Are Egypt-Russia naval drills in Black Sea message to Ankara?

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Oct 18, 2020

The Russian Ministry of Defense introduced Oct. 10 that its naval forces will conduct joint workouts with their Egyptian counterparts for the primary time within the Black Sea, which is bordered by a number of international locations, together with Turkey, one of many essential rivals of Egypt within the area.

Observers and army specialists imagine the joint naval train is “a qualitative leap in the show of force between Cairo and Ankara,” additional fueling tensions between the 2 international locations.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated in an Oct. 10 assertion on its web site that army delegations from Egypt and Russia met for 3 days within the Russian metropolis of Novorossiysk to arrange for the joint workouts dubbed “Bridge of Friendship – 2020.” The ministry famous that the naval drills purpose to “strengthen and develop military cooperation between the Egyptian Navy and the Russian Navy in the interests of security and stability at sea.”

It added, “Tactical teams of warships of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy and the Egyptian Navy, with the help of aviation, will work out joint duties to guard sea routes from varied threats.”

Maj. Gen. Jamal Mazloum, a army skilled and adviser on the Nasser High Military Academy, instructed Al-Monitor that the naval drills within the Black Sea, held for the primary time in Russian territorial waters, are a complementary step to the Bridge of Friendship – 2019 train that befell within the Mediterranean sea final yr.

“Egypt will benefit more from these naval drills, as they will be held at a distance of 3,000 kilometers [1,864 miles] from Egypt, and in closed waters in the Black Sea away from the Mediteranean airspace. This is an international power show of the Egyptian military and navy following numerous upgrades and newly introduced weapons,” Mazloum stated. 

Since the rise to energy of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has strengthened its army capabilities, particularly within the navy. It bought 4 German-made Type 209/1400 mod class submarines, two Mistral-class touchdown ships and a FREMM frigate from France.

Tarek Fahmy, a professor of worldwide relations at Cairo University, instructed Al-Monitor the Egyptian-Russian train within the Black Sea sends an oblique message to Ankara, because it comes at a really important time and goals to confront Turkish colonial ambitions.

Tensions escalated between Egypt and Turkey following Ankara’s signing of a safety and maritime memorandum of understanding with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) in November 2019. The settlement was rejected by Egypt and a number of other different international locations within the jap Mediterranean area. Turkey had additionally provided army help for its ally Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the GNA. 

The Turkish help in Libya has drastically modified the course of the battles in Libya, as army strongman Khalifa Hifter, who’s backed by Cairo, confronted a sequence of setbacks in his offensive towards the GNA in Tripoli. Cairo responded to the Turkish strikes by threatening to launch a army intervention in Libya ought to the pro-government forces cross the cities of Sirte and al-Jufra. Egypt claimed this matter falls throughout the scope of its nationwide safety that it’s going to not permit the GNA forces and the Turkish-backed militias to jeopardize. Subsequently, a cease-fire was introduced in August.

Fahmy stated, “The exercise sends a pre-emptive message of deterrence to Turkey or any other party threatening Egypt’s national security, whereby Egypt can move in strategic naval areas beyond the Mediterranean and in contact with vital areas of interest to Turkey. The drills are a reminder that the Egyptian army reached the doorstep of Istanbul in Turkey in the 19th century and is ready to do this again.”

Meanwhile, he stated the train can be a Russian message to Ankara that it can’t move in any of the areas of strategic significance to Moscow, with out there being any countermovement by the latter in Turkey’s strategic areas. In this context, Fahmy pointed to the continuing clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the tensions within the jap Mediterranean area.

On Oct. 14, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov voiced Moscow’s disagreement with Turkey over the Nagorno-Karabakh battle.

Meanwhile, the Russian announcement of the train was met with official Egyptian silence. The Egyptian army spokesman didn’t reply to Al-Monitor’s request for remark.

Mohammed Soliman, a fellow on the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes Cairo’s silence carries messages to Ankara that it doesn’t search any escalation in gentle of the relative progress within the Libyan negotiations sponsored by Cairo.

Cairo had intensified its efforts to deliver collectively the Libyan events, and hosted three Libyan delegations in a single month, together with GNA representatives, with the purpose of reaching an answer to the disaster.

The most up-to-date discussions have been held in Cairo on Oct. 11-13, between delegations representing the Libyan House of Representatives and the Libyan High Council of State. The attendees agreed to finish the transitional section and provoke preparations for the everlasting section, and to carry a second spherical in Egypt to finish constructive discussions on constitutional preparations.

Yet Soliman argued that the Bridge of Friendship – 2020 within the Black Sea implies that the Egyptian army naval vessels have entered the strategic depth of Turkey. “This is a message from Cairo that it can respond to Turkey’s moves in Libya by moving in the heart of the Turkish depth,” he stated.

This comes as Turkey introduced that it’s going to begin testing its Russian-made S-400 missile protection programs on Oct. 13-16. Ankara issued aviation warnings to clear the airspace and waters off its Black Sea coast.

“This shows Ankara’s concern about the implications of Egyptian military units crossing the Turkish Bosporus Strait. Turkey conducted military exercises at the same time as Egypt, as a symbolic response to the Egyptian-Russian drills,” Soliman famous.