coup, since that would mean the U.S. would have to cease aiding the country financially, a move that would complicate America’s relationship with one of the two Middle Eastern countries that currently supports Israel.
“Our interest is basically having the peace with Egypt continue,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told the New York Times. “That peace was premised on American aid to Egypt, and I think that for us is the most important consideration.”
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., met with Egyptian officials in August to encourage an end to the political stalemate and a transition of power away from the military to the civilian populations. “The military can't keep running the country. We need democratic elections,” Graham said. “The (Muslim) Brotherhood needs to get off the streets and back into the political arena and fight your differences there.”
McCain and Graham called to the situation a coup and the Obama administration hesitantly followed suit, halting various cash deposits, while denying that it was an actual suspension until last month. The Obama administration officially announced that the U.S. would suspend military aid. According to Fox News, that means the U.S. will withhold a $260 million cash deposit, a $300 million loan guarantee, and numerous military weapons including four tanks, several Apache helicopters, and various ship-battling missiles.
That angered Egyptian leaders and sparked speculations that the nation would enter a multibillion-dollar weapons deal with Russia. Today’s announcement seems to solidify those speculations. The deal has also prompted rumors that Egypt is considering a major shift in foreign policy and considering Russia as an ally over the U.S.
Last week during a visit between Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov and himself, Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy denied those rumors. “Russia's weight is too heavy to be a substitute for anyone,” he said. “We look forward to strong, continuous and stable relations with Russia. We seek to energize a relation that is already in existence.”
So far, it isn’t clear how far the support will extend. Although Egypt has currently expressed interest in more military weapons, the nation is too poor to afford them. Still, the welcoming gesture towards Russia indicates an increase in anti-American sentiment in the Middle East.
“The U.S. has no friends left in the Middle East,” Egyptian political activist Magdi Khalil told FoxNews.com earlier today. “Nobody can accept the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood, and it appears that’s where the Obama administration is aligning itself.”