Not only has the administration’s “reset” button failed with Russia, but now Middle Eastern countries which have been in the American sphere of influence for decades are looking for better relations with other major nations. Saudi Arabia has said “major changes” are coming concerning their relationship with the US. And now Egypt is turning away from the US as well:
The Russian foreign and defence ministers will travel to Egypt next week on a visit seen as signalling a growing rapprochement between the two countries as the military-backed authorities in Cairo reach out for new allies and seek to lessen dependence on Washington.
A Russian official spokesman said that Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, and Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, would discuss issues touching on “military and technical co-operation” – seen as a Russian euphemism for arms sales.
Cairo’s relations with Washington, its primary aid donor and military supplier for four decades, have frayed since the coup in July that ousted the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected president.
As tensions with Washington increased over the summer, culminating in a US decision to withhold part of its annual $1.3bn in military aid, Egyptian officials started to hint that their country would seek a realignment in foreign relations.
That’s precisely what this move indicates. The Saudis are said to be furious with the administration’s handling of Iran. The Egyptians, on the other hand, aren’t happy with the administrations seeming support of the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood.
Though the US administration has been at pains to avoid labelling the change of leadership in Cairo a coup, criticism in Washington of the ousting of Mr Morsi unleashed in Egypt a torrent of nationalist and anti-US sentiment, amplified by a combative and partisan press. Some in the Egyptian media have gone as far as accusing President Barack Obama of close personal ties with Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Of course, diplomatically, the usual denial of a major shift is to be expected and the Egyptian foreign ministry is not above indulging in that:
Amid the nationalist frenzy and talk of US conspiracies against Egypt, rumours of an imminent visit by President Vladimir Putin – cast almost as a saviour coming to Cairo’s aid – began to circulate in the press and social media soon after the ousting of Mr Morsi.
But Badr Abdel Atty, Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman, dismissed as “nonsense” any suggestion that Cairo sought “to replace one ally with another”. The strengthening relations with Russia, he said, were an attempt “to provide Egyptian political decision makers with alternatives in the national interest”.
“As far as Russia is concerned, we have had very strong historical relations since the fifties and sixties and we fought with Russian weaponry in the 1973 war [against Israel] ,” said Mr Abdel Atty. “So there is solid ground on which we can build for the future.”
Some Egyptians this as a “back to the future” moment for Egypt when Gamal Abdel Nasser aligned Egypt with the then USSR in what some consider to be “glory days” of Egypt.
Regardless of that or any other consideration, it appears that Egypt, like Saudi Arabia, plan to “distance” themselves from the US. And, of course this could indicate worsening relations with Israel in the future.
Part of the remarkably bad foreign policy record this administration has racked up in 5 short years.