Russia & Global South

Egypt-Russia Relations:

Drivers and Dimensions of a Stable Partnership

May 17, 2024
  •  Nourhan ElSheikh

    Cairo University
Professor of Political Science Nourhan ElSheikh notes that while Egypt-Russia cooperation is expected to progress, particularly in economic and technological areas, Egypt strives to maintain a balanced stance in its relations with both the West and Russia.
Egypt is inaugurating a new era in its contemporary history, aiming to make a developmental and strategic leap. In this regard, Cairo needs to develop many regional and international partnerships, among the most important of which is the strategic one with Russia. The two countries have succeeded in establishing cooperation in various fields on the basis of a solid base of mutual interests.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has been a critical test for that partnership. Despite the pressure on Egypt since the outbreak of the conflict to halt cooperation with Russia and join Western sanctions, Cairo, like most of the Global South, has maintained balance in its relations between the West and Russia. That has not been entirely to the liking of Russia, but it has helped ensure the stability of the partnership between the two countries, which is undergirded by three main pillars.

There is harmony in visions and positions between the two countries regarding regional and international issues, especially combatting terrorism and developing military cooperation. This is clearly reflected in their voting at the United Nations. Nevertheless, Egypt has supported all UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia and demanding its withdrawal from Ukraine – on March 2, 2022, on October 12, 2022, and on February 23, 2023 – given Cairo’s commitment to the principle of territorial integrity.
Russia is an important source of modern technology for Egypt, especially in the energy sector. Through cooperation with Russia, Egypt’s first nuclear power station is being built in El Dabaa—a giant development project, no less important and prominent than the Aswan Dam project. It will help launch many development projects and the so-called New Valley, accommodating the high population density and providing job opportunities and wide possibilities for Egyptians.

Space is another promising area of the Egypt-Russia partnership. On February 21, 2019, the Egyptian satellite EgyptSat-A was launched, in cooperation with Russia. A third dimension of the technical partnership between the two countries is the developing of Egyptian industrial infrastructure. Trade could be boosted now that Egypt has joined the BRICS.

Cultural rapprochement is on its way too. The last decade has seen for instance unprecedented cooperation and rapprochement between the Coptic and Russian Orthodox churches, boosted by the visit of Patriarch Kirill to Egypt in 2010 and the visits of Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria to Moscow in 2014 and 2017.

In the future, Egypt-Russia cooperation will move forward, especially economically and technologically. However, this does not mean complete alignment with Russia. Egyptian politics is characterized by neutrality and balance. That has been evident as Cairo has consolidated its strategic partnership with the US and EU alongside those with Russia and China.
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