While still working with Israel and the Palestinians to hammer out a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, Egypt is also working on shoring up their own military with a visit to Russia. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said the sides agreed to expand military cooperation.
According to a report from RIA Novosti, the discussion included Egypt acquiring Russian fighter jets, helicopters and anti-tank rockets. The deal comes roughly one year after the United States instituted a freeze on certain arms deliveries to Egypt over human rights concerns. President Barack Obama rescinded restrictions on attack helicopters earlier this year.
The Russians, according to RIA Novosti, are looking for new economic partners in light of Western sanctions on Russia over their actions in Ukraine. Russian troops reportedly are massed near the Ukrainian border and there are concerns they could invade.
That didn’t stop Egypt from talking arms deals with Russia. Also on the docket for conversation was the Gaza conflict, in which Egypt is acting as mediator between the sides.
While Egypt’s rapprochement with Russia might raise concerns about their suitability as a mediator in the Gaza fight, they’re still better than another country whose name was often mentioned as potential middleman—Qatar. The host for Hamas’ leadership and accused of funding Hamas, Qatar was clearly worse than Egypt, regardless of the Russian situation.
However, the current Egyptian military conversations with Russia still should raise eyebrows. The United States is losing influence in the Middle East, and power-hungry Russia is looking to take advantage.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 12, 2014)