BERIL – Sisi’s Russia visit

Sisi’s Russia visitOne of the most important diplomatic developments of last week was Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisiand#39s official visit to Moscow.He used the opportunity to conclude a number of agreements with Russia, including one aiming at establishing a free trade zone between Egypt and Russia Some commentators have said that Russia has thus andquotreturnedandquot to Egypt.

Egyptand#39s strategic importance hasnand#39t changed throughout history no matter who has ruled over the country. Now Gen.

Sisi is in charge. As you may recall, the United States backed Gen.

Sisiand#39s military coup overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013. The US and its Western allies supported the coup because they were persuaded that the Muslim Brotherhood would not be able to maintain a balanced relationship with the West.

Besides, they hoped a strong government in Cairo would manage to fight against radical currents and bring political stability to the country.Egypt, however, has another serious problem: Without a stable economy, Sisi will not be able to pursue his regime, no matter how andquotstrongandquot he is.

It seems that Sisi doesnand#39t believe he has been supported enough economically by his Western allies. He has even been one of the most eager supporters of Israeland#39s Gaza operation, but he still has not received the financial assistance he had hoped for That may explain why he decided to fly to Moscow.

Nevertheless, we donand#39t know if the US is really disturbed by the agreements he has made with Russia because Egypt has always been a country at equal distance vis-andagrave-vis the US and RussiaMaybe Sisi is just trying to re-establish this old balance policy, the status quo of before the Arab Spring.Egypt, of course, cannot be analyzed without looking at what is going on in Syria or Israel.

The US has shown to the world that it will not allow third parties to change the game in Iraq, and it has bombarded the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levantand#39s (ISIL) positions in northern Iraq.This radical group will probably retreat to Syria now and weand#39ll start hearing more about the Syrian civil war in the coming days.

In other words, the US has refused to negotiate the future of Syria through the Iraqi chessboard.By the way, during the Gaza operation, the Israeli government used every opportunity possible to hint that it might get closer to Russia if the US administration criticizes Israel too loudly.

Similarly, it was interesting to observe that despite what is going on in Gaza, Iran pursued rapprochement with the US.It is obvious that the priority of Russia and the US in the Middle East is not to allow third parties to join in the game.

Only after having assured this, they will start to negotiate seriously. As a confidence-building measure, Russia has allowed Iran to get closer to the US, and the latter has allowed Egypt to do the same with Russia Egypt may receive financial assistance from Russia, but this does not mean Cairo will stop helping the US strategically.

One may ask about the USand#39s sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. These sanctions will not damage Russiaand#39s economy too much they will hurt European economies more.

In other words, these sanctions are punishing the EU more than RussiaThe problem is that no one is sure whether Egypt will be able to preserve the balance between Russia and the US. Egyptand#39s recent history reminds us that the country faces many risks.

If Sisi gets the wrong idea — that he will be able to use Russia against the US, or Israel against Turkey or Iran against Saudi Arabia — that will be a fatal mistake. He must not forget that those powers that spend time trying to andquotconvinceandquot Israel, Turkey or Iran have never had such patience for Egypt.

Maybe weand#39ll learn much more about this balancing game if a high-level Russian visit to Egypt happens. Weand#39ll have to carefully watch who will make this visit and what kind of agreements will be concluded then.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman