Russia And Egypt: A Fast-Growing Partnership – Analysis


Although in recent years Russia has openly diplomatically waged war with the collective West at the same time, a diametrically opposite process is taking place – the strengthening of Russia’s bilateral relations with numerous countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One of the most important is Egypt.

Although Egypt initially condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, like many other Arab and Muslim countries, it did not impose sanctions on Moscow. Why? Because it recognized the benefit of cooperation in many strategic sectors of the economy, such as the military industry, energy, tourism, but also in the field of diplomacy and culture. In addition, the import of Russian metals, minerals and medicines is important for Egypt. Therefore, sanctions would be counterproductive for the Egyptian nation. After the initial condemnation of the Russian invasion, Egypt’s attitude towards the war soon became neutral and cooperation took off.

80 years of Egyptian-Russian relations

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Arab Republic of Egypt, which is being celebrated this year, the Russian Embassy in Cairo published an important message in August: “Under the rule of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, relations between Cairo and Moscow have greatly improved, and now under the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, we see relations between our two countries growing every day… expected to reach new heights in the next few years.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, exchanged congratulations, highlighting the depth of Egyptian-Russian relations. The two ministers emphasized their determination to continue strengthening the friendship between the Egyptian and Russian peoples. The commemoration of the round anniversary lasts the whole year, and includes joint events and programs aimed at highlighting the history, specificity and diversity of Egyptian-Russian relations.

Russian-Egyptian relations were established on August 26, 1943. During the Cold War, relations between the Soviet Union and Egypt were more than good. The USSR positioned itself as a kind of protector of the Arab world, especially in conflicts with Israel, which was America’s key ally in the Middle East region. During Nasser’s reign, relations reached a peak and Egypt bought massive quantities of Russian weapons and military equipment. Under Anwar Sadat, relations deteriorated as Sadat turned the country more towards the West. However, after Hosni Mubarak came to power in 1984, ties started to strengthen again.

After the Egyptian revolution in 2011 and the subsequent military coup in 2013, relations warmed further as it became clear that Egypt’s experiment with democracy had failed. Gamal Zahran, professor of political science at Suez Canal University and a former member of the Egyptian parliament, believes that Moscow welcomed the military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. The military junta’s decision in 2014 to designate the Islamist group as a terrorist organization was a key factor in the rapprochement between Cairo and Moscow. When el-Sisi was elected president in 2014, Vladimir Putin was the first foreign statesman to congratulate him.

Friendship between El-Sisi and Putin

Since assuming the presidency in 2014, the former general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has wanted to improve relations with Russia even though Western countries have turned their backs on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis. El-Sisi and Putin co-chaired the 1st Russian-African summit held in Sochi in October 2019 under the motto “For peace, security and development”. El-Sisi also participated in the 2nd Russian-African summit that took place in St. Petersburg on July 27 and 28 this year. He praised relations between Egypt and Russia during a speech at last year’s International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, emphasizing that the two countries are implementing ambitious projects that will serve mutual interests.

Projects include the Dabaa nuclear power plant, the establishment of a Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal Economic Zone, and cooperation on the development of Egypt’s railway network. Back in October 2018, the two presidents signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement between Russia and Egypt, which is the best indicator of how close the two countries are and how bilateral cooperation is not a current trend, but a strategic category. A good example of an increasingly cordial relationship is education. In March, the Russian Ministry of Education announced that it had reached an agreement with Cairo to offer Russian as a second language in Egyptian schools and universities. The Egyptian Ministry of Education confirmed the deal.

Growth of economic cooperation

Last year, Egypt’s economy struggled with record high inflation of 38%, and trade with Russia came as a lifeline in difficult times for the most populous Arab nation. Georgy Borisenko, the Russian ambassador to Egypt, revealed that trade between the two countries has grown by 60% in the last three years, reaching as much as $6.2 billion in 2022. Russian exports to Egypt are worth $5.7 billion, which Egypt makes Moscow’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and Africa. Russia is Egypt’s third most important trade partner after the European Union and China. Borisenko stated that Russian companies are currently operating in the Egyptian market with investments exceeding $7.4 billion, and this figure is expected to increase after the Russian industrial zone begins operations.

