EGYPT JOINS THE BRICS !

RE POSTED FROM EXECUTIVE INTELLIGENCE REVIEW

PUTIN IN CAIRO
Egypt Joins
The BRICS Dynamic
by Hussein Askary

Feb. 15—The warm welcome offered to Russian President
Vladimir Putin by both the government and people
of Egypt, during his Feb. 9-10 visit to Cairo, and the
bilateral agreements reached during the visit, show
once again Egypt’s determination to remain a truly sovereign
nation-state with great, legitimate ambitions for
progress and for securing its realm.
The Egyptian government under President Abdul-
Fattah el-Sisi has taken visible steps towards the nation’s
physical-economic development, and is beginning
to aid in reversing the terrible political and military
developments that have devastated large parts of Southwest
Asia and North Africa, thanks to geopolitical interventions
of the U.S., Britain, NATO, and their allies
in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE.
Egypt is also pursuing a policy of dialogue for economic
development in Africa, especially with Sudan,
Ethiopia, and other nations in the Nile Basin.(1)

1. See EIR’s four-part series (Sept. 5, Sept. 12, Oct. 10, and Nov. 21,
2014) on Egypt and East Africa’s development, by Hussein Askary and
Dean Andromidas
Nuclear Power Agreement
The most significant economic agreement reached
during the visit, from the standpoint of moving Egypt
onto the path of rapid development, was the one on nuclear
power. President Putin announced after signing a comprehensive agreement on Feb. 10, that Russia will help build “a whole new nuclear power industry” in Egypt.

According to RT, Putin said Russia ‘would contribute
not only to the construction of a nuclear power plant,
but also staff and scientific research.’ ”
In his press conference with Putin, President el-Sisi
said that the two sides had signed a memorandum of
understanding to build the first nuclear plant in Al-Dabaa.
“We discussed today the possibility of cooperation
in nuclear power engineering,” Putin said. “If
final decisions are made, they will relate not only to
the construction of a nuclear power plant, but also to
the creation of a whole new nuclear power industry in
Egypt.”
RT quoted Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Russian
nuclear power company Rosatom, as saying that
under the new agreement, Rosatom “will build two reactors
based on Russian technology.” However, the
contract signed between the two sides includes the construction
of a total of four 1,200 MW units.
The new generation plant, Kiriyenko said, will
comply with “post-Fukushima” safety standards. Negotiations
for the actual construction started the week
after Putin’s visit. In a healthy nuclear power program, power plants
that would offer the nation vast amounts of clean power,
should be part of a larger industrial-scientific complex.
That complex will be part of the total development of
the nation’s economy and labor force, as the nuclear research and development process permeates all aspects of the nation’s economy, such as medicine,agriculture, and metallurgy.

In this author’s proposal for“an Egyptian Declaration of Economic
Independence,” published in EIR immediately after the overthrow
of the Muslim Brotherhood government in July 2013, it was
recommended that Egypt approach Russia to help restart
Egypt’s nuclear program:“Egypt has had a problem finding
partners in the West to build the reactors. In the current situation,
only Russia, China, and probably South Korea, would be willing
to discuss these issues with the Egyptian government, and these
possibilities should immediately be explored. Relaunching of the
nuclear program should be made a key element of the new government’s declaration of intention.”

The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram quoted a Russian diplomat
as saying that “energy is clearly an important
issue for Egypt and we are committed to help.” Egypt
suffers from an acute energy shortage. Power cuts were
a feature of Summer 2014 and continued well into the
Winter. There is a desperate need to upgrade existing
gas-fuelled power plants, which are in terrible shape,
and to build new ones.
Trade, Investment, and Tourism
In addition to nuclear cooperation, el-Sisi and Putin
signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate
trade and economic cooperation between the two sides.
According to Al-Ahram, the two sides signed an agreement
to establish a free-trade zone with the Russian-led
Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and a Russia industrial
zone in the Suez Canal area.
El-Sisi and Putin also concluded an agreement for
Russia to export wheat to Egypt, and to import Egyptian
fruits and vegetables. A source at the Egyptian
Ministry of Supply said that shipments “should be arriving
by the Summer.”
As reported earlier by EIR, Egypt has launched a
massive national development project for the Suez Canal region, including a new parallel canal to allow greater movement of ships, and major industrial zones,in which China primarily, and now Russia, are greatly interested. The New Suez Canal will be a key part of the Maritime Silk Route proposed last year by China’s President Xi Jinping.

