Is The Sun Setting On The Egyptian-American Alliance?

Since the Camp David Accords of 1979, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US foreign aid contributions, and became one of the first Major Non NATO Allies (MNNA) of the United States in 1989.

However, events including but not limited to: the Arab Spring, increasing economic and military cooperation with Russia, and two years of withheld aid to Egypt, have caused some to question the relationship between Cairo and Washington.

Following the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, things changed dramatically in the country.

Following the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, things changed dramatically in the country.

Instability was the on rise and several incidents finally culminated on September 11th 2012, when a large group of men illegally entered and vandalized the American Embassy in Cairo.

Two days later, President Obama claimed that he did not consider Egypt an ally.

Relations between the two countries reached their lowest since 1973 when the United States suspended some of its aid to Egypt in 2013.

This was due to the removal of President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood led government in a military coup that was sanctioned by now President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the Paris Climate Conference in late 2015. Photo Credit: UNclimatechange/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The withheld aid, the biggest ticket item being the final few parts of a delivery of 20 F-16s, was eventually released in 2015. However, military deliveries to Egypt merely slowed in the two years of frosty relations, and included MIM-72C Chaparral Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs), and M-88 Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARVs), according to SIPRI data sets. Other non military aid also continued.

Despite the relative brevity of this souring of relations between Egypt and the United States, Moscow has made moves to capitalize. Several agreements between Egypt and Russia regarding development of an industrial zone in the Suez, coordination of financial sectors, and tourism were agreed upon on February 3.

In 2015, Russian and Egyptian naval units conducted their first joint training exercises, and joint exercises between the Russian VDV and their Egyptian counterparts are expected to occur later this year. It is not clear whether Egypt’s 46 shiny new KA-52s will be taking part in any of these exercises.

Despite these data points that may alarm casual US planners, a few exercises and weapon sales do not make a trend.

Despite these data points that may alarm casual US planners, a few exercises and weapon sales do not make a trend.

The 1973 Yom Kippur War marked the end of Soviet influence in the Middle East, and the United States has been solidifying its influence in the region since the Carter Administration.

Certain geopolitical realities have developed, and become ingrained in the region that make breaking the alliance between Egypt and the United States difficult.

The first is the Egypt-Israel Peace forged in the Camp David Accords in 1978.

The Suez canal as it looked in 1980, a year after the signing of the Camp David Accords. The canal is an important economic driver for Egypt and was at the center of a recently signed agreement between Egypt and Russia. Photo Credit: NeilHotson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Suez canal as it looked in 1980, a year after the signing of the Camp David Accords. The canal is an important economic driver for Egypt and was at the center of a recently signed agreement between Egypt and Russia. Photo Credit: NeilHotson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Relations between the two countries are fairly strong, to the point that Israel okayed a large scale Egyptian army deployment to the Sinai peninsula, which requires the approval of the Israeli government as per the Camp David Accords.

As Egypt and Israel are the two largest recipients of American aid, they are predisposed to cooperate with each other and the Americans.

Another strike against the doomsayers, is the existing world order is not conducive to abandoning the West and embracing the Russians as an alternative, unless forced to do so.

If the Soviet Union at the height of its power in the 1970s and 1980s could not dislodge American influence, then the best an economically strained Russia can hope for is to be the proverbial “me too” for Cairo.

This is particularly true since it is not in the interests of the United States to be at odds with one of the most strategically and economically critical nations on Earth.

Maintaining open access to the Suez Canal is Egypt’s trump card over any American planners who might wish to divert their interest from Egypt for one reason or another.

As such, it seems unlikely that the already repairing rift between Washington and Egypt will spiral out of control.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Prince Roy/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

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About the Author
"John Massey has a B.A. in political science and history from the University of Alabama. His primary interest is in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but he also finds time to study French and political theory. "

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