On the eve of the Russia-Africa summit, in which leaders of a large number of African states will arrive in Russia, the Kremlin announced an increase in the Russian military presence in Africa as part of cooperation with African law enforcement agencies.
The Russia-Africa Summit is to take place on October 23rd – 24th.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia was prepared to compete for cooperation with Africa, in an interview with TASS published on October 21st.
He said that military-technical cooperation (MTC) with African countries is developing actively.
“It is gratifying that the military-technical partnership continues to develop vigorously,” Putin said.
He noted that “the initiators [for cooperation] are often the African countries themselves, who understand that their independence and sovereignty must be protected, including from extremist and terrorist groups.”
Putin said that at present “military-technical cooperation agreements are in force with more than thirty African countries, to which we supply a wide range of weapons and equipment.”
He further said that the armed forces and law enforcement agencies of several African countries need help to counter the militants.
Putin said that Moscow plans to continue “a policy of expanding contacts between special services and law enforcement agencies in Russia and Africa in the fight against terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal migration, and piracy.”
When asked about security in many African countries, Putin said the following:
“An important component of relations between Russia and the countries of the African continent remains interaction in the field of regional security. It is no coincidence that the slogan of our summit is “For Peace, Security and Development”. Without solving these problems, there can be no forward movement.
The situation in many parts of Africa remains unstable: interethnic and ethnic conflicts are not resolved, and acute political and socio-economic crises continue. Numerous terrorist organizations are very active in North Africa, in the Sahara-Sahel zone, near Lake Chad, in the Horn of Africa, including ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Ash -Shabab (all of which are groups designated as terrorist in Russia). The armed forces and law enforcement agencies of a number of African countries are not able to counteract militants alone and need substantial assistance.”
Military assistance is not all that Russia plans to provide in Africa in order to increase its influence, Putin underlined that there are also social and humanitarian projects to be implemented:
“Russia, like many other states, provided assistance to African countries that suffered from the tropical cyclone “Idai” in April 2019. Russian humanitarian supplies were sent to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique – multi-seat tents, blankets and foodstuffs weighing 30 tons for each country.
We continue to actively participate in the comprehensive assistance to Africa. So, since October 2017, in Mozambique, with the participation of the Russian side, the UN World Food Program project to create a school feeding system in the amount of $ 40 million has been implemented. And in Madagascar, a project is being implemented to introduce modern disinfection technologies and equipment for up to $ 15 million.
We also help our African friends develop their health care. After all, dangerous infectious diseases know no boundaries. So, Russia was one of the first to respond to the epidemic of Ebola hemorrhagic fever by allocating $60 million to fight it. The Center for Microbiological Research and Treatment of Epidemiological Diseases is now operating in Guinea. Russia has contributed $ 20 million to the World Bank program to implement a global initiative to combat malaria.
And there are many such examples. I want to emphasize: Russia’s participation in the fight against poverty, dangerous diseases, other threats of a global nature, the elimination of potential risks, as they say, at distant locations is fully consistent with our national interests.”
He further said that the Soviet model of increasing influence in Africa had its pros and cons, but was an effective tool in Africa. The Soviet model involves providing loans and increasing influence through them, it’s arbitrarily similar to the current Chinese “soft power” approach.
“Of course, the Soviet model – with its pros and cons – turned out to be quite effective at the stage of formation of statehood in African countries. Today we continue to provide financial support to African states. But if earlier such decisions were made mainly for political reasons, now it is within the framework of humanitarian assistance.
As for the provision of loans, now they are of a market nature. For example, a decision was made to provide Egypt with a loan of $ 25 billion for the construction of four units of the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plan. We are talking specifically about market lending.
I also note that in the post-Soviet era, at the end of the twentieth century, Russia wrote off $20 billion worth of Soviet debt to African countries. This was not only an act of generosity, but also a manifestation of pragmatism, because many of the African states were not able to pay interest on these loans. Therefore, we considered it the best option for everyone to start cooperation from scratch.”
Taking into account the existing agreements and the actions of Russian specialists in Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Congo, Mozambique, etc., it can be assumed that this list will be expanded this year by a number of countries with which they will conclude certain supply agreements weapons, opening ports (or airspace), sending military advisers and instructors, etc. The most interesting question is whether Russia will continue to penetrate the French zone of influence or so far it will be limited to the Central African Republic and Libya.
Given the fact that the US is currently in the process of reformatting its African strategy, Russia and China have a certain time window when such a sharp spread of military-political or economic influence does not yet meet with full-scale opposition, as it was during the last Cold War.
However, it is only a matter of time until competition in Africa becomes much more cutthroat. Reports of “big bad Russians” threatening “young democracies” there are likely to become even more popular in the upcoming months.
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