Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched the construction of the fourth power unit of the country's first nuclear power plant via videoconference. For Moscow, this project has both economic and important foreign policy significance for strengthening ties with Egypt, one of Washington's key allies in the Middle East.

Located in the city of the same name, 300 kilometers from Cairo, the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant is the first nuclear power plant in Egypt. The station is being built by the Russian corporation Rosatom. In 2022, the construction of the first and second power units began, and in 2023, the construction of the third power unit began. In total, by 2028, it is planned to turn Egypt into the only country in the region with Russian VVER-1200 reactor installations belonging to the "3+" generation. The total installed electric capacity of the NPP will be almost 4.8 GW.

The cost of the project is $30 billion, and it is considered the largest in the history of the Rosatom corporation. At the same time, as was done in other foreign projects of the state corporation, Moscow provides Egypt with an export loan for construction in the amount of $ 25 billion.

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the implementation of the NPP project "will make a significant contribution to the development of the Egyptian economy and help strengthen its energy base."

According to Alexey Likhachev, the head of Rosatom, quoted by RIA Novosti, the volume of orders for the construction of the plant has already exceeded $ 1.2 billion, more than 90 companies are involved in the construction of the NPP.

The project is international in nature: the South Korean company KHNP participates in the supply of equipment for nuclear power plants. The cost of supplies will be more than $2.5 billion. As the high representative of South Korea noted, despite the fact that there were slowdowns in the negotiations on the supply of equipment, there are no risks of falling under sanctions.

"The African continent is being included in the development of nuclear energy thanks to Rosatom. The construction site in Egypt has become one of the world's largest nuclear construction sites – four units are being built here at once. The fact that Russia is simultaneously building nuclear power plants inside the country and conducting major projects abroad, in countries such as Egypt, Turkey and China, suggests that the state corporation has established a pipeline for the implementation of nuclear power plant construction projects," says Scientific editor of the journal Nuclear Energy and Technology Anton Smirnov.

The construction of a nuclear power plant in Egypt is an undoubted success for Moscow, which, despite the conflict in Ukraine, continues to play a significant role in the region. Against the background of a sharp reduction in economic relations with unfriendly countries, the trade turnover between Moscow and Cairo has increased sharply and, according to Russian estimates, reached $7 billion. As Putin noted, it has increased by 20% in the last 10 months of 2023.

Our daily bread

Egypt is also the main consumer of Russian grain. However, in August 2023, after the first grain deal took place after the suspension of the "grain deal" with Kiev, the Egyptian side purchased grain from Russia at increased prices. In this regard, Cairo purchased grain from France and Bulgaria in September. However, then the parties were able to agree on a price and the supply of Russian grain resumed. In the first quarter of the 2023-2024 agricultural year, Cairo came out on top in terms of purchases of Russian grain.

As you know, wheat prices are of great strategic importance for Egypt. It is believed that it was the rise in grain prices that led to the events of the so-called "Arab Spring" in 2011, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek was overthrown.

According to the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, the United States is Cairo's third trading partner after the UAE and China. In 2022, the volume of mutual trade between these countries amounted to $9.4 billion.

In its relations with Moscow, Cairo takes into account the position of Washington, from which it receives significant military assistance. In September 2023, the United States sent $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt, despite protests from a number of senators who criticized Cairo for human rights violations in the region. It is worth noting that earlier Egypt was also among Moscow's important partners in the field of arms exports. In 2019, the parties agreed to supply Egypt with 20 Su-35 aircraft. However, later, under pressure from the United States, Cairo refused to purchase Russian aircraft. The aircraft were subsequently acquired by Iran.

Egypt's political role has grown markedly in the past few months in connection with Israel's armed operation in the Gaza Strip, which borders this country. Cairo is one of the participants in the negotiation process and insists on an early ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. However, Israel has made it clear that it intends to completely destroy Hamas in Gaza and take control of the checkpoint between the sector and Egypt.

Cairo warned that this could harm bilateral relations. It is possible that in addition to the opening of the nuclear power plant, the Egyptian president was able to discuss the problems of Gaza with Putin.