Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Egypt Monday for a state visit in an occasion marked by effusive gestures by both sides. President Sisi arranged for Putin to be greeted with chanting schoolchildren, and President Putin gave Sisi a ceremonial AK-47. Then they got down to brass tacks. As The Financial Times reports:
The leaders were expected to discuss trade deals, with Moscow hinting that they may switch to local currencies for international transactions. Cairo has reportedly moved towards finalising a five-year natural gas export deal with Russia’s state-owned Gazprom and agreeing the sale of Russian wheat to Egypt, the world’s biggest importer. Mr Putin and Mr Sisi were also to discuss a potential $3bn arms deal and possible Russian help in establishing a nuclear plant northwest of Cairo.
All of this sounds alarming—and it’s meant to, echoing as it does Nasser’s alignment with the Soviet Union at a pivotal point in the Cold War. But despite Sisi’s sour words recently for the U.S. and the Gulf Arabs, he is not on the lookout for a new patron; the Russians simply don’t have the kind of money that the U.S. can shower on Egypt, let alone the billions upon billions that its Gulf Arab allies pump into it. Sisi isn’t looking to bolt, but rather flirting with the Russians to get more attention from those whom he really has his eye on.For his part, in courting the Greeks, Cypriots, the Balkan states, and now Egypt, Putin has reminded us where the cracks are in the Western alliance system. It’s our good fortune that he does not have the funds it would take to really capitalize on these opportunities.