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Africa: The latest onslaught from Russia’s military diplomacy

Is Africa”s growing importance guaranteeing the continent a role as the next frontier for Russia’s new military adventurism to compete Moscow’s traditional rivals China and the United States?The Russian military adventurism in at least six African countries is very well on the cards, if a report by the German newspaper Bild is anything to go by.

According to the German press, Moscow has already sealed landmark agreements with Mozambique, Egypt, Eritrea, Madagascar, Sudan and the Central African Republic that would allow Russia to establish military bases in those countries.

Moscow has active diplomatic and military engagements with some 21 African countries, giving it varying degrees of access to their territories for military purposes.

Bild quotes the contents of a secret document belonging to the German Foreign Affairs Ministry which seem to suggest that since 2015, Russia has been carefully cultivating military relations with countries it considers strategic in Africa to realise its eventual adventurist designs on the continent.  

The six countries in question have already benefited from training by military experts from Moscow availing themselves of support structures already on the ground, comprising Russian regular troops and private paramilitary outfit the Wagner Group.

The outfit has been involved in Africa as a private military contracting agency especially in Sudan before the fall of Omar al-Bashir, South Sudan and possibly Libya.

Experts say another benefit for the leaderships of the African countries in agreement with Moscow is to stave off possible regime change especially in societies among them clamoring for political change. 

Three of those countries are not even fledgling democracies where Moscow’s troop presence could serve as a deterrent to pro-democracy groups who might want to gamble with life chances.

Under the agreements, Russia will receive the unreserved backings of some of these African countries at crucial UN meetings where issues are put to a vote.

Competition

However, reminiscent of the cold war years, Russia’s resurgent military interest in Africa will attract interest from potential rivals on the continent especially the traditional powerhouses of the United States, China and France.

While US military under its Africa Command is well known, Beijing has already established its first military base on the continent in Djibouti, spending $590 million to build it. 

France with a history of a dominant colonial presence across the continent behind it still retains some of its military muscle in West Africa, most notably Mali, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic and Chad.

As one expert puts it, Africa is fast reemerging as a diplomatic battleground for the world’s major powers but its main players should insist that the West, Russia and China should be paying far more for its role in this chess game.


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Published on 28.04.2020

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