TOP STORIES Egypt, America's Middle East ally, maintains cordial relations with...

Egypt, America’s Middle East ally, maintains cordial relations with Putin.

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An amazing world leader will speak at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia on Friday: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a longtime US ally who for decades was the world’s second largest recipient of US aid.

Egypt has been an important partner of the United States in the Middle East since 1979, when it broke with its Arab neighbors to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Successive US administrations have seen Egypt, with its strategic location on the border with Israel and its control of the Suez Canal, as the key to maintaining stability and combating terrorism in the region.

The US government has given Egypt billions of dollars in aid, rarely faltering until this year, when the Biden administration withheld $130 million over concerns about human rights violations by the Sisi regime.

But Egypt was friendly with Russia long before its relations with the US thawed, and it still maintains important ties: before the war, Russia supplied almost 30 percent of Egypt’s tourists and most of its wheat imports, and Russia is building a nuclear power plant costing 26 billion dollars to Egypt. Ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. al-Sisi has tried to balance both relationships by refusing to condemn Russia’s actions as harshly as the US has demanded.

Although Egypt voted in favor of a United Nations resolution against the invasion in March under American pressure, it has also kept its rhetoric about the war under control. Mr. al-Sisi called Mr. Putin to reaffirm Egypt’s commitment to cooperation shortly after the UN vote, and Egypt had been saying for months that it would take part in the forum in St. Petersburg.

In a speech this week, Mr. al-Sisi called the invasion a “Russian-Ukrainian crisis” while defiantly refraining from singling out Russia, and said that Egypt prioritizes “the language of dialogue and peaceful solutions.”

Egyptian public opinion is also leaning towards Russia. Many Egyptians are pleased to see Russia challenging the United States and its allies, drawing on deep-seated resentment over the US invasion of Iraq and Western support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.

The Egyptian fence has not gone unnoticed by the US, which has expressed dissatisfaction with Egypt’s proximity to Russia in the past and once threatened to impose sanctions on Egyptian deals to buy Russian aircraft. But on Friday, it was unclear whether the US was pressuring Mr. Al-Sisi not to speak at the forum in St. Petersburg.

From Egypt’s perspective, it cannot afford to alienate either country, especially at a time when Egypt’s economy is buckling under pressure from inflation, foreign investment outflows and depleted wheat reserves.

The US and its allies say the Russian invasion has hurt Egypt’s economy.

“Whatever Russian officials say about cooperation with Egypt, they cannot explain the difficulties that this war of aggression is causing Egypt,” said the G7 ambassadors in Egypt. general opinion essay This week. “Russia also cannot divert attention from the financial consequences of Putin’s aggressive war, which threatens the well-being and livelihood of the Egyptians.”

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