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Russia and Egypt are rapidly boosting military ties

A recent visit by Vladimir Putin to Cairo tops off a slew of arms and trade deals

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(Strategic Culture Foundation) – A few hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Cairo to meet with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Dec. 11, he ordered the Hmeimim air base in Syria’s Latakia province to begin withdrawing the bulk of Russian troops stationed in Syria, while maintaining a presence at Hmeimim and the Russian naval facility in Tartus.

Putin went to Cairo to hold a joint summit with Sisi, which resulted in the signing of the final contracts for the construction of the Dabaa nuclear plant in northern Egypt. Putin also revealed Moscow’s readiness to resume Russian flights over Egypt, as all flights had been suspended after a Russian aircraft was downed in the Sinai on Oct. 31, 2015. In addition, both presidents discussed ways of countering terrorism.

This visit followed the signing of a draft agreement between Egypt and Russia on Nov. 30, allowing the military aircraft of the two countries to share airspace and air bases.

The text of the Nov. 30 agreement was included in a decree issued by the Russian government, which ordered Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to conduct direct negotiations with Egyptian officials and sign the document once the two parties reached an agreement.

According to the draft agreement, Russian and Egyptian warplanes would be able to use each other’s airspace and air bases after five days’ notice. This renewable agreement is expected to be valid for five years.

Egypt and Russia signed the draft agreement on the sidelines of Shoigu’s visit to Cairo on Nov. 29, during which he participated in Russian-Egyptian joint military-technical cooperation sessions.

The agreement is expected to include more joint training between the two sides and would make it easier for Egyptian pilots to fly Russian planes. Russia and Egypt also would be able to carry out bilateral anti-terrorism measures in the Sinai Peninsula, where terrorist operations are on the rise, according to the Russian news website RBC.

The Egyptian-Russian military cooperation to combat terrorism was demonstrated during the joint exercise known as Protectors of Friendship 2 on Sept. 14, carried out by Egyptian paratroopers and Russian air-landing forces in the Russian city of Novorossiysk. The training aims to regain control of vital locations by leading an eradication of terrorists in Sinai.

During the joint press conference between Sisi and Putin in Cairo on Dec. 11, Putin hinted at the role of the Russian air force in the fight against terrorism, saying, “I revealed to President Sisi the results of my visit to Syria today. Thanks to the Russian air force, all of the Syrian territories have been liberated from terrorists, and I believe that the objectives for which the Russian army intervened have been achieved.”

Egypt has been suffering from an increase in terrorist attacks since July 2013, the latest of which was the attack on Al-Rawda Mosque in North Sinai on Nov. 24, which killed about 310 worshippers.

In a meeting with foreign journalists in Sharm el-Sheikh on Nov. 9, Sisi expressed his concerns about Islamic State (IS) terrorists relocating to Sinai and western Egypt after being defeated in both Iraq and Syria.

Nurhan al-Sheikh, a Russian affairs expert and a professor of political science at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor over the phone, “It is in Egypt’s best interest to cooperate with Russia when it comes to countering terrorism, especially after Russia’s unprecedented success in liberating all Syrian territories from IS.”

Sheikh said, “Cooperation with Russia in the fight against terrorism is not a matter of choice but a necessity imposed by the need to protect Egypt’s national security, especially since large numbers of armed militants are expected to arrive in Egypt and defeating them requires Moscow’s expertise.”

For his part, Russian political analyst Taimour Dwidar, who works with several Arabic channels, told Al-Monitor, “Russia needs bases in Africa to fight terrorism in the region and play a role in the Libyan crisis,” noting that Russia expressed a desire to use the Sidi Barrani base in March on the northern coast near the Libyan border, a request that Egypt denied.

Russia supports the Libyan army forces led by Khalifa Hifter. Russian Ambassador to Libya Evan Molotkov had announced in May Russia’s readiness lift the ban on arming the Libyan armed forces. Hifter met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Shoigu in August. In May 2017, the Russian naval forces conducted maneuvers near the Libyan coast.

The agreement between Egypt and Russia to use each other’s air bases seems to be of more convenience to Egypt, which opposes foreign parties building their own bases on its territory or renting Egyptian military bases.

On Oct.16, 2016, Sisi told the Egyptian press that the building of air bases by foreign parties in Egypt was out of the question, saying, “Egypt is not like that. It never was and it never will be.”

Hussein Haridi, former Egyptian ambassador to Washington and former assistant Egyptian foreign minister, told Al-Monitor over the phone, “This agreement will be a very strong addition to the Egyptian army in terms of modernizing the troops and providing equipment and advanced weapons.”

Haridi, saying Egypt’s relationship with Russia is no less than Turkey’s, said he expects Russia to provide Egypt with the S-400 surface-to-air missile system; Russia is in the final stages of talks with Turkey on supplying the system.

Haridi added that Russia would soon supply Egypt with MiG-29 fighter jets and has won a tender to sell Egypt Ka-52 helicopters for French-built Mistral ships.

As for the US response to the Egyptian-Russian military rapprochement, Haridi said Egypt has a special vision regarding the changes taking place in the region, stressing that Washington has no right to dictate to Egypt the sources of its weapons.

For her part, Sheikh said that the United States is one of Egypt’s key partners, that both countries cooperate within the partnership program with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and that Russia has not interfered in the Egyptian-US relationship. Sheikh also said that Turkey is a member of NATO but still enjoys good military relations with Moscow, ruling out the possibility that the military rapprochement between Egypt and Russia will affect Egypt’s relationship with the United States.

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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