Putin to Visit Egypt, Replace US Military Ties
Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Egypt later this month, the Washington Free Beacon reports, in what is seen as an attempt to replace the US as the Nile state's military provider.
The visit, during which US officials predict Putin will announce a major arms deal, comes as US ties with both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are weakening, and may indicate a shifting of regional influence in Moscow's favor.
Tensions rose between the US and Egypt following US President Barack Obama's partial freeze of Egyptian military aid last month. The move came on the heels of Obama's perceived support of ousted President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Washington Free Beacon notes that Egypt is interested in acquiring Russian fighter jets and Tor anti-aircraft missiles, in addition to upgrades for its Soviet-era tanks, all of which are weapons systems the US has currently blocked.
If the visit is successful, Russia will mend military relations with Egypt that were strong until 1977, when then-President Anwar Sadat broke ties in favor of US backing.
The announced visit comes after initial reports of Egypt's intention to seal a 15 billion dollar arms deal with Russia, which reportedly will include MiG-29 planes and other military equipment. Egypt expressed its interest after an Egyptian delegation visited Moscow last Thursday.
Just before US Secretary of State John Kerry's apparently unsuccessful conciliation visit to Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi stated that his country is looking for partners other than the US to meet its security needs.
Kerry's visit included a stop in Saudi Arabia, in an attempt to patch things up with the Gulf state which has expressed displeasure over Obama's handling of Syria and the Iranian nuclear threat. Saudi Arabia reportedly will help finance Egypt's Russian arms deal.
Russia has been taking an increasingly active role asserting itself in the Middle East, replacing America according to some, as US alliances and influence in the region have faltered.
According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov Thursday, Russia will be hosting representatives of both the Assad regime and the rebel forces in unofficial peace talks between the two sides. He added that both sides had agreed to the meetings.
The development comes after US and western backed initiatives for a Geneva 2 Conference to discuss Syrian peace has fallen apart as the rebel forces have demanded that talks focus on Assad's exit, while Assad insists on staying in power.