The Egyptian government will add the Russian Su-35 jets to its military arsenal despite U.S. warnings. Cairo is not backing down as it looks to reduce dependency on American imports for its military needs.
Experts say that an alliance between Russia and Egypt can lead to tensions between Cairo and Washington.
Egypt and Russia inked a $2 billion deal in 2018 with 24 Su-35 heading towards Cairo. The Egyptians will get the delivery of the 4th generation fighter jet near the third or fourth quarter of 2020 as production has been delayed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The U.S. had warned Egypt of sanctions if it signed a deal with Moscow but the deal was signed regardless of threats. The U.S. is worried about the arrival of the Russian planes since they pose a threat to American air superiority in the region. The Su-35 is cheaper, can carry more missiles and fly farther than some American jets.
The Egyptians remain undeterred in the face of US warnings. Maged Botros, a professor of political science and the chairman of Egypt’s Helwan University, says Egypt has nothing to worry about. He believes that the Americans are bluffing as they did with Turkey over the purchase of S-400s from Russia and that the Egyptians will not be dictated to work on American terms.
Washington and Cairo have been staunch allies since the 1970s and not only have the Americans poured money into the Egyptian economy, they have also sold military equipment worth $50 billion to Cairo. However, the relationship turned sour in 2013 when Washington froze the sale of Apache helicopters.
The Egyptian government needed the Apaches to track and eliminate terrorists hiding in Sinai. Egypt’s call for the helicopters fell to deaf ears and Cairo learned a lesson. Since the debacle with Washington, Cairo has inked deals with Germany, France, Russia and China to diversify the sources for its military equipment and reduce its dependency on Washington.
While analysts suspected Egypt bowing down to US pressure eventually, these suspicions have proved wrong. In addition to the sanctions, the US also threatened to end the joint military drills and stop all financial aid to Cairo. However, according to Botros, Egyptian spirit will not be broken.
‘Egypt has a number of sources of income so we will still be able to pull through even if the worse comes to worst,’’ he said. Egypt maintains leverage over the Suez Canal and the Gulf States, one of Washington’s main market.