Russia is planning to establish a military base at the port of Berbera, Somaliland, according to unnamed US Department of Defense officials.
Both China and the United States, with military bases in Djibouti, share the same coastline as the potential Russian port.
The port is at the Gulf of Aden, in the self-proclaimed state within Somalia.
Russia has also expressed interest in building a naval logistics center in Eritrea, but it is unclear how far along those negotiations are, according to other unnamed US officials.
All of these were reported by the New York Times, in a piece focused on the worrisome expansion of Russian (and Chinese) interests in Africa.
US Defense Department officials have analyzed Moscow’s move highlighting great power competition and expressing their concern by Russia’s growing influence in Africa. US also faces same competition from China as Washington struggles to establish its security and economic goals in Africa.
This campaign for influence in Africa in playing a huge role even as US has hinted of withdrawing hundreds of its forces from West Africa with an intent of deploying them to counter threats from China and Russia closer to their borders.
Essentially, the report is based on very little fact, apart from the very obvious spreading of Russian and Chinese influence in Africa.
A report by the NewAfrican magazine in December 2018 stated that Russia was in negotiation ns with Somaliland leaders for a naval base to support its warships and submarines to operate in the region and the busy shipping lanes carrying most of Europe’s goods.
It was reported that the naval base would be staffed by 1,500 people and service destroyers, frigates and submarines and would be located outside Zeila city, in Somaliland, on the border with Djibouti – near the location of China’s first overseas base, which opened in 2017.
The report further stated that Russia had proposed that it will recognize the breakaway Republic of Somaliland in return for being allowed to establish the base and ensure security in the breakaway country by training the Somaliland military.
Russia previously had a military base in Somaliland but they were forced to exit by former Somali dictator Siad Barre.
Russia has, for a while now, been attempting to reignite its Soviet-era relationships with African countries and has had relative success so far, with the Russia-Africa summit being a massive success, leading to billions of dollars in signed deals on various infrastructure projects, as well as military cooperation.
China works in a somewhat similar manner, except that military cooperation agreements with African countries are much less common, and unlikely. Beijing provides long-term loans, and even released some African countries from their accrued debt, or at least part of it.
Both China and Russia fall “victim” to frequent accusations by the US and Co. for wishing the exploit the African nations. That is mostly due to the success they have in cooperating with them so far, unlike the US, whose influence appears to be waning, at least in Northern and Western Africa.
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