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Sidi Barrani

Russias Izvestia reported on 09 October 2016 that Moscow intended to establish an airbase in the Egyptian town of Sidi Barrani by 2019. This was quickly denied by Cairo. The Soviet Union had a small naval facility near the town until 1972, which was used to monitor US naval forces deployed to the region. The factility in question is not a port [which are non-exitent on this coastline], but rather the Sidi Buarrani air field about five miles to the south of town [roughly 31.45 N x 25.90 E / 3127'60" N 2552'41" E]. This standard issue military airfield has several dozen hardened aircraft shelters at the north and south ends of the double runway, and another handful or so in the middle, just for good measure.

The negotiations over possible participation of Russia in rebuilding of Egyptian military sites on the Mediterranean coast near Sidi Barrani are quite successful. If both parties agree to the terms, as soon as 2019 the base may become operational. Cairo is ready to lease it to Moscow because it would use it to pursue high-priority geopolitical goals, which align with Egypts interests, an anonymous diplomatic source told Izvestia. Moscow wanted to rent the base at the time, as Cairo is ready to give it in rent to solve the primary geopolitical objectives in the interests of the Egyptian side. Having reached an agreement that Russia will deliver equipment to the base by sea, there would always be a small contingent of Russian soldiers.

The former USSR military base at Sidi Barrani is located in the West of the Egyptian Mediterranean coast 100 km from the border with Libya. Between Ras Hulaymah and Ras Alam ar Rum, 76 miles ESE, the coast is low, rocky, and backed by small sand hills. The land in the vicinity of Ras Hulaymah gradually rises from the coast. A conspicuous beacon is situated inland, 0.5 mile E of the light. Sidi Barrani [Sidi = Tomb], a village, is situated close SE of the light and a conspicuous coast guard station stands in its vicinity. A cove, which is only 37m wide, fronts this village and affords shelter from N swells to small craft with local knowledge. Anchorage, entirely exposed, can be taken off Sidi Barrani, in a depth of 16m, about 0.2 mile N of the cove.

The utility of an airbase near Sidi Barrani is obvious for Moscow. Even though Russia has a similar base in Syrian Khmeimim, the presence of Russian warplanes in Egypt would allow Moscow conduct military missions in the western Mediterranean, Talaat Musallam, a strategic and security expert and former Egyptian armed forces general told Izvestia. Libya, which remains in turmoil, would be a potential place of action, he added.

Commenting on the report, military expert Nabil Fuad told RIA Novosti that Egypts military doctrine does not allow it to host foreign-controlled military bases. That is a principal issue for Egypt not to allow foreign military bases on its territory, he said, adding that during the Cold War Soviet military specialists would work at Egyptian military facilities, rather than have their own.

In the fall of 1940, the Italian Army in North Africa had pressed west through Cyrenaica and into the Egyptian frontier, causing the retreat of weak British forces towards Alexandria. Britain, though weak in ground forces in Egypt, maintained her naval control over the Mediterranean, as well as the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. Britain recognized the strategic need to control Egypt and the sea lines of communications (SLOCs) to ensure not only a supply line to mid-East oil, but also to prevent Axis control of the Suez, which would cut off British supply routes. Thus in December 1940, British forces in Egypt launched a counterattack, supported by air and naval forces, against the 300,000 strong Italian Army in North Africa.

Italian forces were driven back 1,000 miles from Sidi Barrani to the outskirts of Tripoli in little more than a month. The weakness of the Italian Army was laid bare. The army was designed for colonial war against African tribesmen. Predominantly infantry, it was practically useless in a mobile desert environment. What armor forces it did possess were obsolete - underpowered, underarmored, and undergunned. It was in no way capable of modern mechanized warfare.

With an estimated 20 million landmines, by the end of the 20th Century Egypt was one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. These landmines date back to the Second World War. The most heavily mined areas are Alexandria, el Alamein, Ras-Al-Helana, Mars Matruh, Sidi Barrani, Salloum, and the Sinai Peninsula. Areas near the Libyan border are also infested.

Russia is expanding its military-strategic partnership in the middle East in this case, returning to borders that were once lost to our armed forces. On 10 October 2016, the world heard the news that Russia plans to rent Egypts military targets, including former Soviet military base in the town of Sidi Barrani, which was expected to rebuild by 2019. As Russia returns to its old base of the USSR and regaining control over the southern Mediterranean.

Russia intends to ensure its military presence in the Middle East. Russia has already achieved adequate agreements with Syria to establish its permanent bases in Hmeymim and Tartus. It has been reported recently that Russia was conducting negotiations with Egypt to rent a naval base on the Mediterranean coast of this country in Sidi Barrani. Egypt has not confirmed the information on an official level. However, it is obvious that Russia and Egypt take efforts to strengthen cooperation in the military field.

In October 2016, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russia saw Egypt as a country that plays a key role in maintaining stability in the Middle East and North Africa. He added that Moscow intended to support Cairo in this capacity. Against the backdrop of the crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen, the importance of Russia's cooperation with Egypt - the country that has the strongest army in the Arab world - is hard to underestimate.

Egypt became the final recipient of two Mistral helicopter carriers that France had originally built for Russia. Now Russia intends to sign an agreement with Egypt for the delivery of helicopters that were designed specifically for Mistral vessels. As a result, Egypt will become the only country in the region that will have this type of naval hardware. In addition, Russia plans to hold first-ever joint military drills of amphibious troops in Egypt, when paratroopers of the two armies will train their skills in African desert.

If Russia and Egypt agree on the creation of naval bases that Russia could use in the Mediterranean region, it would be a logical step to make. As noted in an interview with news Agency National news the Director of the Centre for strategic conjuncture Ivan Konovalov, the recovery base in Sidi Barrani will be a key event for the southern Mediterranean and greatly increases the capabilities of the Russian armed forces.

It definitely strengthens our position in the middle East we have, in addition to Sidi Barrani is still Hamim and Tartus in Syria. And now the opening of the second air force base in the region will greatly enhance our ability to control the Middle East at the moment this region is most important for us, said Ivan Konovalov. Given the difficult current situation, given that the Mediterranean sea operates our operative connection of the Navy of course, such a framework will strengthen our ability to respond to various challenges.

Prior to 1972, the Soviet Union used it to monitor the United States warships. However, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who believed that the Soviet Union not help him in the war with Israel, stopped cooperation of Cairo and Moscow, and expelled Soviet military advisers and specialists. By the way, the step Sadat had its consequences: after the defeat of Israel in the Yom Kippur war of 1973, Egypt was forced to receive military assistance from the United States.

Now, however, the recovery base in Sidi Barrani, according to experts, will become a new stage of military-technical Alliance of Russia and Egypt. In Soviet times there until 1972 it was a naval base- and now were going to open a military air. It confirms the return of the tight military-technical cooperation of Russia and Egypt, which was suspended in 1972 at the initiative of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Now the restoration of relations in military terms is a more serious level and the deployment of such a database actually confirm the status of the Alliance of Egypt, a very important player in this region, summed up the military expert.

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Page last modified: 17-01-2017 19:43:20 ZULU