Russia-Egypt Nuclear Power Plant Deal: Why Ignoring Egypt's Needs Is Bad For The U.S.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi signed a preliminary agreement to jointly build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant, after the two leaders met in Cairo on February 9-10.
This announcement comes after multiple reports last November about Russia’s state nuclear power company Rosatom’s agreement to help Iran build several nuclear reactors, including reactors at Iran’s Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Putin had travelled to Cairo this week upon Sisi’s invitation. Russian-Egyptian relations began improving after the July 2013 military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, when U.S.-Egyptian relations began to decline. Cairo grew increasingly concerned with what it perceived to be U.S. engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood, and felt abandoned in its fight against terrorists, particularly in the restless Sinai—a hotbed of radicalism and instability going back to President Hosni Mubarak’s time. Washington also delayed weapons deliveries to Egypt, withheld military aid, and later halted the nascent bilateral strategic dialogue. The decline of U.S.-Egyptian relations created an opportunity for Putin to step in and assert his national interests in Egypt.
Putin and Sisi see eye to eye on a number of issues. Putin would certainly prefer to see a secular government in Egypt. Unlike President Obama, Putin enthusiastically endorsed Sisi’s bid for Egyptian presidency. Russia’s Supreme Court has designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization in February 2003. Russia continues to battle an increasingly-radicalized insurgency in the Caucasus and the Kremlin has long believed the Brotherhood helped arm radical Islamists in Russia. Putin certainly won’t criticize Sisi on his democratic backslide.