In February of this year, the two parties signed a historically important agreement on the construction of a wagon maintenance and overhaul factory at the Abu Zaabal industrial plant. Due to the Western sanctions that blocked Moscow’s access to the dollar and the euro, the two countries started to use the payment mechanism for commodity trade exchange in domestic currencies – the Russian ruble and the Egyptian pound. A similar payment mechanism is used by Moscow and Beijing. Analysts say this could be beneficial for Egypt, whose economy is heavily dependent on the dollar. Egyptian pound has continued to lose value against the dollar over the past year, by more than 50 percent.

Russian grain

Russia is the largest grain exporter to Egypt. Russian grain accounted for the overwhelming majority of Egypt’s grain imports in 2022 – 4.9 million tons. Before the flare-up of the Russo-Ukraine war in 2022, Egypt relied on buying 80% of its grain from Russia and Ukraine.

It is expected that Cairo’s reliance on Russian grain will continue, especially since Ukrainian grain is less available due to the Russian blockade on the Black Sea. Analysts predict that Egypt, after announcing its exit from the UN Grains Trade Convention, will turn more to Russia to meet the grain needs of its 104 million inhabitants.

​Dabaa nuclear power plant

In July, the Russian embassy posted on Twitter photos of the arrival of a shipment of equipment needed to build the Dabaa nuclear power plant. The first shipment of equipment arrived already in March. Alexei Likachev, the head of the Russian nuclear company Rosatom, visited the Dabaa construction site and met with the Egyptian Minister of Energy Mohamed Shaker and the director of the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plant Authority, Amged el-Wakeel. The $30 billion project is financed mainly through a $25 billion Russian loan. Likachev explained that Rosatom will supply nuclear fuel during the entire life cycle of the power plant, organize the training of Egyptian personnel and assist in the operation and maintenance of the power plant for the first ten years.

In March, speaking at the 2nd International Parliamentary Conference “Russia-Africa in a Multipolar World”, President Putin confirmed Moscow’s willingness to share technology with its African partners. “We will continue to help African countries in the production of electricity, where the continent meets only a quarter of its needs,” Putin said. The nuclear power plant should become functional by 2028-29.

Russian industrial zone

Russia plans to invest more than 7 billion dollars for the establishment of a Russian industrial zone in the area of the Suez Canal. The Port Said East industrial zone has a total area of 16 million square meters in the city of Port Fuad in the Port Said governorate. The zone is located in the northeastern part of Egypt on the Asian side of the Suez Canal, opposite the city of Port Said. Port Fuad is considered a suburb of Port Said and together they form a metropolitan area of over a million inhabitants. It is in this area that the Russians plan to create their own zone, which would have an area of 5.25 million square meters.

Egypt expects construction work to begin on a vast Russian industrial zone by mid-2024. Both sides are interested in joint production of a wide range of goods. The Russians are ready to transfer their expertise to the Egyptians. Through the partnership, the Egyptians hope to strengthen the industry in order to reduce dependence on imports. The plan is to create an international hub for manufacturers with easy access to export goods to African and European markets. The opening of the Russian industrial zone is expected to create around 35,000 new jobs for Egyptian workers.


After difficult years, a renaissance started again in the field of Russian tourist trips to Egypt. Namely, Russia banned flights to Egypt after the Russian plane flying to St. Petersburg crashed in the North Sinai region shortly after takeoff from Sharm El-Sheikh on October 31, 2015. All 224 people on board were killed. The Egyptian branch of ISIL caused the accident by placing explosives on the plane. However, better days followed. Egyptian sources indicate that Western sanctions against Russia inadvertently helped Egypt attract Russian tourists. After a drop of 99% in the arrivals of Russian tourists to the EU and Great Britain, an increase of 181% in the arrivals of Russian tourists to Egypt was recorded during this year.

