by Mahmoud Fouly
CAIRO, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) — Besides their economic interests for both sides, the continuous closeness between Egypt and Russia and their growing strategic partnership indicate shared position on rejection of “U.S. hegemony.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin started on Monday a two-day official visit to Cairo where he held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on enhancing strategic partnership and boosting economic and military cooptation.
“The first message behind the visit is that both countries are dissatisfied with the U.S. hegemony over the world both politically and economically,” said Nourhan al-Sheikh, political science professor at Cairo University and expert in Russian affairs.
The professor told Xinhua that Egyptian-Russian rejection of U.S. dominance is also indicated in Sisi’s remarks on the necessity for “the establishment of a fairer international economic system.”
Although Sisi did not mention the U.S. by name, the Egyptian president said on Tuesday in a joint press conference with Putin that the world needs to develop “an international system that is more democratic, fairer and safer for all countries.”
Egypt has been facing U.S.-led Western criticism since then-military-chief Sisi led the overthrow of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, whereas Russia has been suffering U.S. pressures and sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis.
Sheikh described Putin’s visit to Cairo as “very supportive and earnest” as it shows Russia’s confidence in Egypt’s stability ahead of the country’s long-awaited economic summit to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in March to offer foreign investment opportunities in Egypt.
“This visit is like a Russian testimony that Egypt is stable, secure and trustworthy enough for strategic partnership and huge foreign investments,” the professor added, noting that Cairo is Putin’s first foreign visit in 2015.
As Russia’s support is significant for Egypt in its “anti-terror war” and development aspirations, Russia also needs Egypt as the portal to maintain its interests in the Middle East and to help overcome the economic isolation attempts launched by the U.S..
Sisi and Putin agreed to establish a nuclear power plant in a coastal city in Egypt, an Egyptian-Russian free trade zone as well as a Russian industrial city near the Suez Canal corridor region.
“Russia would satisfy Egypt’s needs for energy projects and weapon deals while Egypt would provide Russia with its needs of agricultural materials and other consumables affected by Western sanctions on Russia,” the professor continued, “which explains how great their mutual interests are.”
Putin said in Cairo on Tuesday that there are more than 400 Russian companies operating in Egypt and that three million Russian tourists visited Egypt in 2014, representing a 50 percent increase compared to 2013.
The annual volume of trade between Egypt and Russia has exceeded four billion U.S. dollars and it is expected to reach five billion dollars in the near future.
“The Russian-Egyptian decision to replace the dollar with their local currencies in their mutual trade is also part of their anti-U.S. hegemony policies,” Abdel-Moneim Fawzi, head of diplomatic department at state-run Gomhuria newspaper, told Xinhua.
Fawzi noted that Russia has previously made this move with close allies like China and Thailand, which is seen as a Russian attempt “to shake the thrown of the U.S. dollar.”
According to the diplomatic expert, the Egyptian-Russian approach sends an important message that the structure of the international system cannot be “unipolar.”
“For instance, unlike the United States, China is the world’s second largest economy and it does not attempt to impose its will on other countries; the same applies to Russia,” Fawzi illustrated.
Fawzi echoed Sheikh’s view that Russia and Egypt have complementary interests and mutual needs for each other’s political and economic support, “while the United States wants to tailor the world according to its visions and will.”
The heads of states of Egypt and Russia also shared same positions on regional and international issues, including the necessity for reaching political solutions to the turmoil in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen, and on implementing the two-state solution to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Experts see that approaching Russia is part of Egypt’s foreign policy to create a kind of balance in its relations with world powers in the West and the East through strengthening strategic partnership with influential states including Russia, China and Japan