REPORTS are that the US Administration is going to partially cut funding to Egypt. In an already delicate North African-Middle Eastern state of affairs, this potentially opens the door for Russia to extend their authority from Syria, and to once again manipulate Egyptian policy in the region.
Historically, Russia has had a long relationship with Egypt but this became highly developed in the 1950s when Gamal Abdel Nasser assumed leadership. Then for some twenty years the Cold War between the United States and Russia raged not only in Europe, but in the Middle East. Egypt used Russian military equipment along with Russian advisors, and time and time again together they complicated Israeli existence, and obstructed US policy and action in the Middle East.
But, starting in the 1970s Egypt swung towards the west and when the Egypt-Israel Peace treaty was signed in 1979 relations with Russia (Soviet Union) completely disintegrated. From that time the United States enjoyed unchallenged dominance in the region. This added to smooth business and weapons sales, American tourism, sole influence in oil producing countries, and almost certain protection and usage of the Suez Canal. That is until the winds of change blew over this entire North African/Middle Eastern area in what is tragically referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’. A more appropriate title would be the ‘Arab flux’ because we still don’t know what direction the numerous political situations are going, or how they will end.
Nevertheless, the instability in the region in addition to the United States’ withdrawal and apparent new policy of isolationism (non-intervention) has allowed Russian President and strong man Vladimir Putin to exert wider Russian power. And, the shrewd ex-lieutenant colonel KGB officer Putin, who is consolidating government control, military muscle, financial strength, and confounding the US President, might be planning to extend his Russian ruble, military hardware and support to Egypt. Just like old times.
However, as Russia expands into the oil rich nations (and Russia doesn’t have a good “green” save the environment record), that may not be the worse part.
The bigger issue may be the political mistake of insulting the Egyptians (by withdrawing long-time support), particularly during the delicate time of them fighting terror in the Sinai, and the already high levels of confusion and mistrust by the local Middle East communities (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Israel, etc.) in the United States’ dependability.
This decision of withdrawing support to (our friend) Egypt could not have come at a worse time as the region is perpetually engrossed in fear of a nuclear armed Iran, and Israel is nervously scrutinizing the USA for signs of reliability, strength and protection.
Now, the Israelis are not reckless. They don’t want another war, but continual unpredictable behavior and circumstances brought on by the Americans could force the Israelis into making a sober decision they don’t want to make. A decision made without malice, yet because of a perceived deteriorating of regional status, this might trigger spontaneous Israeli action for the protection of the Jewish State.
In retrospect, I believe the United States needs to take different steps other than cutting funding to Egypt. There are many brilliant and talented people in the US government both domestic and abroad who can find a way to encourage a smooth Egyptian transition back into democracy without adding more tension, confusion, the Russian option, and possible insult to an ally.
Moreover, USA needs to remember, democracy, even in the USA had/has growing pains.
Furthermore, democracy is very different in the Middle East than in USA and Americans shouldn’t measure their accomplishments and timeline, with the Middle East, the Middle Eastern culture or their timelines. It isn’t fair or realistic to expect their results to be attainable with our preset format, and ideas of achievement. Remember, the Unites States took years to fine tune our democracy, as well as, a savage and costly American Civil War.
Don Davis has over 20 years experience in analytic research particularly regarding Israeli, Middle Eastern culture, behavior and historical patterns. Don is based in Israel, from where he monitors and evaluates worldwide information on finance, technologies, industries, and the military/political environment for a US consulting company.