Between Feb. 9 and 10, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to Egypt, thus reciprocating an August 2014 Russia visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Shortly before Putin’s trip, Moscow's analyst community suggested that the Russia-Egypt relationship might be elevated to a strategic partnership. The makings of such a shift included the parties’ shared positions on a number of regional issues; closely aligned interests (particularly on fighting international terrorism); a successful track record of bilateral cooperation on various fronts; and a strong personal bond of trust between respective leaders.
The reader may be reminded that Moscow took time to lean toward support for the Egyptian military, which had assumed power through an unprecedentedly large-scale manifestation of the popular will. However, the waiting game did not take long, as Russia’s orientation toward support for Sisi in every possible way became obvious following Sisi's electoral victory. Already in 2014 trade and economic cooperation between the two nations developed at a brisk pace. According to Egyptian Ambassador to Russia Mohammed al-Badri, who described Russia-Egypt ties as “picking up” across all areas of cooperation, last year’s trade between the two countries stood at $3 billion. Meanwhile, Russia’s Federal Customs Service cites an even higher figure of $4.6 billion between January and December, including $4.1 billion in Russian exports. Notwithstanding certain misgivings about Egypt’s security situation and an overall drop in the number of Russian nationals traveling abroad, more than 3 million Russians toured the country last year. In fact, Egypt’s Tourism Minister Hesham Zazua has gone as far as to propose that settlements with Russia in this sphere may be carried out in Russian rubles and Egyptian pounds, thus bypassing the dollar. Given Russia’s sizable trade surplus, this does not appear implausible.