Five years after returning to the Middle East with a military base in Syria, Russia is moving into arms markets vacated by the United States and boosting sales to traditional customers, AlJazeera reports.
Moscow’s growing arms sales bring money and geopolitical influence as it seeks to challenge US hegemony. On February 25, Russia officially announced that Egypt had received five Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role advanced combat aircraft, the first of an order of 24.
Egypt ordered the planes despite threats of US sanctions after Washington refused to sell its fifth-generation F-35 fighter-bomber to Cairo.
Turkey, a NATO ally, is in talks with Russia to buy the Su-35 and eventually the latest-generation fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jet, after being excluded from the US F-35 program. .
On March 12, Russia announced that it was ready to start official negotiations with Ankara and help Turkey develop its own fifth-generation fighter, the TF-X. Algeria, Russia’s biggest customer at MENA, will receive 14 upgraded Sukhoi-34 light bombers this year and is reportedly interested in the Su-57 as well.
Iran, a long-time customer of Russian weaponry since the days of the Shah, is free to consider Russian goods again, as a UN arms embargo against the Islamic republic expired in October.
In part, Russia is trading its weapons because they are a major source of foreign exchange, experts said. “Arms exports are critical to the Russian economy, unlike the United States, which is such a big market on its own that it doesn’t really care about exports,” said Kostas Grivas, professor of weapons systems at the Hellenic Military Academy. .
Russia’s share of global arms exports was 21 percent in 2015-19, making it the world’s second-largest exporter after the United States, according to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ( SIPRI).
Egypt feels second best
The Camp David Accords of 1979, which granted Israel diplomatic recognition from an Arab country for the first time, elevated Egypt to the status of a key ally of the United States.
Since then, the United States has provided more than $ 80 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt. That changed in 2011, when then-President Hosni Mubarak was deposed by a popular uprising and the 2012 elections saw Mohamed Morsi win.
The United States then withheld the deliveries of weapons systems, fearing a threat to Israel. The removal of Morsi via a military coup after a year in office did little to assuage US concerns about underlying political instability, and there were additional concerns about President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood of the that Morsi came from.
Citing human rights abuses, the United States suspended military aid to Egypt for two years, worth an estimated $ 1.3 billion a year.