Egypt would provide Russia has its own airbase. What in return?
Material posted: Publication date: 09-12-2017
Agreement on mutual use of airspace and airports between Cairo and Moscow, the details of which became known recently, sheds light on some peculiarities of the Russian military presence in Egypt, despite refuting the statements made by both countries in recent months.

Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev instructed the ministries of defense and foreign Affairs to hold talks over the signing of the agreement with Egypt "on the use of airspace and airfield infrastructure of the Russian Federation and the Arab Republic of Egypt". The order was given on 28 November and published on 30 November on the official Internet portal of the Russian government's legal information.

If the agreement is officially signed, it will allow the armed forces of the two countries to use airspace and air bases to each other, including military aircraft, which in turn raises many questions about the motives of Cairo and Moscow, to encourage them to enter into this agreement. In addition, it may have consequences and change the map of regional conflicts, on the one hand, and the existing system of alliances.

Refutation of the lies of Cairo and Moscow

About nine months ago, diplomatic sources in particular, American and Egyptian, have reported that Russia has deployed special forces units at the airbase at Sidi Barrani, a region that is 100 kilometers from the border of Egypt with Libya. This was reported by Reuters in an exclusive report published on 14 March 2017.


The sources mentioned some details about this airbase. So, for example, stated that it placed a special operations unit consisting of 22 Russian soldiers and technicians. However, sources have released no information about the nature of the tasks assigned to the unit. It is also known that Russia has used another Egyptian air base to the East of Sidi Barrani in early February of this year.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Egyptian armed forces, Colonel tamer al-Rifai denied the presence of any foreign troops on the territory of Egypt, stating that the question of state sovereignty. A similar statement was made by Moscow, which also denied information regarding the presence of Russian forces in Egypt. This was announced by first Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on international Affairs Vladimir dzhabarov, who called the news "crazy" and not worthy of attention. "Russia didn't do this, the Ministry of defense is not confirmed. This is fake news, which do not need to pay attention," he said.


However, after seven months of statements refuting the information provided in the report to Reuters, the Russian newspaper "Izvestia" published a report in which he indicated that Cairo and Moscow are in official negotiations about the rent of Egyptian military facilities, primarily air base in Sidi Barrani, in the same city, which in the past was the Russian naval base.

The newspaper, citing a source in the Russian Ministry of foreign Affairs, as well as a source close to the defense Ministry, said that the parties successfully negotiate the participation of Russia in restoration of Egyptian military installations in the city of Sidi Barrani on the Mediterranean coast. Base, which is located in the same city, will be used as an air base. She will be ready for operation in 2019, if the parties enter into the agreement.

Soon after that there was more detailed news about the agreement between Moscow and Cairo. According to him, the country will open a base for the armed forces of each other. At the same time, the Minister of defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu arrived in Cairo to confirm that "there is no smoke without fire". Despite the fact that both sides tried to prevent this event provoked the conflict before us raises a very serious question: what does Russia want from this, creating an air base in the Western part of Egypt, namely, near the Libyan border?

What Moscow wants?

Careful observation of the regional situation and changes in the overall picture leads to the conclusion that over the last three years Russia has completely failed to revive the role of the Soviet Union as one of two poles of power in the world, what she has sought for many years. On the one hand, this was due to her intervention in the crises in Syria and Yemen, and on the other, the creation of new alliances with Iran and China, which ultimately allowed Russia to become the most influential player on many fronts in the middle East.

© RIA Novosti, the Russian defense Ministry | go to photo Bank
The Minister of defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu at the airbase "Hamim"

Despite the increase in radius of action, Moscow still suffers from some gaps, mainly due to weak positions in North Africa, the overcoming of which require further action and the extension of influence. All of this is the main goal of Russia — revival of the former Soviet Empire.

First, the influence on the situation in Libya

Moscow did not play a significant role in resolving the Libyan crisis compared to other Arab States, since 2011 we are seeing in Libya is a practical complete lack of Russian armed forces. The reason lies in the fact that all of Moscow's attention was focused on the Syrian conflict. In addition, you need to take into account the limited resources of the "Russian bear" in the background of economic crises in recent years. All this contributed to the fact that the country could not act on other fronts.

Distancing Russia from the Libyan situation has created a vacuum that was filled by other major powers led by the United States and Italy. Then they were joined by France, after Emmanuel macron imposed on their country as an influential player in the arena of conflict. Against this background, Moscow has revised its position on Libya and tried to revive its role in the country through the newly adopted strategies.

Today's Arab News #Cartoon by @mohammedrayies1 #Syria #Russia

— Arab News (@Arab_News) on 7 February 2017.
In recent months, Moscow's participation was limited to intermediation, the purpose of which was to bring together the views of the government of national reconciliation supported by the UN, and General Khalifa Haftorah, which manages the operation of the "al-Karama" ("Dignity"). As a result of the efforts of Russia held several meetings, which were attended by both sides, although it was obvious that Moscow supports the Haftarot. Apparently, Russian political support for the Libyan General is considered to be insufficient from the point of view of decision makers in the Kremlin, and so the desire for more large-scale intervention can lead to real changes in the situation in Libya. There is no doubt that this will require creating space for the use of military force, as happened in Syria, which in turn requires the presence of a military base near the centre of events.

