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Egypt planned to backstab US, secretly send Russia rockets

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his address to the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 21, 2022. (ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
April 12, 2023

The president of Egypt recently laid plans to secretly ship Russia tens of thousands of rockets for its war in Ukraine, according to an apparently leaked Pentagon document. The news raises questions about the loyalty of a key U.S. ally in the Middle East as nations consider how closely they want to align themselves with Russia.

The top-secret document, first reported by the Washington Post, was found among classified materials that leaked online over the last two months. The leak became widely known only in recent days, triggering multiple investigations.

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The document reportedly shows U.S. intelligence indicating that on Feb. 1, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi directed the production of up to 40,000 rockets, and their shipment to Russia, be kept secret “to avoid problems with the West.” Plans to supply gunpowder and artillery rounds are also referenced.

A person instructed to carry out the order, identified as Salah al-Din, said “it was the least Egypt could do to repay Russia for unspecified help earlier,” according to the document.

That order from Sisi would have followed U.S. claims that North Korea is sending Russia artillery shells and suggestions that China is considering doing the same. As Ukraine and Russia both have run low on ammunition, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asked Egypt to send Ukraine shells in March, but received no commitment, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Egypt has long been a U.S. ally and has received over $80 billion in military and economic assistance since 1978, according to the U.S. State Department. The country has received over a billion dollars every year from the U.S. in military aid since 1987, according to the Congressional Research Service.

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On Tuesday, an unnamed Egyptian official called the Post’s report “informational tampering that has no basis in truth,” Al Jazeera reported.

Asked for comment on the leaked document, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Ahmed Abu Zeid, said: “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 U.N. charter and international law in the U.N. General Assembly resolutions.”

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday only that Egypt was a “significant security partner” and the U.S. has “seen no indication that Egypt is providing lethal weapons capabilities to Russia.”