Although the Egyptian government has begun financing
these projects through Egyptian institutions
and citizens, there is still great need for foreign investment.
“The volume of Russian investment in Egypt has
been limited and the trade balance favors Russia. The
situation could improve if Russia opened its market to
Egyptian agrarian exports,” said an Egyptian official,
according to Al-Ahram. Minister of Trade Mounir
Fahkri Abdel-Nour held talks with Russian officials
and the business community in a drive to promote
Egyptian exports. According to one of his assistants,
the talks identified “firm areas for cooperation in the
near future.”
According to RT, Russia and Egypt will promote a
number of investment projects in various sectors, including
the transportation, manufacturing, and chemical
industries. According to Putin, there are already 400
Russian companies operating in Egypt and the two
sides have agreed to expand opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in Egypt.

One important item on the agenda was an agreement between
the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Egyptian
Ministry of Investment to enhance investment cooperation. RDIF is a
$10 billion fund established by the Russian government to make
equity investments, primarily in the Russian economy. It is also a
vehicle for Russian-Chinese cooperation. The head of the China Investment
Corporation sits on the RDIF’s advisory board. Kirill Dmitriyev, head of the RDIF, visited
China in 2011, and negotiated the establishment of a US$4 billion
Russian-Chinese fund. The RDIF will support the establishment
of an Egyptian investment fund, according to another
agreement signed during Putin’s visit. The RDIF will
provide wide-ranging advice to the Ministry of Investment,
including expertise on setting up the fund, the
co-investment model, management structure, and investment
strategy. The RDIF will also provide support
in attracting international investors to the fund, through its own experience in establishing partnerships with other sovereign funds. Dmitriyev, told Al-Ahram weekly that Egypt was a country with major investment potential in a number of sectors and one of Russia’s keyeconomic partners in the Middle East.“The intended fund will attract international investment from countries other than the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to invest in Egypt, as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait already have substantial financial investments in Egypt,” he said. Egypt intends to create its own sovereign investmentfund in cooperation with the RDIF, following in the footsteps of other countries that have shown an intention to set up investment funds based on Russian experience, and to employ RDIF’s co-investment model.

“Through the new Egyptian investment fund, the government
will put money in different projects, which
will encourage foreign investors to seek partnerships
with the government and to invest their money in
Egypt,” Dmitriyev said. Bilateral trade between Egypt and Russia increased
by almost half in 2014 over a year earlier, amounting to
more than $4.5 billion.
Dmitriyev said that agriculture would likely see the
largest investment in the immediate future.
Russia and China will be two of the largest contributors
and participants at the international Egypt Economic
Development Conference to be held in Sharm
el-Sheikh on March 13-15. At that conference (www.
egyptthefuture.com), the Egyptian government is expected
to present multi-billion-dollar transport, energy,
industry, water, and agriculture projects to international
investors.
One interesting aspect in the new agreements, which
will outflank the U.S. and EU financial warfare against
Russia and its currency, is the initiation of trade in the
two countries’ own currencies rather than the dollar or
the euro. “The mechanism has already proved its efficiency,
so I think it’s only a matter of time before Russia
and Egypt use the national currencies to settle bilateral
trade. Egypt is our key trading partner in the region and
the largest importer of Russian wheat. I’m confident
that the implementation of the new settlement mechanism
will help to intensify bilateral trade,” Dmitriyev
said.
Both Presidents also noted the importance of the tourist industry, and expressed their willingness to develop cooperation in this sphere, as a record number of Russian tourists visited Egypt last year. Amer Mohamed, head of the Russian Department at Ain Shams Linguistics Faculty, says the increased number of students seeking to join the Russian Department in recent years is a reflection of the growing importance of Russians in the Egyptian tourist market. In the wake of Putin’s visit, and the expansion of Egyptian-Russian relations, Mohamed now expects “even higher demand” for places in his department. Sherif Gad, director of the Russian Cultural Centre in Cairo,also reports higher demand for the Russian-language courses.

The Egyptian Red Sea resorts are a popular vacation
destination for many Russians. According to Egyptian
media sources, more than 3 million Russian tourists
visited Egyptian resorts in 2014, up by 50% over a year
earlier. Settling accounts in national currencies will
create more favorable conditions for the millions of
Russians who spend their holidays in Egypt, as the decline
of the value of the ruble has led to reduced purchasing
power for many Russians.

