America’s strategy in Ukraine, along with other important global policy issues, hinges on setting up the international isolation of Russia. While introducing sanctions against Russia, the US has also started increasing the number of states it is expecting will help with the economic strangulation of Russia. The jackpot for America so far in this game was the European Union, which was initially in no hurry to shoot itself in the foot, but which finally gave in to pressure from Washington.
Our world is a big one, however, and is not limited to Europe. China, India, Latin America and the Middle East all have impressive economic potential and are attractive markets for Russian goods and services. But most importantly, they are demanding an alternative model of world order that will allow countries and peoples to decide their own fate for themselves, without depending on the cosmopolitan global elite and their American outpost. At present, while the Ukrainian crisis is dominating the global agenda, these vast geopolitical spaces are becoming a focus area for America’s diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing other countries from developing strong relations with Russia wherever possible and, even better, inspiring them to support the anti-Russian sanctions.
Which is why the diplomatic front of the new Cold War is also becoming one of the most important for Russia. Following the collapse of the USSR, Russia lost its Soviet geopolitical legacy little by little and, as a result, many countries saw the withdrawal from power of people who had been friendly with the USSR and Russia, and these people were replaced by pro-American elites educated in American universities and military academies. This course was reversed in Moscow in good time, however. In the face of a large-scale geopolitical offensive by the US, Russia did not hunker down. Today, Russian diplomacy is staging a counterattack in a number of directions, and these counterattacks are producing tangible successes. Take just the Turkish Stream, for example. Or the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union involving five post-Soviet states – Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
This was the context of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Egypt on 9-10 February. Egypt is an extremely important country not just in Middle Eastern geopolitics, but also in global geopolitics. Control of the Suez Canal gives Egypt a key role in maintaining the stability of global trade. Egypt was the first country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and now its position with regard to the Hamas movement in many ways determines the security of the Jewish state, since the legendary underground tunnels link the Gaza Strip specifically to Egypt.
At one time, during the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt was a reliable ally of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. When Great Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt in 1956 following Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal, Khruschev even threatened to launch a nuclear attack on these countries and the invasion ended. In the 1970s, however, following Nasser’s death, the country found itself tightly embedded in the orbit of US policy. Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, expelled Soviet advisers from the country, relations between the Soviet Union and Egypt virtually died out, and Egypt became a major beneficiary of US military and financial aid.
The situation remained like this even under Hosni Mubarak. America’s transition to a geostrategy of export instability, however, meant that the authoritarian secular regime, which had been holding on tightly to the reins of power, lost its value in the eyes of America. Washington’s sympathies were given to the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist group founded in 1928 with the assistance of the English especially to keep the country within the bounds of its semi-colonial status. It was banned under Nasser, and for a long time after him, but the Arab Spring opened the road to power for the group.
A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, became the president of Egypt with the full support of the US and during the year of his reign, he managed to plunge the country into complete chaos, much to the delight of his overseas patrons. Anarchy threatened to completely destroy the ancient Egyptian state, but the army intervened and Morsi was removed from power. The current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who hails from military circles and is an admirer of Nasser, has declared that he will return the country to a secular path of development.
Analysts note that there is much in common between the presidents of Russia and Egypt, including their age, their officer’s rank and their knowledge of the West. But above all is their desire for their countries to follow an independent path in global politics, to give them immunity to external pressure. The existence of mutual sympathies between the two leaders was obvious to anyone who followed the TV reports of Putin’s visit to Cairo, and they played their role in filling the bilateral relations with real content.
Both sides have agreed that Russian will contribute to the construction of a nuclear power plant in Egypt, as well as the creation of Egypt’s own nuclear power industry along the Nile for peaceful purposes. Egypt’s portfolio of military orders from Russia totals USD 3.5 billion and there are plans for this to increase. Equally important is the fact that both sides have declared Egypt and Russia’s unity of approach in combating terrorism in general and in Syria in particular.
The outcome of President Putin’s visit to Egypt is yet more evidence of America’s failed attempts to isolate Russia in the international arena. And the significance of the visit is not just limited to Egypt. New opportunities in relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have also emerged, for example. After the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt, Riyadh immediately offered financial aid to the new Egyptian government and is currently one of its main allies in the region. In strengthening its partnership with Egypt, Russia is also opening up the opportunity to improve its rapport with Saudi Arabia – and with this country, too, Moscow will find common ground.