Egypt moves ahead with purchase of Russian Su-35 fighters despite US warnings

Russia Egypt deal Su35 Flanker
Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker. The type is currently under delivery to Egypt.

The press release published on February 23, 2021 by the US Department of State is somewhat perplexing. According to the note, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to emphasize the importance of the strong strategic partnership between the two nations in the ongoing cooperation against terrorism, as well as raise concerns about the potential procurement of Su-35 fighter aircraft from Russia.

What is surprising is the reference to a 'potential procurement' when Russia has already started deliveries of Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker jets to Egypt.

On February 25, 2021, Russia officially announced the delivery of a batch of five Sukhoi Su-35 advanced fighter jets, out of 24 ordered, to Egypt. The Russian Khabarovsk Krai region’s official media agency highlighted the importance of the result, considering the COVID-19 pandemic. They should be the same aircraft spotted in Moscow in December 2020 during flight tests.

The reality is that, despite many warnings from the Pentagon, Egypt is continuing to do business with Russia in order to diversify its weapons sources and not rely solely on US weapons.

Most likely the Su-35 deal also aims to punish the United States' sale of F-35 stealth aircraft to Israel. With this sale, Washington secured Tel Aviv's military supremacy and sovereignty over the region. Israel's acquisition of the modern aircraft could threaten the balance of power in the Middle East, especially after the United States refused to sell the F-35 to Egypt.

The introduction of the Su-35 will help Egypt reduce the performance gap with the modern Israeli Air Force fleet, although the two nations are not currently in conflict, and maintain superiority in regional skies.

Egyptian officials have repeatedly stated that they have every right to buy weapons from multiple sources, rejecting US threats to suspend military support. The fuse could have been triggered by Russia's delivery of 40 Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters to Egypt in November 2019. On the occasion, Cairo clearly showed that it didn't care about US warnings.

After the United States stopped military support for Egypt from 2013 to 2015, the Egyptians realized they didn't have to rely solely on Washington. However, relations between the two nations are unlikely to be destroyed as Egypt remains a fundamental ally in the entire Mediterranean area. It represents the pillar of regional peace with Israel and is also indispensable for its geographical position and control of the Suez Canal. Given the strategic importance of the area, the White House wants to keep Russia out of there.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo Credit: United Aircraft Corporation

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