TRENDS, PATTERNS, AND PROSPECTS
M. L. BOGDANOV
Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
Russia Keywords:, Egypt, Soviet / Russian-Egyptian relations
This August marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Cairo. This significant date is a good reason to try to systematize and understand the ambiguous factors that determined the nature of our relations with Cairo, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, when there is a mutual search for ways of Russian-Egyptian cooperation, it is especially useful to look at the retrospective of our relations.
Russia's ties with Egypt have always had a significant impact on the changing world order, especially in the regional context. Even today, they cover the economy, affect interfaith relations in various parts of the world, address the most acute global and regional problems - overcoming armed conflicts and preventing their occurrence, countering international terrorism, and combating drug trafficking. This was particularly evident in the light of the political upheavals that began in the 2000s in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Over the past four decades, Russian-Egyptian relations have gone through three main stages in their development: the crisis period (the first half of the 1970s - mid-1990s), the search for ways to restore and develop new forms of cooperation (the mid-1990s-early 2000s), and the stage of modernization and recovery (the first decade of the XXI century).
The" Soviet legacy " in Egypt in the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, left a contradictory impression.
On the one hand, the high-rise Aswan dam is a jewel in a series of economic and social facilities built with the technical and financial assistance of our country. Large, largely unique for its time metallurgical complexes in Helwan and Nag Hammadi. Hundreds of kilometers of high-voltage transmission lines. Vocational training centers, where many thousands of young Egyptians were trained, and tens of thousands of skilled workers and engineers who formed the basis of the industrial working class, as well as medical and veterinary centers, were trained at the cooperation facilities.
In Egypt, on the basis of cooperation with the USSR, a modern combat-ready army was created, equipped with the latest weapons systems, which ensured the defense capability of the largest country in the Middle East. Relations and contacts between representatives of the creative intelligentsia have developed, which have become an integral part of the cultural and spiritual uplift and national revival. A landmark event was the birth of a unique Egyptian ballet in the entire Middle East. Friendly ties between Egyptians and Russians - business people, representatives of the technical intelligentsia, military specialists, and students-have emerged and strengthened.
On the other hand, after the decisions of President Sadat to expel thousands of Soviet military specialists and military personnel in the early 1970s and the denunciation of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, the actual break in interstate relations led to the termination of cooperation in the construction of industrial and agricultural enterprises, and trade and economic exchange sharply decreased.
The most important factors that led to the crisis and decline in bilateral relations are, of course, political. Among them - the "cold war", in which the USSR and Egypt were on opposite sides of the barricades, the struggle of various world systems for spheres of influence in the Middle East. Ideological differences became significant, which, in turn, affected humanitarian and economic contacts. It seemed to be in
In the 1970s, we left Egypt, if not forever, then for a long time.
PERIOD OF CRISIS AND RECESSION
Russian-Egyptian relations underwent a complex evolution in the 1990s.
The transformation of relations between the two states was strongly influenced by the perestroika processes that began in the USSR in the mid-1980s. This was compounded by changes in the international situation, the aggravation of crisis phenomena in the economy of both the Soviet Union and Egypt. There were new developments in Moscow's foreign policy, including as a result of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Israel, which heralded a qualitatively new stage in its Middle East policy and, accordingly, in relations with Egypt and other Arab countries.
The Oslo process between Israelis and Palestinians, which started in 1993, and the progress of the Arab-Israeli settlement on other tracks of the Middle East negotiation process, primarily between Israel and Jordan, also had a significant impact on the overall atmosphere in the Middle East and, consequently, on Russian-Egyptian contacts.
Meanwhile, economic ties between the region's countries, including Egypt, with the United States and Western Europe continued to dominate. Moreover, in the 90-ies of the XX century. in Washington, there was an opinion that the era of a unipolar world had arrived, which also determined the behavior of the United States in the arena of the MENA. Western European states, as a rule, acted in unison with the United States. But the region's geographical proximity to Europe and long-standing historical ties with it meant the emergence of its own European initiatives.
