CAIRO — A senior U.S. official warned Egypt on Monday that if it purchases Russian fighter jets it risks American sanctions.
R. Clarke Cooper, the State Department’s assistant secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, made the comment to journalists on the sidelines of the biennial Dubai Airshow.
Cooper said the planned purchase of Russian jets puts Egypt “at risk of sanctions and it puts them at risk of loss of future acquisition."
Egypt has concluded a deal to buy Russian Su-35s jets, according to military officials in Cairo, which it says are to help combat a yearslong Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.
The Egyptian military, which is the largest in the Arab world, went to Russia after the U.S. did not answer requests over a year ago to acquire roughly two dozen F-35 fighter jets, according to one Egyptian military official. The Russian deal was meant to diversify Egypt’s weapon suppliers, because in past years U.S. military assistance was stopped due to concerns over human rights violations, said another official.
Egypt has used U.S. military aid to purchase major U.S. defense systems, such as the F-16 fighter aircraft, the M1A1 Abrams battle tank, and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and Humvees, some of which have seen combat on the Sinai Peninsula.
Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
Egypt, one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid outside of NATO, has been turning toward Russia in recent years for military backing. In 2017, Egypt agreed to allow Russian military planes use of its airbases. This month, the two counties' air forces conducted joint exercises.
Associated Press Writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report