Russia and Egypt began the active phase of their naval drills in the Mediterranean Sea Wednesday as part of weeklong joint military exercises between the two nations. Four Russian and five Egyptian vessels sailed out of Alexandria, Egypt, to conduct air and naval defense drills as well as search and rescue drills. The exercise, code named Friendship Bridge 2015, began June 6 and is scheduled to conclude June 14, reported Sputnik.
The Russian and Chinese navies conducted a similar joint military drill in May, which was also meant to increase military cooperation between the two countries.
"Friendship Bridge 2015 is one of the strongest and biggest joint exercises between Egypt and Russia," Egyptian military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohamed Samir told China's Xinhua news agency, according to the Times of Israel. He added that the training "comes in light of high-level bilateral talks pertaining to military and security cooperation and exchange of expertise between the armed forces of the two countries."
The military exercises follow the United States' recently diminished relations with both Egypt and Russia. The U.S. stopped providing almost $1.5 billion in annual military aid to Egypt after Mohammed Morsi -- Egypt's first democratically elected president -- was ousted, imprisoned and sentenced to death by current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi two years ago. The U.S. also cited the mass killings of members of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Sisi government, according to the Times of Israel. After Russia annexed Crimea and began sending combatants into eastern Ukraine in February 2014, the U.S. -- and many other members of the international community -- placed Moscow under economic sanctions.
In February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President el-Sisi in Egypt and initialized a $2 billion arms deal with the nation. The deal was finalized in May 2015 and provided an air defense system and MiG fighter jets. Putin would later urge Egypt to switch to their respective national currencies in conducting trade, rather than using the U.S. dollar as an intermediary currency.