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Egypt Turning from US to Russia for Military Aid

With US partially suspending military aid, Egyptian overtures to Russia show shifting alliances amid Kerry's Cairo visit.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 11/5/2013, 5:13 PM

New order? Russian President Vladimir Putin
New order? Russian President Vladimir Putin
Reuters

An Egyptian delegation visited Moscow last Thursday to strengthen ties between the two countries, reports Haaretz, just a few days after America announced the suspension of 250 million dollars in military aid to Egypt.

With the return of the delegation from Moscow, Egypt expressed intentions to buy MiG-29 planes and other military equipment from Russia in a 15 billion dollar deal. Some reports indicate Saudi Arabia - which is itself experiencing something of a crisis in its relations with the Obama administration - will help finance the deal. 

On Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi stated that his country is looking for partners other than the US to meet its security needs, echoing a sentiment allegedly made by Saudi diplomats to their US counterparts following disagreements over how to handle the Syrian crisis.

The comment came just in advance of American Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Cairo the same day, the first since former President Mohammed Morsi's overthrow in July.

Kerry downplayed the widening gap between the two countries during his visit with General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and leaders of the interim government, as reported by the Washington Post.

He called the partial suspension of aid "a very small issue" rather than punishment, expressing hopes that it could be worked out and the 1.3 billion dollar annual military aid from America would be restored.

America partially froze military support to Egypt as a result of the instability surrounding Morsi's overthrow.

In the protests during the takeover by the military, it became clear that many Egyptians blamed Obama for backing Morsi's rise to power and repression of his opponents.

Indeed, just this Sunday, with the start of Morsi's trial and Kerry's visit, Fox News reported that anti-American sentiments were at an all-time high on Egypt's streets and on social media.

Kerry's visit included a stop in Saudi Arabia, and clearly was intended to patch cooling ties there as in Egypt. The Gulf state has grown increasingly distant as a result of Obama's policy on Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile Russia has been expanding its presence in the region. On Saturday, Russia moved the "Varyag," flagship of its Pacific Fleet, along with its most powerful battleship, "Pyotr Veliky," to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Russian buildup in the Mediterranean began in December 2012, with the admiral of the fleet saying just this September that Russia intends to continue strengthening its presence.

Interestingly enough, Obama's perceived weakness contributed to his losing the top spot on Forbes Magazine's list of the world's most powerful leaders this year for only the second time during his presidency. 

Replacing him in the top spot was none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose assertive foreign policy and aggressive consolidation of power at home contrasted starkly with President Obama's own Middle East muddle and domestic woes.