Political and Military Agreements

Nasser_observing_Aswan_Dam_construction

The Soviets helped to build the Aswan Dam, and dozens of industrial projects that
were key to the economic renaissance achieved under Egypt’s great leader, Gamal
Abdel Nasser, shown here observing construction of the dam, ca. 1963-64.
It is a correct and widely held opinion among sane
strategic thinkers, that Egypt is the key factor in stopping
and eliminating the threat of so-called Islamic terrorism,
and stabilizing Southwest Asia and North
Africa, which have become targets of that terrorism
since at least the illegal 2003 U.S.-British invasion of
Iraq, the invasion of Libya by NATO in 2011, and the
foreign attack on the nation and government of Syria
since 2011. However, Egypt alone will not be able to
deal with that massive problem, especially as world
powers such as the U.S., U.K., and their allies in the
region are standing in the way of eliminating this threat,
as they insist on pursuing regime change against Syria’s
President Bashar al-Assad, for example.
Before the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood
government of Mohammed Morsi in June 2013, Egypt
had become a host for the conspiracy against Syria. The
Arab League, headquartered in Cairo, was run by Qatar
and Saudi Arabia. Syria was stripped of its membership
in the League, and the Qataris and Saudis placed the
five-star-hotel opposition grouping, the Syrian National
Coalition, in the seat belonging to Syria.
Without cooperation among Egypt, Assad’s Syrian
Arab Army, and Iran, there will be no end to the religious war raging throughout the region. Although it might be difficult to achieve, cooperation between especially Egypt, the largest Sunni Arab nation, and Iran, the largest Shi’a Muslim country, is essential to defuse the Shi’a-Sunni conflict provoked by Anglo-Saudi terrorist groups and religious institutions. It was during a visit by former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney to the Saudi capital Riyadh in 2006, that the idea was hatched to create a Saudi-Egypt-Jordan “Sunni Triangle” to counter the alleged “Shi’a Crescent” of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Egyptian analysts believe that the only reason the Saudi monarchy has financially and politically supported el-Sisi, is to keep Egypt inside this “Triangle,” and to stop any rapprochement with Syria and Iran.

However, the intelligentsia of Egypt are no longer supporting the Saudi strategy, and see Syria’s national integrity as important for Egypt’s security and position
in the region. This was clearly an important item in the
discussions between Presidents Putin and el-Sisi.
El-Sisi met Putin in Moscow, first as Minister of Defense,
and later as President, in 2013 and 2014. He received
Putin’s support for assuming the Presidency of
Egypt, while the U.S. Administration still called el-Sisi’s
taking office “a coup.” In both visits, el-Sisi discussed
military cooperation and combating terrorism.
In Cairo, both el-Sisi and Putin underlined the importance of cooperation in combating terrorism. This, say sources on both sides, essentially means greater intelligence sharing, particularly when it comes to large groups like the Islamic State (IS), according to Al-Ahram weekly. As the two heads of state were discussing the war on terror, a series of bombs hit Alexandria, wounding ten civilians. An IS-allied group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has been carrying out terrorist attacks on both civilian and military targets inside Egypt.

The two leaders also discussed regional developments,
with Syria taking up the lion’s share of discussions.
In his press statement, Putin said he had briefed
his Egyptian host on the Jan. 26-29 Moscow talks between
elements of the Syrian opposition and representatives
of the Assad regime. El-Sisi, in turn, informed
his guest of the outcome of the Jan. 18 Cairo conference,
which sought to forge the basis for a political solution
to the Syrian crisis.
“We agreed to coordinate our efforts. The problem
is that though we work with the intention of somehow
accommodating the Assad regime in a final political deal, we don’t go as far as our Russian friends do in trying to rescue al-Assad,” said a concerned Egyptian diplomat. “Egypt considers Russia a strategic asset in its pursuit of balanced foreign relations,” el-Sisi said in his Feb. 10 press statement.

Moscow has, for some time, put the Muslim Brotherhood on the list
of groups supporting terror, something the Americans are reluctant to
do. Since mid-November 2013, tangible steps have been taken by Egyptian
and Russian officials to bolster their military cooperation. Moscow has offered to sell sophisticated weapons to Egypt, including helicopters,
MIG-29 fighter jets, air-defense systems, and Kornet anti-tank
missiles. During his visit to Cairo, Putin symbolized the mutual interest in military cooperation when he gave el-Sisi an AK-47 automatic rifle
as a gift.