In the early 1990s, the European Union announced a New integration strategy in the Southern Mediterranean, aimed at gradually developing diverse integration economic and political ties with Arab countries, including Egypt.
The United States, which had a wide range of relations with Arab states, especially Egypt, for its part put forward in 1997 an updated doctrine of cooperation, in many respects consonant with the New Integration Strategy of the EU. Its components were the gradual liberalization of the common economic space, the "inclusion" of integration forms of cooperation, including the formation of a free trade zone with individual Arab states or groups of states, the free movement of labor and capital, the deepening of military-political partnership, etc. For the implementation of their new strategies, the EU and the US provided for the allocation of large loans - over 5 billion euros and dollars, respectively, for a five-year period.
The trend of deepening economic and political ties between Arab countries, including Egypt, and highly developed states - the United States, EU members, and others-has developed within the framework of so-called asymmetric interdependence. At the same time, Cairo, which took part in eliminating the consequences of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, received major economic assistance from the West. Most of Egypt's external debt, which exceeded the critical amount of $50 billion, was written off. All this further" tied " Egypt to the countries of the West. The course set during Sadat's presidency continued, and the situation could not have developed in any other way. Although experts are quite critical of the economic assistance provided by the United States and Western countries, 1 In general, it has played a significant role, especially its food component, in supporting the Egyptian economy and internal political stability.
In turn, the Soviet economy, weakened by the latent large-scale economic crisis, was unable to compete in the Middle East region with the dynamically developing countries of the West. It was they who reaped the benefits of the scientific and technological revolution, which the USSR "missed" at that time.
The collapse of the Soviet Union affected Russian-Egyptian relations in almost all areas of cooperation, as well as a number of other significant factors of a fundamental nature. The Russian and Egyptian economies were undergoing complex perestroika processes, new partners appeared, and there was a departure from outdated practices in economic relations. The scale of military-technical cooperation has sharply decreased. It was necessary to solve the problem of Egypt's debt to Russia 2. However, despite the erosion and decline of Russian-Egyptian cooperation, there was a growing understanding in both Moscow and Cairo that the basis of modern relations between the two countries is primarily formed by the national interests of Russia and Egypt.
The crisis phenomena in the sphere of Russian-Egyptian relations at that time affected the important interests of each of the partners, and this situation had to be corrected. Moscow and Cairo were increasingly faced with the problem of reformatting and boosting bilateral cooperation. This process could not develop outside of the spirit and realities of the globalizing world. Otherwise, Moscow and Cairo risked irrevocably losing the degree and scale of cooperation that ensure the solution of priority national tasks - economic, political, and humanitarian. This could be achieved by relying on effective diplomacy and the national foreign policy doctrine in general.
A kind of starting point for the "restart of relations between Egypt and the USSR" was thought to be the visit of Egyptian President H. Mubarak to the USSR in 1990. However, according to its results, it did not become such - in the Soviet Union, crisis domestic political and economic trends were rapidly growing, while-
considering the collapse of the Soviet state. Under these circumstances, international issues have receded into the background in the scale of priority tasks facing the leadership of the Soviet Union in the person of Mikhail Gorbachev. As a result, the Soviet-Egyptian trade and economic ties, which were already experiencing a decline, were reduced even more noticeably. The volume of mutual trade fell rapidly, almost tripling in the early 1990s to about $350 million. Cooperation in investment projects has stopped at zero.
Nevertheless, Moscow and Cairo have shown a mutual desire to put an end to the regression in their relations. This was supported by deep-seated factors that were not affected by the political situation, namely: the diverse mutually beneficial ties that had been formed since the mid-1950s; the unique common potential for co-development that had been formed, but was temporarily lost, and which could once again become real and effective under the influence of the ongoing processes of globalization. And it was these factors that determined the subsequent progressive development of Russian-Egyptian relations, marking the beginning of the restoration, stabilization and expansion of cooperation between Russia and Egypt in the most important areas in the political, social, economic and humanitarian fields.
