Egypt confronting consequences of Russia-Ukraine war, a call for thought

Abdel-Rahman Salaheddin
Thursday 2 Jun 2022

This article aims to launch a dialogue among Egyptian specialists regarding the negative effects of the Russia-Ukraine war economically, politically, regionally and internationally and find ways of addressing them to maximise our benefits.


The effects of the Russia-Ukraine war on the Egyptian economy have already begun to emerge and it be reflected in several developments in the Arabian Gulf and the other parts of the Middle East region. Fear of its repercussions has enveloped the rest of the world. A number of regional powers such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran are seeking to exploit such repercussions for their benefit.

Economic effects

The talk has begun already about several developing countries, especially in Africa, falling victims to the war in Ukraine thus doubling the losses caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. If the American insistence on supporting the war until the expulsion of the Russian forces, toppling Putin or breaking up Russia persists, then the United States and Western countries must participate in helping the countries whose economies will be affected by the war, including Egypt. We can refer to a similar previous precedent when, in the early 1990s, the US led an international campaign to help the countries economically affected by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which also included Egypt. However, Egypt also participated in the military operations of the liberation of Kuwait and in the international political coalition opposing Saddam’s Hussein’s invasion of a neighbouring Arab country.

I do not call here for Egypt to side with Russia or help Ukraine militarily as was demanded from the US because this will harm Russian-Egyptian relations and cast strong shadows of doubt in regard to China, which might in turn have negative effects on the strategically important relations between the two countries in the future. It was enough that Egypt voted in favour of the resolutions that condemned the Russian military operations and did not join the countries that refused to take a stand against one of the warring countries. It is needless to explain the damages that have been inflicted and will be inflicted on the Egyptian economy due to this war between two countries that are its largest sources of imported wheat and the top tourism resources for our country, and due to the exorbitant rise in the price of food commodities. There is also the exit of the hot money from the emerging markets, including Egypt.

The US and the West must search for a rapid means to relieve Egyptian debt through exempting the country from paying some of its debts and not rescheduling them at a higher interest rate and through the entrance of western countries as a partner, not just as a seller and lender in the infrastructure and the services projects undertaken by their companies in Egypt. As was Turkey’s non-committance of western sanctions against Russia was overlooked, Egypt can get Russian energy and wheat with a special discount like Turkey and China presently.

Russian military withdrawal from Libya and Syria, and Turkey’s attempt to fill the vacuum

It seems that Putin’s desire not to declare a state of emergency and call up reservists for service will drive him to transfer large numbers of regular troops and mercenaries and even Syrian fighters working with Russia in Syria and Libya to fight in Ukraine. Western intelligence and media intercepted these movements, which Turkey has not hesitated to take advantage of. Erdogan declared the beginning of a big military operation in northern Syria aiming to create a safe area that Turkey will occupy, thirty kilometres inside Syrian lands. He claimed that he will repatriate one million Syrians, who are of course loyal to Turkey, and expel the Kurdish inhabitants from this area, which even the Biden administration’s raised concerns about its consequences publicaly. On the other hand, not a single Arab party issued a warning or a protest as Erdogan is begging reconciliation with the Arabian Gulf countries in order to rescue his country’s economy, which was crumbling even before the Russia-Ukraine war.

I would like, here, to warn of a repeated Turkish-Russian understanding in Libya that led to the withdrawal of the Russian mercenaries from around Tripoli and the advance of the Libyan militias backed with the Turkish Bayraktar drones, which were not stopped except after the Egyptian warning concerning the Sirte-Jufra line. I recommend that Egypt tries to reach an understanding so that Libyan militias loyal to Egypt substitute for the Russian and Syrian forces that will withdraw from Libya, especially the ones controlling the strategic Jufra base and the oil producing areas in the Libyan east and south. The West will need the regularity and increase in the Libyan energy production and its reach to Europe in order to contribute in dispensing with a portion of the Russian energy.

The prospective American-Saudi understanding and the return to the Iranian nuclear deal

It seems that the Biden administration has decided to support Mohammed bin Salman ascension to the Saudi throne in return for the increase of Saudi oil production, ending the war in Yemen, acknowledging the Houthi’s and Iran’s role, Saudi Arabia’s acceptance of the revival of the Iranian nuclear deal and perhaps declaring some Saudi steps towards normalising relations with Israel within the frame of regional projects around the Neom area and the transfer of sovereignty of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia and some American measures to improve the economic situation of the Palestinians and decreasing the tension in Jerusalem. Right now, preparations for Biden’s visit to the region, which will witness the declaration of all or most of these strategic understandings, are being made. I hope that Egypt will take into consideration the consequences of some of those understandings on our interests and the opportunity that another some of them would provide so as to benefit from them.

The importance of abandoning the strategic latency theory

Egypt will need to gradually abandon the policy it adopted since 2013; to be preoccupied with internal problems and confine itself to external movements within the frame of our regional and international alliances in a way that does not affect our national priorities. It is a policy that I realise has preserved our human and economic resources and helped to direct them towards necessary needs and the dangers that we confronted after the January and June Revolutions.

What I call for here is reactivating the Egyptian external policy on the regional and international levels in the fields through which the Egyptian role can benefit in the light of the changes that the Ukraine war created and other issues such as the need for a regional security system, the security arrangements of the Arabian Gulf, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Eastern Mediterranean and the importance of reviving the Arab Peace Initiative. Egypt needs to conduct parallel dialogues with active regional powers among Arab brothers and Iran, Turkey and Israel, in addition to regional powers.

I think that Egypt is qualified to launch an initiative, just before hosting the next Climate Change Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh next November, to reach a peaceful resolution for the Ukraine war or at least to stop the war and stop the bleeding of the world economy. The backstage of the Sharm El-Sheikh conference may witness deliberations between Putin and his western counterparts in order to reach an agreement. All these are suggestions I raise before the experts and those interested in a national dialogue helping in shaping an Egyptian policy that consultations can be made about it with regional and international partners during the current international and regional period.

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