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From global time|
In contrast to Western sanctions which target Russia's energy and defense technology sectors, Moscow issued a ban on agricultural imports from the US and the EU. Since the volume of food trade between Russia and the US is small, the embargo is particularly targeted at the EU producers. Meanwhile, Russia is looking to countries like Egypt and Turkey to provide it with goods such as dairy and poultry products. The EU recently warned Egypt and Turkey, claiming that they should not take advantage of Moscow's food embargo.
Egypt has shown stronger interests in Russia than Turkey. The latest rapprochement between Moscow and Cairo is driven by the political demands of both.
The Ukraine's eastern part, dominated by Russian-speaking inhabitants, has sought to be part of Russia since the independence of Ukraine. The debate over whether Kiev should integrate into the EU accelerated confrontation among different ethnic groups, leading to the division of the country.
Russia was plagued with a swirl of suspicion regarding the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. And the joining of Crimea into Russia put Moscow under political pressure worldwide as it's argued that Russia's unilateral move challenged the basic norms of international relations.
As for Egypt, the ouster of Egypt's democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi and the conviction of the Muslim Brotherhood drew extensive controversy and criticism.
The US and the EU gave silent consent to the Egyptian military due to concerns over the expansion of radical Islamism. However, they didn't give up their long-persisting stance that is based on promoting democracy and human rights. They attempted to establish their grip on the new Egyptian regime, in an effort to see Cairo develop in line with Western expectations.
During the 1950s to the 1970s, Egypt's then president Gamal Abdel Nasser insisted on a pro-Soviet, anti-Israel policy. Now the incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi upholds the policy of checking the influence of the EU through collaboration with Russia. This shows that ideological factors seldom play a big role in Egyptian-Russian bilateral relations, and both countries act out of their own national interests.
In order to secure the biggest guarantee for its security interests, the EU has maintained relatively stable relations with Russia and the Islamic world. For the EU, it's not in its interest to sour ties with both simultaneously.
Currently, the EU and Russia are locked in confrontation, which means that it is likely to only inflict limited pressure on Egypt.
Besides, Cairo's ability to provide agricultural products is not comparable to that of the EU. Therefore, the EU pressure on Egypt over its plan to offer farm products to Moscow is likely to be of little substance.
For the current Egyptian regime, it's very likely that they will inherit the fundamental traits of big power diplomacy. Egypt holds a traditional major power status as the stabilizer of the Arab world, and it has critical geopolitical significance in the Middle East. Therefore, its ties with other major powers are unlikely to undergo major change.
In the security realm, Egypt seeks a balance between Russia and the US through accepting military aid from both. It will also seek economic assistance from both the US and the EU.
In the current tug of war over sanctions between Russia and the EU, Egypt knows well the gap in economic strength between Russia and its rivals. The economic benefits that Cairo could win by cooperating with Russia are limited.
Egypt's courtship with Russia in the field of food supply is evidently based on such logic: pressuring the EU to offer more economic assistance, while further propelling political cooperation with Russia.
In a nutshell, the future balancing diplomacy of Egypt will still prioritize the US and the EU.