Joint coordinated efforts since the mid-1990s have resulted in a common approach to restoring cooperation that takes into account the balance of interests between Russia and Egypt. The intensity of diplomatic contacts began to increase, the number of which in the 1990s turned into quality by the end.
In 1997, when there were real prerequisites for the renewal of Russian-Egyptian relations, the President of Egypt paid a visit to Russia.
Following the talks between Boris Yeltsin and Khamenei Mubarak, agreements were signed that allowed expanding the scope of bilateral cooperation and laying a qualitatively new legal framework for it. Russia and Egypt have begun to coordinate their approaches more closely in the UN and its specialized organizations. Cooperation within the UN on a wide range of international issues has been the subject of regular meetings of politicians, diplomats, international scientists, and experts. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Russia supported the efforts of African countries, including Egypt, to expand their representation in the UN Security Council as part of a broad discussion of issues related to the urgent UN reform. Moscow has used its activity at the UN to directly participate in the international community's efforts to resolve conflict situations and maintain stability in various regions, including the Middle East.3
Nevertheless, in the early 2000s, Egyptian-Russian relations largely remained outside the scope of priority attention for Cairo, significantly losing out to cooperation with highly developed Western countries. The volume and structure of trade and economic relations, Western aid to Egypt, including military aid, were incomparable to Russia's. Moreover, in some areas, the trend of relative reduction of Russian-Egyptian cooperation continued, despite the growth of absolute indicators.
Of course, for a number of reasons, the importance of the Russian vector of Egypt's foreign policy remained consistently important for Cairo. This was primarily due to the geopolitical weight of Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, its role in the emerging new global model of a polycentric world at the turn of the century, and in addition, historical traditions had an impact on the nature of Russian - Arab relations.4
Egypt, one of the largest African States and one of the leaders of developing countries, has consistently claimed the role of a regional power in the Middle East and expected to become a permanent member of the Security Council as part of the planned UN reform. Therefore, Cairo sought to rely on its foreign policy and business relations "in all azimuths", primarily with the world's largest players, including Russia.
Cairo also understood that the Middle East policy of the main international actors, primarily the United States, while maintaining the unresolved key issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict, required Russia's balanced participation in the Middle East settlement process, and this meant that there was a fairly wide field for cooperation in regional affairs. At the same time, with the changing nature of international relations since the end of the cold war, the difficult tasks of solving domestic social and economic problems have come to the fore for Cairo, and in this regard, the losses due to the stagnation of economic cooperation with Russia have become increasingly acute.
2000s - A NEW START
At this stage, President Mubarak's visit to Moscow in 2001 was, in a sense, a landmark. During the visit, a Declaration on the principles of friendly relations and cooperation was signed, and a long-term program for the development of trade, economic, industrial, scientific and technical cooperation was adopted, which opened up real prospects for overcoming the stagnation in the most important area - business relations between the two states.
The next milestone step in strengthening Russian-Egyptian relations was the visit of President Vladimir Putin to Cairo in 2005. As a direct witness and participant of this event, the author can state:,
that Egypt was extremely appreciative of the results of the summit, which gave a new impetus to the rapprochement between Moscow and Cairo and convinced everyone that the time has come when concrete work should be vigorously launched to implement the agreements reached.
As a result, we have begun to gradually overcome stagnation in such an important, in a certain sense, key area - in the field of investment and construction of industrial, social and cultural facilities. The lack of business ties, given the understanding that before the collapse of the USSR, 97 large-scale national economic facilities were built in Egypt with the participation of Soviet organizations, was replaced by the practical establishment of mutually beneficial partnerships.
