A token staff of seven Soviet officials soon will be all that remains, diplomatically at least, of a once flourishing and fruitful relationship between Egypt and the Soviet Union.
Angered by Moscow's relentless condemnation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and by its involvement in Afghanistan, President Sadat has ordered all Soviet technical advisers to leave Egypt. He also stipulated that the Soviet Embassy here reduce its staff to seven, matching the number of Egyptian diplomats in Moscow.
In yet another anti-Soviet move, Egypt's Defense Minister Kamal Hassan Ali told a press conference Feb. 13 that Afghan guerrillas were being trained in this country. They would be equipped with arms, he said, and sent to Afghanistan to fight against Soviet forces there.
Although Mr. Sadat's directive ousting Soviet diplomats and technicians was issued early in February, Soviet officials say they have had no further word from Egyptian authorities. Nevertheless, more than 700 diplomats, advisers, and their families are poised to leave.
The President's move against the entire Soviet presence in Egypt was puzzling , as he already had made his point several weeks earlier.
Shortly after Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, the Egyptian government called for a reduction in the 50-member Soviet diplomatic mission in Cairo. About 30 Soviet diplomats subsequently left.
By demanding another and even more drastic Soviet reduction, Mr. Sadat was thought by analysts here to be trying to upstage the conference of Islamic countries, which was then meeting in Pakistan.
That gathering, from which Egypt had been pointedly excluded because of its treaty with Israel, merely condemned Soviet policy in Afghanistan but did not call for the expulsion of Soviet personnel from Islamic countries.
Besides the diplomats in Cairo, President Sadat's order affects Soviet engineers and technicians in four major industrial sites throughout the country: the Helwan iron and steel works just south of Cairo, the huge Nag Hammadi aluminum complex in Upper Egypt, the Alexandria shipyard, and the Aswan High Dam.
All of these are vital industrial installations that were either built or expanded with Soviet assistance in the 1960s and early 1970s when the economic cooperation between Moscow and Cairo was intense.
Egyptian officials are convinced the loss of Soviet personnel will make no difference in the operation of the facilities. In Helwan, they say, cooperation with West German and Japanese companies has gone on for some time.