Most experts observing the meeting in Cairo between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi this week are interpreting it as Egypt’s way of letting the Obama Administration know there are other super-power fish in the sea.
Judging by the report published in the state-run Xinhua press, China thinks something a bit more serious is going on: sunset for America’s status as the premiere world power.
Putin traveled to Egypt this week for two days of talks with President Sisi, who has been criticized by the United States government for cracking down too vigorously on his Muslim Brotherhood nemeses. Putin made the trip to reaffirm his own government’s support for al-Sisi, praise the growing trade between their countries (up 50% in a single year by Putin’s estimation, as related by the BBC), float the idea of conducting that trade with something other than American dollars, talk up Russian arms sales to Egypt, discuss various conflicts in the Middle East, and finalize a deal to help build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant.
Xinhua bases most of its report on analysis from a single source, Cairo University professor of political science Nourhan al-Sheikh, who judged that the “first message behind the visit is that both countries are dissatisfied with the U.S. hegemony over the world, both politically and economically.” However, the conclusions in the Xinhua article are not greatly different from what a number of other observers and analysts told other media outlets – for example, the UK Guardian, which reached a similar conclusion about Sisi’s desire to express his independence from U.S. foreign policy, and Putin’s need to demonstrate that he is not feeling as “isolated” as President Obama claims he is.
Here’s the Xinhua take on Putin’s visit:
“The first message behind the visit is that both countries are dissatisfied with the U.S. hegemony over the world both politically and economically,” said Nourhan al-Sheikh, political science professor at Cairo University and expert in Russian affairs.
The professor told Xinhua that Egyptian-Russian rejection of U.S. dominance is also indicated in Sisi’s remarks on the necessity for “the establishment of a fairer international economic system.”
Although Sisi did not mention the U.S. by name, the Egyptian president said on Tuesday in a joint press conference with Putin that the world needs to develop “an international system that is more democratic, fairer and safer for all countries.”
Egypt has been facing U.S.-led Western criticism since then-military-chief Sisi led the overthrow of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, whereas Russia has been suffering U.S. pressures and sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis.
Sheikh described Putin’s visit to Cairo as “very supportive and earnest” as it shows Russia’s confidence in Egypt’s stability ahead of the country’s long-awaited economic summit to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in March to offer foreign investment opportunities in Egypt.
“This visit is like a Russian testimony that Egypt is stable, secure and trustworthy enough for strategic partnership and huge foreign investments,” the professor added, noting that Cairo is Putin’s first foreign visit in 2015.
Of course, since this is Xinhua, later we get a bit of boot-polishing for China courtesy of Abdel-Moneim Fawzi, who works at an Egyptian state-run media outlet, as he emphasizes the need to move the world away from a “unipolar” system dominated by the United States: “For instance, unlike the United States, China is the world’s second-largest economy, and it does not attempt to impose its will on other countries; the same applies to Russia.”
I suppose folks in, say, Tibet and Ukraine might disagree, but Fawzi was not going to let such thoughts dispel his vision of a rosy multi-polar world in which countries like Russia and Egypt pursue “complementary interests and mutual needs for each others’ political and economic support,” while the United States “wants to tailor the world according to its visions and will.”