At the beginning of the XXI century, the Russian side participated in 11 joint projects in the Republic of Azerbaijan with a total capital of $45 million, of which $36 million. It was accounted for on the Russian side: enterprises that assemble tractors and cars, firms specializing in marketing research, etc. For their part, Egyptian entrepreneurs have implemented a number of investment projects in our country, opening trade halls, pavilions for the sale of furniture, clothing, shoes, and other mass-market goods. An Egyptian company has invested $250 million in a project to assemble Tu-204 aircraft, and Egypt Air and Egypt Travel have opened representative offices in Russia. Progress was undeniable, compared to the crisis period of the early 1990s, but still very modest, given the objectively available potential.
In 2007, as a follow - up to the agreements reached during Vladimir Putin's visit, an agreement was signed on the creation of a Russian special industrial zone near the city of Alexandria-a step designed to radically change the situation in business partnership.
Cultural cooperation (organization of exhibitions and festivals, tours of art groups, archaeological expeditions) has received a new impetus in certain areas of the service sector-medical, educational and others. In 2006, the Russian-Egyptian University was opened in Cairo. Russian and Egyptian universities have once again established contacts and exchange of students and teachers. Students from Russia got the opportunity to study at the largest Islamic university "Al-Azhar" in Cairo.
The growth of contacts and ties in the humanitarian field, in the sphere of cultural and scientific cooperation has become a reflection of the failure of the unipolar model of the world order, the deepening of positive trends in the framework of integration processes in the world.
An important place in this sphere of relations between Russia and Egypt has been occupied by relations in the field of spiritual communication, contacts between representatives of Christian and Muslim confessions, including in the framework of new dialogue forums that emerged in the 1990s. Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa played a particularly influential role in these processes, as well as Hegumen Leonid, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Egypt, V. A. Alekseev, President of the International Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples, and others.
The annual sessions of the International Public Forum "Dialogue of Civilizations", chaired by V. I. Yakunin, had a significant constructive impact. There was an active discussion about the possibility of holding the patriarchal cultural and spiritual program of the Voices of Orthodox Russia in Egypt Foundation in Egypt with the assistance of the Egyptian authorities, which included performances by the best choirs of sacred music from Russia. Such contacts helped to promote the positions of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy and other issues related to strengthening the spiritual unity of Orthodox peoples in the world and Africa. During the discussion of various aspects, including organizational ones, concerning the spiritual and religious communication of representatives of religious institutions, Patriarch Theodore II spoke in the warmest terms about the historical spiritual ties of the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Moscow, and about his sincere deep sympathy and respect for Russia and its people.5
Humanitarian and cultural ties between the two countries have become noticeably richer due to the increased activity of the large Russian community, which numbered about 15 thousand people in 2008. It is based on families formed as a result of the growing number of mixed marriages. Cooperation between Russian and Egyptian archaeologists conducting joint excavations on the territory of AR-6 continued.
In order to implement the main agreements reached as a result of Vladimir Putin's visit, Cairo suggested considering the inter-ministerial consultations in the context of implementing the provision on the establishment of a high-level bilateral Working Committee headed by Deputy Foreign Ministers set out in the Joint Statement. The Egyptian side attached particular importance to maintaining an active dialogue with Moscow on key international and regional issues.7
In June 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Egypt. The program of the visit, initiated by President Hosni Mubarak, included the signing of a Strategic partnership agreement between the Russian Federation and the Arab Republic of Egypt. This document brought bilateral relations to a qualitatively new level.
The preamble of the Treaty, which establishes the basic principles, goals and objectives of the renewed Russian-Egyptian relations, states: "Being aware of its role and responsibility in ensuring regional and international cooperation between the two countries.
international peace, security and stability; based on the commitment to building a new, multipolar world order that is more democratic, just and secure for all States; guided by the goal of making an active contribution to strengthening the central role of the United Nations in international affairs, implementing the provisions of the UN Charter and other universally recognized principles and norms of international law, in compliance with which The parties see the key to maintaining international peace and security; being convinced that further strengthening of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation meets the interests of the two States and contributes to the establishment of peace and security in the Middle East and other regions; striving to promote permanent and close political dialogue and interaction in the international and regional arenas in bilateral and multilateral formats; Taking into account the high rates of business cooperation, trade exchange, humanitarian and other ties between the two countries achieved in recent years, as well as the results of the Seventh Russian-Egyptian summit; The parties agreed to coordinate their course both in bilateral relations and at the international level."
