In Egypt Crisis, Russia Sees Opportunity
Image Credit: Wikicommons

In Egypt Crisis, Russia Sees Opportunity


Vladimir Putin appears to be seizing on the Egyptian crisis and the U.S. response to it to expand Russia’s influence in the Arab world’s most populous country.

On Thursday afternoon President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would be cancelling a joint military exercise with the Egyptian Army over its violent crackdown on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Shortly afterwards, Egypt Independent reported that Putin had called an extraordinary session in the Kremlin to put “all Russian military facilities ‘at the Egyptian military's disposal.’" The report, which cited several sources without providing any further details about them, also said that “Putin will discuss Russian arrangements for joint-military exercises with the Egyptian army.”

Hours later Egypt Independent took down the report, although Google is still returning searches for it. A number of websites and forums had already republished the article in full before it was removed.

The Diplomat could not confirm the veracity of the report, and it’s unclear what to make of Egypt Independent’s decision to take down the article. Egypt Independent is a highly respected, privately owned English-language counterpart to the popular Arabic daily, Al-Masry Al-Youm. (see The Columbia Journalism Review’s recent profile of Egypt Independent here). It established a strong reputation for challenging Hosni Mubarak’s rule long before that became fashionable. It also won praise for its coverage of the 2011 uprising against Mubarak, and faced intense pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood for its unfavorable coverage of former President Mohamed Morsi.

At the same time, it has a history of caving to pressure from the Egyptian military, raising the possibility that the article on Russia’s offer of military support might have been removed at the Egyptian military’s request.

In any case, Russia was deeply involved in the crisis in Egypt on Thursday. ITAR-TASS, a Russian newswire, reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by phone with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy. Another ITAR-TASS story on Thursday said that Egypt’s embassy in Moscow had appealed to Russia to continue to provide support to Cairo during these “extremely hard times… just as it used to do in the past.”

A final report from the same outlet detailed how Russia and the United Arab Emirates had come out for a peaceful resolution of Middle East conflicts, including Egypt. A Russian Foreign Ministry source was quoted as saying: “Both sides came out for peaceful, non-violent resolution of problems of countries in the region, respect for sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.” The source also told ITAR-TASS that the two sides intended to explore a possible partnership between Russia and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. Moscow is at odds with most of the Persian Gulf Arab states over its support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

Official statements and state-media reports indicate Moscow is also leaning heavily towards the military in the Egyptian crisis. Russia was previously seen as losing significant influence in Egypt during the Muslim Brotherhood’s time in power.

Along with advising Russians against visiting Egypt at this time, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement urged restraint on all sides and stated “further democratic changes and deep reforms in the interests of all Egyptians can be carried out through broad dialogue and resumption of the political process on the basis of national consensus.” Notably, this statement strongly echoes the position of the Egyptian military and interim government.

More pointedly, Igor Morozov, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the upper house of Russia’s Parliament, told Interfax on Thursday that there is a real possibility that Egypt will slip into civil war, something Putin warned about earlier this week before the military began its crackdown.

While critical of all sides, Morozov said he believed the Egyptian army was trying to slow the breakdown of order in Egypt.

 “The [Egyptian] army has always been playing an important and even crucial role in every political crisis in Egypt,” Morozov was quoted by Interfax as saying. “The army is a very serious institution in Egypt and top-ranking military commanders are its most significant owners.”

He went on to blame the U.S. and the EU for Egypt’s current situation because of their support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The United States and the European Union rendered full support to the Muslim Brotherhood even after the toppling of Muhammad Morsi,” Morozov said. “They do not understand what negative consequences this unilateral support of the Islamists has for Egypt.”

At the top of its website Friday morning Moscow time, state-owned Russia Today also carried a lengthy story detailing alleged incidents of violence perpetrated by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

While events in Egypt are constantly in flux, it therefore appears Russia is betting on the Egyptian military prevailing in the current standoff, and is already busy acting on that assumption. With the U.S. having already cancelled its joint biannual exercise with the Egyptian military, and additional sanctions against the army likely to be forthcoming, this gamble could have a handsome payoff for Moscow should it prove accurate.

Barko Polo
August 19, 2013 at 23:54

The Picture is absoutely Photoshopped. It's originally from 2005…. if you look at the shadows— the bottom shadows are about 5 hours later that the side shadows. Side shadows are bogus–with 3 men walking as far apart as they are–there should be defined, short shadows of each—not a "clump".