A New Era in Relations
While Egyptian and Russian diplomats are not anticipating
that relations between the two countries will
reach the level of the Soviet-era relations of the 1950s
and ’60s, this visit is beginning a new era in relations
that will affect the whole region. The Soviet Union
helped build the Aswan Dam and dozens of industrial
projects, such as steel plants and cement factories, that
were key to the economic renaissance that was achieved
under Egypt’s greatest leader in modern times, President
Gamal Abdel Nasser. Today, Egyptians see el-Sisi
as a kind of reincarnation of Nasser.
Although no details were given about the military
protocols signed between the two sides, Egyptian officials
were very careful in indicating that the renewed
relations with Russia were not meant to withdraw from
strategic cooperation with the United States. Egypt
wants to diversify its military and security affairs, so
that it maintains its independence. However, U.S. policies
pursued under President Barack Obama have
caused a deep rift between Egypt and the U.S., to the
extent that Egyptian politicians are warning that “the
U.S. is risking to lose Egypt as a strategic ally.”
On Feb. 12, Breitbart News published an interview with the Egyptian politician Moustafa el-Gindy, who played a key role in the uprisings against both President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and Morsi in 2013. Gindy put the crisis between Obama’s U.S. and Egypt in very clear terms: “Under Obama, American foreign policy in the Middle East assumed the Muslim Brotherhood in positions of power. When the Egyptian people threw the Brotherhood out of power, America’s strategy was left in tatters. America is losing Egypt. We see how you treat Israel, who, for 50 years, was your closest ally. We see how you treat them and how you are now treating us. Russia and China see it too.”

Gindy explained to Breitbart: “Look where Egypt
took Putin. They took him to ‘the Tower’ [where Putin
and el-Sisi had dinner together—ed.]. That was aimed
at the Americans.” Breibart explained that the Cairo
Tower was built in the 1960s by Nasser. The tallest
structure in Egypt, it was partially built with $6 million
the U.S. had offered to Nasser as a personal gift to curry
favor with him. But Nasser was insulted by the gift, interpreting
it as a bribe, and publicly dedicated the funds
to erecting the tower.
Gindy said the U.S. lost Egypt when President
Obama and other American officials called the country’s
revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood a
“coup.” “A ‘coup’ does not happen with 40 million
people in the streets,” Gindy noted. “Coups happen at
night, not during the day.”

“Now, Obama calls our revolution a ‘coup?’,”
Gindy asked. “I don’t understand this guy. One minute
he’s good, the next minute he is evil.”
Gindy said a reshuffling of power was underway in
the Middle East. Russia and China, he said, see the
vacuum left by America, and are pouring into the
region. “Russia is building Egypt a nuclear power
plant,” he said. “They are offering us arms and the
[United Arab] Emirates will write the check. Our trade
will now be in rubles and Egyptian pounds, not dollars.”
“Sisi has gone to the Egyptian people, and in one
week, they gave him $60 billion to widen the Suez
Canal,” Gindy added. “Not the World Bank. Not the
IMF. The people have given him the money.” Gindy
shrugged, “And you call it a ‘coup.’ ”
Meanwhile in Washington
While Egypt is building its economy with one
hand, with the support of China and Russia, and fighting
terrorism with the other, the U.S. Administration
is doing its best to undermine that fight. According to
U.S. media, top members of the deposed Muslim
Brotherhood, whose organization has been declared a terrorist group in Egypt and many other countries, are regularly meeting with State Department officials to discuss alleged crimes committed by el-Sisi’s government.

In one recent posting on Facebook by Waleed Sharaby,
a judge with intimate ties to the Brotherhood, a
photo shows him posed in front of a State Department
emblem, and in his picture caption, he writes in Arabic
to his supporters in Egypt: “Now in the State Department.
Your resilience is amazing!”, while making the
four-finger sign, a symbol of the Brotherhood’s protests
against el-Sisi’s alleged “coup.”
The Egyptian people and intelligentsia are acutely
aware of the dangers threatening their country, and they
don’t see the current U.S. Administration and institutions
as a friend or ally anymore. However, they look
with optimism toward the future, and are fighting hard
to combat these dangers and build their country. Russia
and China have shown that they are true friends of
Egypt in times of distress. It is time for the U.S. and
Western Europe to realize the importance of Egypt in
the regional and global context. They also have to realize
what the BRICS dynamic represents and join it, as
Egypt has forcefully done now.

RE POSTED FROM EIR INTERNATIONAL Feb 20 2015