The Strategic Partnership agreement provided for the practice of exchanging visits of the Presidents of the two states on a regular basis, meetings and consultations between the heads of government, heads of ministries and interested departments in order to maintain a continuous dialogue. It also provided for consultations on military and political aspects of the international situation and national security issues. "The central place in the framework of foreign policy consultations between the Parties is given to the problems of promoting the Arab-Israeli settlement and achieving a comprehensive, lasting and just peace in the Middle East. Due attention is paid to the full range of international and regional issues of mutual interest during the consultations." At the same time, the parties agreed to coordinate the activities of the Russian-Egyptian working group on countering international terrorism and cooperation in the interests of developing a dialogue of civilizations.
In an effort to encourage the growth of trade exchanges-a key area of business cooperation - the two sides agreed to " comprehensively study the issue of creating a free trade zone between the two states." In order to deepen cooperation between various ministries and departments of the economic profile, representatives of the business community, it was planned to improve the relevant implementation tools. They discussed, in particular, the annual meetings of the joint Russian-Egyptian commission for trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation and the Russian-Egyptian Business Council.
The Agreement paid special attention to investment cooperation, implementation of infrastructure projects, especially in the fields of energy, alternative energy sources, public works, housing construction, transport, communication technologies, tourism, environmental protection, use of natural resources, as well as technology transfer and industrial modernization. The parties pledged to promote joint scientific research and technical cooperation, especially in the field of high technologies and the peaceful use of outer space, and to cooperate in international financial, trade and economic organizations, including the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries.
The Agreement notes the importance of supporting and developing military and military-technical cooperation "taking into account mutual interests and their international obligations." At the same time, Moscow and Cairo encouraged "the expansion of ties in the field of science and education, including through the provision of scholarships for studying in higher educational institutions and postgraduate studies, contribute to the further development of cooperation in the field of tourism, the activation of humanitarian and cultural ties, and exchanges between public, youth and sports organizations"8.
The signing of this landmark document in the history of relations between the two countries was prepared by the course of development of bilateral relations in the first decade of the XXI century. During this period, trade and economic cooperation expanded, and there was a tendency to increase the volume of business cooperation, which gradually became stable. If in 2000 the volume of trade was less than $50 million, in 2008 it exceeded $4 billion, including tourist services, which increased sharply due to the increase in tourist traffic from Russia to Egypt. In 2007, Egypt was visited by about 1.5 million tourists from Russia, in 2010 their number was more than 2.5 million.9
Scientific and technical cooperation was identified as one of the most promising areas, including in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, development of communications, launching satellites for commercial purposes, in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals. Increased attention has been paid to such areas as export and mutual exchange of modern technologies. Russian commercial entities, including banks, insurance companies, transport firms and others, began to appear on the Egyptian market of goods and services. Gradually, the necessary "critical mass" for establishing a partnership was formed, more fully reflecting the significant potential of business partnership that both countries had.
* Dalits - in the past-untouchables (editor's note).