Sahar Talaat Mostafa, deputy chairman of the Egyptian Parliamentary Committee on Tourism, said that before the war in Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian tourists made up more than 80% of visitors to the resorts on the Red Sea – Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada. In the year after the introduction of Western sanctions, the number of Russian tourists who visited Egypt reached almost one million. In light of this increase, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Denis Manturov, said that both countries are ready to increase flights between them to meet the growing demand.

Military cooperation

Military cooperation is a key element of rapidly growing bilateral relations. Since el-Sisi became president in 2014, Egypt has signed several military contracts to buy Russian weapons. According to a 2021 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Egypt spent $15 billion on weapons purchases between 2014 and 2017, with 60% of its weapons purchased from Russia. In the summer of 2020, Egypt received five Su-35 aircraft, despite the US threat of sanctions.

In April of this year, a leaked US intelligence document revealed that the Egyptian president allegedly instructed subordinates to secretly manufacture and ship rockets, artillery shells and ammunition to Russia. The February 17 document states that el-Sisi ordered the production of up to 40,000 rockets that were secretly sent to Russia. He allegedly ordered his subordinates to keep the operation secret in order to avoid problems with Western countries. It is interesting that the Egyptian, Russian and American authorities have denied such allegations.

Membership in the BRICS New Development Bank

After completing the necessary procedure, on February 20 this year, Egypt became a formal member of the BRICS New Development Bank. The bank was founded by BRICS member countries on the basis of an interstate agreement signed at the 6th summit of that organization in Fortaleza in July 2014. The bank’s goal is to finance infrastructure projects and sustainable development projects in member states and developing countries.

The bank previously received an international credit rating of AA+ from the renowned credit agencies Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings, which enabled it to effectively attract long-term financing on international capital markets. Since its inception, the bank has approved more than 90 projects worth a total of $32 billion in areas such as transportation, water management, green energy, digital and social infrastructure, and urban construction. The head of the New Development Bank is currently the former president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff. 

Entry into BRICS

On the first day of Nov 2024, Egypt will become a new member of BRICS, which is the most visible indicator of excellent relations with Russia and Cairo’s commitment to the ideas of a multipolar world order. The BRICS organization is widely recognized as a direct competitor to America’s unipolar hegemony at the global level and has been praised for this by independent analysts around the world.

BRICS is based on multipolarity, which is the key element of the Russian foreign policy. Although some devalue this bloc of states, the BRICS member states will together account for roughly a third of the world’s GDP in 2024, occupy a third of the land surface of the planet Earth, and have 45% of the world’s population. Thanks to BRICS, Egypt will be able to further prosper economically, but also politically, it will be able to consolidate its status as a middle power in international relations. This is a status that Egypt has not yet used in the right way, even though it should and must be resolved in order to solve some pressing crises in the region, such as the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.


Egypt’s ruling circles see Russia as a key foreign policy ally even though Egypt has been one of America’s most important partners in the region for the past five decades. Annually, Cairo receives more than a billion dollars in US military aid. Cultivating good relations with Moscow is an important pillar of Egypt’s foreign policy. Egyptians believe that strategic relations with Russia help their country balance relations with major powers, primarily the US and the European Union, which have criticized human rights violations in Egypt. Unlike his American and European counterparts, Putin is not concerned about issues of human rights and democracy in Egypt or elsewhere. Realistically speaking, neither are Western leaders who use human rights and democracy as an excuse to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries when it suits them.

Putin was always looking for a way to improve Russian relations with a country, including Egypt, which is not just some Third World country. Egypt is the most populous Arab country and the 3rd most populous African country in a strategically important position in North Africa. Cairo is one of the founders of still important international organizations such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Strong relations with Russia not only allow Egypt to regain its image as an internationally important state, but can also help counter the influence of other regional powers such as Turkey and Iran. Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East, from Iran and Syria to Turkey, Libya and the Gulf countries, has made it an important factor in the region. As the largest Arab country, Egypt can help Russia further strengthen its position in the Arab world.

Matija Šerić

Matija Šerić is a geopolitical analyst and journalist from Croatia and writes on foreign policy, history, economy, society, etc.

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