John Krats
August 19, 2013 at 10:55

The comical thing about this situation is that Obama is now totally irrelevant.  Every time he opens his mouth a lie comes out and he chips away at what little credibility he has left, if any.  Who would have thought that Putin could thoroughly wreck US foreign policy.  Of course, he could not do it without Obama's big lips.

This is the definition of irony.

August 19, 2013 at 02:39

The House of Saud, the newly-confident paymasters of Egypt [remember Egypt is on the verge of famine - it has no cash to import wheat] would not like Iranian involvement at all. Neither would Israel of course. Its like 1914 - a pattern of conflicting alliances is emerging. Waiting for a match.

August 19, 2013 at 02:35

Sure, Alexandria would be a far better base than Tartus, or even as a second base.

Stuart Jones
August 18, 2013 at 12:33

America is on the wrong side of history. we have been eversince the end of WWII. i'm actually rooting for Putin, Assad, & the Egyptian military & yes i am an American saying this. America is dead as far as i'm concerned. if i had the money, training, & education, i'd move to Russia. God bless Russia & God bless Putin.

Tarek Fawzi
August 18, 2013 at 08:13

The timing to ragain the relationship between Egypt and Russia is perfect and mutual.The chance to strengthen the old historical ties is extremely favorable and will go a long way to help the syrian situation as well. I do not want to complicate tyhe scene by saying that Iran coming in will not be far fetched nor resisted by any member. This will be a disaster to the new ME project.

Czar marquis
August 18, 2013 at 07:45

@geraldo-You are correct the shadows (or lack there of) are a dead give away.

Michael Guy
August 18, 2013 at 05:48

Like China, Russia is led by a nationalist patriot who does not surrender his nation's sovereignty to the United Nations nor does he surrender the freedom and prosperity of his citizens using treaties as a means of treason. vladimir Putin recognizes the dire threat the old men of the mountain assassins are to civilization.  The Sunni oil sheiks secretely arm, aid , sponsor and finance these wahabbi sects that have killed so many in India, Africa and inAmerica and among its military.   Since mogadishu and the USS Cole it has been Sunni-wahabbi groups like Al Qaeda, the Free syrian army, the Muslim brotherhood and a host of others that have terrorized much of the world.  Unfortunately the US White House and State dept supports these terrorist, like those that killed the US ambassador at Benghazi.  he US also supports the expansion of the Sunni Caliphate and their tyranny of Sharia.   Perhaps it is because these Persia Gulf oil sheiks control  the ptero market , threaten to devalue the dollar and/or finance the Potemkin Village welafare states of the EU and america and extend the credit, and financed the west's enormous national debts?

Aldous Bonvillian
August 17, 2013 at 19:34

Instead of creating a balance of power, I believe this will begin a lengthy, bloody battle which will pit enemies against each other instead of creating a dialogue to work together. This is not good. Nothing good will come of this. And if you think something great will happen for Egypt, you will be proven wrong in the long run. This does not fair well for ending the violence and restoring peace.

geraldo in cairo
August 17, 2013 at 09:30

that picture looks like its fake. I had a similar poster growing up of the moon. That angry dwarf  is  partying in his gameroom not  in egypt

Dr Alex Patterson
August 17, 2013 at 07:02

Like a Boss.

Ayman Toubar
August 17, 2013 at 06:46

There are historical relationships between Egypt and Russia which are valuable to all Egyptians and appreciated.. Russians are always welcome and we are keen to develop those historical relationships..

This intimate relationship is important not only to both countries but the whole world… It is also a positive move towards sustainability and balance of power…

Well done Putin… Long live EGYPT long live Russia …

Ayman Toubar
August 17, 2013 at 06:45

There are historical relationships between Egypt and Russia which are valuable to all Egyptians and appreciated.. Russians are always welcome and we are keen to develop those historical relationships..

This intimate relationship is important not only to both countries but the whole world… It is also positive move towards sustainability and balance of power…

Well done Putin… Long live EGYPT long live Russia …

August 16, 2013 at 15:32

Russia is trying to break the U.S.-Egyptian quasi alliance and gain a new partner in middle east and restore the old Soviet naval bases in Egypt for the Russian mediterranean squadron. This time, Indian with its new aircraft carriers will be making an appearance in mediterranean.

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