Growth of Russian-Egyptian relations in the first decade of the XXI century It was accompanied by the formation of legal, financial, organizational structures and cooperation institutions. Of particular importance in this context was the conclusion of an agreement on cooperation in trade, economic, scientific and technical fields and the establishment of the Russian-Egyptian Intergovernmental Commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation, as well as the signing of intergovernmental agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and on the mutual granting of most-favored-nation treatment.10
As a result of these qualitative developments in business relations, Moscow and Cairo have managed to gain the necessary practical experience in such key areas of business partnership as mutual investment, the use of freely convertible currency in mutual settlements, and a number of others. However, despite significant changes, the existing opportunities for cooperation growth have not been fully exploited, as before. The volume of mutual investments was still small, and in some areas of traditional cooperation, they simply did not exist, although, according to both the Russian and Egyptian sides, mutual investments form a solid basis for developing business ties that are not affected by the political situation.11
Mutual trade in goods and services increased to the greatest extent, but they were also significantly inferior to the indicators of Egypt's trade exchange with leading highly developed countries. With the exception of tourism, such promising areas of cooperation as sales of high-tech engineering products, patents, and modern services (such as education, training of national personnel in geological exploration, medical and other specialties) were not progressing dynamically enough, although such opportunities actually existed. As for products and services in the information and innovation field related to the use of the Internet economy, they actually remained outside the framework of business partnerships.
There were also objective reasons for this - the technical backwardness of a number of industries, the low competitiveness of their products on world markets, which objectively restrained the growth of mutual trade exchange.
Moscow and Cairo felt the need to activate and improve the efficiency of such structures as the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, Chambers of Commerce, the Russian-Egyptian Business Council, insurance, trade, transport and information companies, especially banks. The number of joint ventures and firms was clearly insufficient. The scale of state support, primarily in the field of lending, business operations and project insurance, was small or absent, and the mechanism of such state support itself was not properly established. This was also typical for such a key area of business activity as the participation of Russian companies in tenders. At the same time, there was also a relatively low level of advertising and information activities of Russian and Egyptian structures, the lack of well-recognized Russian and Egyptian brands in the market of goods and services of partners, and clearly insufficient knowledge of the features and specifics of the latter in the majority of entrepreneurs.
The Egyptian "January 25 revolution" of 2011, which ended the 30-year rule of H. Mubarak, and then the "June 30 revolution" of 2013, which ended the one-and-a-half-year presidency of the Muslim Brotherhood nominee M. Morsi, do not remove the urgency of the task of consistently promoting effective and mutually beneficial Russian-Egyptian cooperation in political, economic, humanitarian and other fields.
As the long-term historical experience of cooperation between Moscow and Cairo shows, the high level of interest in such development of both countries is based on a wide range of fundamental factors mentioned above. At the same time, it is the national interests of both countries - Russia and Egypt - that will continue to objectively push for cooperation in the new conditions. But this is a different stage, which requires a new analysis based on the traditions of friendship and mutual sympathy, looking into the future of Russian-Egyptian relations, but, of course, taking into account the instructive lessons of the past period.
1 See, for example: Amin Galal. Egypt. The Era of Hosni Mubarak. 1981 - 2011. The American University in Cairo Press. Cairo. New York. 2011; Goldschmidt Jr. Arthur, Johston Robert. Historical Dictionary of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press. 2004.
2 Russia in the Middle East and North Africa in the era of Globalization, Moscow, 2010, pp. 7-21.
Deich T. L. 3 Russo-afrikanskie otnosheniya [Russian-African Relations]. History / / Africa. Encyclopedia. Moscow, LLC "Publishing House "Encyclopedia". 2011. pp. 125-127.
4 From the author's archive. Conversations with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Fatma Itman in April 2007.
5 From the author's archive. Conversations with Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa, September 17, 2005; with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former UN Secretary-General and Chairman of the Egyptian National Human Rights Council, December 6, 2006.
6 Egypt. History / / Africa. Encyclopedia ... pp. 812-814.
7 Russia-Egypt: a Comprehensive Partnership / / ITAR-TASS. Compass. N 45. November 2006.
8 Agreement on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Arab Republic of Egypt. June 23, 2009 / / Official website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
9 Egypt / / Africa. Encyclopedia... P. 814; Internet resources.
10 Pulse of the Planet. 24.09.1997; 26.04.2001; Egypt / / Africa. Encyclopedia... P. 814; Russia-Egypt: a comprehensive partnership...
11 Pulse of the planet. 11.04.2007.
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