Egypt Rejects US Requests To Block Russian Military Flights
Washington is trying to pressure Egypt into closing its airspace for all Russian military flights, but the regional US ally isn't having it, which also awkwardly comes following a recent Pentagon leak showing Cairo planned to supply Moscow with rockets.
"Egypt has ignored U.S. requests to close its airspace to Russian military flights, American and Egyptian officials said, testing the limits of Washington’s ability to choke off Moscow’s supplies ahead of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive," The Wall Street Journal reports Friday.
"The U.S. and Ukraine persuaded countries including Turkey, Jordan and Iraq to cut access for at least some Russian military planes last year after the invasion of Ukraine, forcing Moscow’s aircraft to fly 2,000 extra miles and up to five hours further to reach strategic bases in Syria," the report continues.
Washington's concern is that Russia has likely been using Egyptian airspace to transport weapons from its arms depots elsewhere in the Middle East - for example in Syria where since 2015 it's had a significant military build-up, particularly focused along the coast.
Flight records cited in the WSJ report showed that at least seven such military flights which utilized this Syria route, before heading to Russia's Black Sea region.
Egypt over the past multiple decades has been just behind Israel as a top recipient of US foreign aid, to the tune of about $1.3 billion annually. In recent years Congress has made moves to withhold some of this if it doesn't better servce US interests. Washington has long propped up Egypt's military largely in order to keep the peace with Israel.
For example a State Department fact sheet has reviewed that "Since 1978, the United States has provided Egypt with over $50 billion in military and $30 billion in economic assistance."
Last month the Washington Post reported on a leaked slide which was part of the "Discord leaks" of Pentagon documents. The slide said that Sisi recently ordered production of up to 40,000 rockets to be covertly shipped to Russia.
Marked by more than a century of diplomatic cooperation and friendship, the U.S.-Egypt partnership continues to thrive. More on our relations with Egypt and the Egyptian people 🇺🇸 🤝 🇪🇬: https://t.co/QDa9i7xRqJ pic.twitter.com/LAxizlXSwk— Department of State (@StateDept) January 30, 2023
The top secret document, dated to Feb. 17 of this year, included a summary of conversations between the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his senior military officials. "In the document, Sisi instructs the officials to keep the production and shipment of the rockets secret 'to avoid problems with the West,'" the Washington Post wrote. Artillery rounds and gunpowder were also mentioned.
Countries like Egypt (viewed as close American allies) caught shipping weapons into Russia would not only prove highly embarrassing for the Biden administration, but could possibly trigger US sanctions, or at least the freezing of defense aid to the country.