Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Kondrashov, Russian Deputy chief of staff and head of GRU military intelligence, spent the first day of his visit to Cairo, Tuesday, Oct. 29, with Egyptian military chiefs, going through the list of Russian military hardware items they want to buy in their first major arms transaction with Moscow in more than three decades, debkafile’s military sources report. The Egyptians asked Moscow to supply the sort of advanced weapons withheld by the United States, and topped their shopping list with medium-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that cover Iran and most of the Middle East.
They told the Russian general that Moscow’s good faith in seeking to build a new military relationship between the two governments would be tested by its willingness to meet this Egyptian requirement.
They are most likely after the brand-new SS-25 road-mobile ICBM which has a range of 2,000 miles, which the Russians tested earlier this month.
Russia is not entirely comfortable with this demand, having signed a mutual agreement with the US to stop manufacturing medium-range ballistic missiles. And so the sale of SS-25 ICBMs to Egypt could get the Russians in hot water in Washington.
Gen. Kondrashov told his hosts that their list would receive serious scrutiny and, in the meantime, Moscow is prepared to offer Cairo long-term credit on easy terms to finance the package. This would relieve cash-strapped Egypt of the need to find the money to pay for the arms and save its leaders having to turn to Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates for funding.
The Russian general’s arrival in Cairo at the head of a large military delegation was the first in 35 years. Since 1972, when Anwar Sadat expelled the Soviet advisers, Egypt has never acquired Russian weapons.
debkafile: Western sources are divided over the seriousness of the Saudi feud with the Obama administration and tend to minimize Riyadh’s shift away from its traditional ally, the US. But the Saudis are going full tilt to distance themselves from Washington and are meanwhile urging Egypt’s ruler Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, to turn away from his country’s long dependence on America. Hence the large arms transaction with Moscow, which was agreed as early as last July – and reported by debkafile at the time – when Saudi Intelligence Director Prince Bandar bin Sultan met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
Word of the arrival of the Russian GRU general in Cairo appears to have prompted US Secretary of State John Kerry to announce Tuesday that he planned to visit to Egypt in the coming weeks. He may be too late to stop Egypt’s drift out of the US orbit, especially since he made it plain that he would insist on meeting with representatives of all the country’s political factions. This was taken to mean the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups.
The Russian delegation has no plans to talk to any non-military figures in Egypt, which means that its members will not step out of the loyal circle centering on Gen. El-Sisi.