A while back I noted that Egypt looked like it was networking with European powers to address the chaos that threatens the vital Suez Canal.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin came to Cairo this week, bearing gifts that indicate he understands Egyptian needs.

Just hours before a summit in Minsk that could decide the fate of eastern Europe for a generation, Vladimir Putin had a gift for the president of Egypt: an assault rifle.

A photo of the rifle, with its wooden stock and accompanying gun case, along with a smiling President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, was posted on the website of Egypt’s state-controlled MENA news agency. The rifle was identified as an AK-47, according to the state-run Russia Today’s Arabic website.

A video of the exchange, which occurred at the Cairo Aiport shortly after Putin arrived.

But the AK-47 isn’t the only present in Putin’s bag: Last year, the two countries made a $3 billion deal that includes Russian attack helicopters and MiG-29 fighter jets. Additionally, Russian businesses have agreed to proceed with a major grain storage construction project in Egypt.

The most fascinating aspect of this new friendship? Russia is going to help Egypt build its first nuclear power plant:

Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made the announcement on Tuesday at a joint news conference in the Egyptian capital, where they signed an agreement on the plant’s construction.

“If final decisions are made, it will mean not just building a nuclear power plant, it means the creation of the entire new atomic industry in Egypt,” said Putin.

The plant would be built at the existing nuclear site in Dabaa, on the Mediterranean coast west of the port city of Alexandria, where a research reactor has stood for years.

It looks like the Smart Set in Washington is just fine with this development:

Washington has no problem with Egyptian-Russian plans for a nuclear station west of Cairo, the US Department of State said Tuesday.

“We support peaceful nuclear power programs as long as obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to which Egypt is a signatory and obligations to the IAEA are fully met and the highest international standards regulating security, nonproliferation, export controls, and physical security are strictly followed,” US State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said during the daily press briefing.

Israeli Radio contributor Benny Avni offers this analysis in The New York Post, which notes that Putin has exploited an opening left by Obama:

Wait, how did Sisi all of a sudden become the Kremlin’s BFF? The ex-general rose up the ranks of an Egyptian army that was almost exclusively backed by America. Sisi was even a fellow at the US Army War College in the early 1990s.

Simple: America no longer wants the friendship of a man who, according to his detractors, has reversed Egypt’s progress toward democracy.

To make that point, President Obama suspended for a while the annual $1.5 billion US aid package to Egypt. He also held up deliveries of military hardware like US-made attack helicopters, which Sisi desperately needs to fight ISIS and other Islamist terrorists in the Sinai.

…To continue his fight against extremists, Sisi needs military hardware, money and diplomatic backing. Washington managed to convince the entire Arab world that we’re siding with the Muslim Brotherhood (or with Tehran), rather than Sisi.

So here comes Putin, Kalashnikov in hand.

I traveled through Egypt in 1988, and was warmly received as an American after effective diplomacy in the 1970’s enhanced our relations with the Land of the Nile…wooing it away from the Soviet Union.

Now, it appears that the AK-47 came with a “reset” button…one that Obama built.


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