Egypt Planned to Supply Thousands of Rockets to Russia
US intel leaks indicate Cairo sought to export 40,000 missiles, other equipment; Sisi instructed a minister to provide the arms, but ‘avoid problems with West’
Egypt, a major US ally and recipient of American military and economic aid, was preparing to covertly supply Russia with thousands of rockets for its ongoing war in Ukraine, according to a leaked top-secret Pentagon document cited by The Washington Post on Monday.
In it, the Egyptian leader reportedly instructed an official referenced as Salah al-Dinto to keep the plan secret “to avoid problems with the West,” to which the latter — believed to be Mohamed Salah al-Din, the minister of state for military production — said he would tell workers the rockets were for the Egyptian army.
A portion of the document, dated February 17, was said to describe conversations between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and senior Egyptian military officials on the production of some 40,000 rockets for Russia, as well as the provision of artillery rounds and gunpowder.
Salah al-Din, the report said, told Sissi that supplying Russia with the weapons was “the least Egypt could do to repay Russia for unspecified help earlier,” though the details of any earlier collaboration were not mentioned.
The intelligence leak was part of a steady drip of dozens of photographs of highly sensitive US documents that have been found on Twitter, Telegram, Discord, and other sites in recent days, though some may have circulated online for weeks, if not months, before they began to receive media attention.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has significantly harmed Egypt’s access to Ukrainian wheat, which the north African country relied on for 80 percent of its imports. Subsequently, Cairo has turned to Moscow for help, perhaps indicating a strengthening in relations between the two countries at a time when Russia faces significant isolation from the West.
The Washington Post said it obtained the referenced document from a trove of images of classified files posted on Discord in February and March.
Ahmed Abu Zeid, a spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, was quoted in the report as saying that “Egypt’s position from the beginning is based on noninvolvement in this crisis and committing to maintain equal distance with both sides, while affirming Egypt’s support to the UN charter and international law in the UN General Assembly resolutions.”
“We continue to urge both parties to cease hostilities and reach a political solution through negotiations,” said Abu Zeid.
The apparent leak of highly sensitive US documents — many of them related to the Ukraine conflict — presents a “very serious” risk to US national security, the Pentagon said Monday.
The breach is being investigated by the Justice Department and appears to include secret information on the war in Ukraine as well as sensitive analyses of US allies.
Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations committees, said that “Egypt is one of our oldest allies in the Middle East… If it’s true that Sissi is covertly building rockets for Russia that could be used in Ukraine, we need to have a serious reckoning about the state of our relationship.”
Sarah Margon, director of US foreign policy at the Open Society Foundations once-nominated by the Biden administration for a human rights role in the US State Department, said that if the leaked report proved accurate, the supply of rockets from Cairo to Moscow was “beyond the pale, especially for an ostensibly close US ally.”
The Biden administration has been increasingly troubled by Egypt’s suppression of civil society as the country wades through an ever-intensifying economic crisis.
In September, the US said it would withhold a portion of its more than $1.3 billion annual security payment to Egypt, citing Cairo’s poor human rights record.
Egypt, for its part, has also experienced frustration with US demands placed on Cairo and has likely turned to alternative global powers like Russia in a bid to create greater leverage over the US.