Moscow is well aware of the importance of various figures in various ways to achieve the goals, above all economic transactions that will be able to conclude that if Russia is able to assert its political influence in the country. This will allow then to compensate for the loss suffered by Moscow in connection with the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

We should not forget about Libyan oil, which could create major opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, after Russia helped the forces of General Haftorah to establish control over the so-called "oil Crescent". The beginning of such cooperation could be an agreement between the largest Russian oil company Rosneft and the Libyan national oil Corporation.


The presence of a Russian airbase near Libya also helps to strengthen the Russian military presence in the Mediterranean sea in an attempt to revive what has been said Gaddafi in 2008, when he said that the Russian naval base in Libya significantly enhance the regional role of the country.

Second: countering the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — NATO

The use of Egyptian air bases can be a serious instrument of pressure on NATO, which is a "headache" of Russia. Thus, it tries to mitigate the effects of NATO policy, seeking every opportunity to exert pressure upon her.

Relations between Moscow and NATO have lately endured a series of UPS and downs, especially in connection with the escalation of the conflict in some areas. This applies in particular to the Ukrainian crisis, and the deployment of NATO forces in Eastern Europe that Russia sees as a clear threat to its security.

Thus, the presence of the Russian military base, be it in Egypt or Libya, or the opportunity to use the airspace, air bases and other infrastructure in this strategic region near the Mediterranean sea and the Libyan borders, gives Moscow the opportunity to threaten the European Union, and then, of course, will affect the balance of forces in some conflicts.

Third, the containment of American influence

Despite the fall of the Soviet Union and the unique status of the United States in the international political arena, the bipolar conflict between the two countries has not yet ended, and the cold war between them continues, even if they take different forms. So say experts who commented on the question about the possible motives of Moscow to create a military base in North Africa.

Russia, according to some, trying to narrow the American sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf, in the region between the Red sea and Iran, especially after she managed to cut the ground from under the feet of the United States on a number of regional issues that America has in the past been controlled. This is particularly true of the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.


In addition, the creation of new alliances have allowed Russia to fragment map of the region drawn by Washington in recent decades. First and foremost, they are alliances with Iran, China and North Korea. In addition, Moscow has successfully established channels of communication with America's allies in the region, particularly with Saudi Arabia. Now, Russia is moving closer to Egypt, with the result that in the future she will be able to expand its activities in North Africa (Libya — Tunis — Algeria).

How about Cairo?

That's 26 months of Cairo, chasing the "Russian bear" to influence his decision to suspend the flights and tourist trips to Egypt after the crash of the Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula in October of 2015, and despite proposals to strengthen security and administrative concessions, went to Egypt to meet him.

Past experience shows, the Egyptian authorities are not opposed to entering into any agreements that will contribute to economic recovery and will be able to bring Egypt out of the predicament, even if some of them threaten its national security, as was the case with the agreement on the delimitation of Maritime areas between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The contract on transfer of the Tyrant and Sanafir Riyadh remains controversial among Egyptian citizens, despite the fact that have officially signed.

Some see the agreement on the use of airspace and airfield infrastructure mutual deal whereby Russia will revive the glory of the former Soviet Union, getting the base in this vital region in exchange for the resumption of tourist trips to Egypt. It is particularly important that Russian citizens topped the list of tourists coming to Egypt.

The revival of tourism is not the only goal that can haunt the Egyptian regime, allowing them to use the air base of the Russian armed forces. So, it can serve as an instrument of pressure on the United States and Europe, if the latter will act against the interests of Egypt.

© Vadim Savitsky. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Russian defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during a visit to the National control centre defense of the Russian Federation

Others suggest that Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi could seek to sign the agreement, to be able with the help of Russia to intimidate Europe and America, if they would object to his nomination for a new presidential term. In other words, Cairo wants to use as a tool pressure of a new ally who has the final word on major regional conflicts.

In addition to experts to speak about the motives and goals, there are those who indicates that these agreements are contrary to the will of the people, and therefore violate the law and the Constitution. In particular, the agreement has not passed through the Egyptian Parliament that denies its legality. In addition, the agreement constitutes a threat to Egypt's national security, the air space which, after the signing of the agreement might be vulnerable to outside intrusion. Egypt may be involved in certain regional conflicts if Russia is going to apply military strikes against any of the countries, using Egyptian air bases or airspace.

The fall of Cairo into the arms of the "Russian bear" is likely to endanger its relations with the European countries, primarily Britain, France and Germany, which Moscow considers as its enemy, and in the long term could threaten relations with the Gulf countries due to the apparent Alliance with Iran, the main enemy of Saudi Arabia.

The agreement, if accepted, is a combustible object, which may explode in case of improper use of Egyptian air bases to Moscow. Thus, Cairo may be in a critical situation both on the regional and international levels, which can cause conflict between the two countries. As for the possibility of use by Cairo of Russian airspace, according to the contract, it does not represent any value, because there is no need.

Imad Annan (Annan Imad)


Tags: assessment , Russia , Egypt