4 Aug 2022 9:00 p.m
by Sergei Axionov
Sergei Lavrov’s recent diplomatic tour of Africa (the Russian foreign minister arrived in Ethiopia just a few hours ago at the time of writing this comment) has unsettled the United States. True to their twisted logic, according to which everything not in the West should be considered the periphery of the world, these descendants of slaveholders are now attempting to assess events in their familiar categories. For example, US State Department spokesman Ned Price rumbled:
“It is clear that Russia is aware that its actions (in Ukraine) are causing it to become an outcast.”
The numerous contacts of Russia with the so-called Third World – Africans, Arabs, Persians or Chinese – do not count, they say, and the most important and only one appreciate political counterpart, the West, has put Moscow on the “ignore list”. National exceptionalism as it west and lives. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time that Russia has disabused its arrogant on-planet neighbors. That’s how it will be this time too.
It is, of course, about the competition between the superpowers for political influence on the Dark Continent. Alarmed by Moscow’s activities, Washington even hastily drafted a special law “on combating malicious activities of Russia in Africa” in the spring. The legal act provides for regular assessments of “the extent and direction” of Russia’s actions and the devising of countermeasures – which, of course, includes “holding accountable African governments and officials who support Moscow’s ‘hostile influence and activities'”. Well, who would have thought it – personal sanctions, so loved by Washington! And without even the slightest reason. The alleged “maliciousness” that was literally built into the title of the law is also shocking: Everything Moscow does is directed against American interests and advantages and is therefore evil in itself. An evil empire, yes. You still know that, we remember the old Reagan, don’t we?
But no matter how loud the dog barks, the caravan is passing. Russia has been paying close attention to the African continent for a number of years and has no intention of stopping. And from the first half of Lavrov’s visit, some conclusions can already be drawn. Moscow clearly wants to carry the best of Soviet-era cooperation with African countries into the present, adding a dash of healthy pragmatism. For example, it was decided with the Congo to also create an economic basis for the cooperation. Perspectives were shown for this: hydrocarbons, energy supply, transport infrastructure, telecommunications – and, yes, also military and military-technical cooperation. After all, the actions of the Russian army in the Syrian and Ukrainian theaters of war are the best advertisement for Russia’s capabilities in this field. Russian help in combating this newfangled monkeypox could not be more opportune either.
Even more important, however, is the humanitarian aspect of cooperation, which has long-term consequences. The quota for Congolese who want to study in Russia is the third highest in the Dark Continent. Over the years, many thousands of students have studied in Russia, including Lavrov’s interlocutor, Foreign Minister Jean-Claude Gakosso. Moreover, the forthcoming abolition of the Bologna system in Russia is beneficial for both Brazzaville and Moscow, paradoxical as it may seem, simply because it prevents brain drain to the West: young people who have completed their education and have embarked on a career will then just return to the Congo – or at least settle down in Russia to work here. Both will strengthen bilateral relations. As is well known, the beautiful memories of youth stay with you forever. These grown-up, matured “Russian” Congolese, then settled in the country of their choice and perhaps rose to key positions there, will be Moscow’s stalwart friends for years to come. And the same applies to all countries in Africa.
The latter will be pivotal in the reformatting of the world that will likely last throughout the twenty-first century.
Russia will need friends who draw on a similar understanding of the UN’s centrality to the international order in order to face the challenges ahead with dignity. The African countries can be our most sincere support group in this: oppressed for centuries by the West, which exported slaves and raw materials, killed and maimed the natives and starved them, they are filled with human gratitude to the Russians, who behaved very differently: built roads, airfields , power plants, schools and hospitals. Dozens of African countries are dozens of votes at the UN, where every country, be it the hegemon USA or tiny Uganda, has exactly one vote. The hypocritical West can only be defeated together.
And such a trend is also clearly emerging. During his visit to Africa, Lavrov repeatedly emphasized that Moscow advocates the democratization of international relations and equal cooperation – and opposes dictation, ultimatums and blackmail in relations between sovereign countries. Whereas the West uses artificially created conflicts for its political ends. In Africa, one of the most obvious examples of this is Libya. The now-bombed country that used to flourish, a country where justice reigned, after the assassination of Gaddafi has turned into a bloody medieval adventure park where everyone wages war against everyone else.
Incidentally, Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso is personally involved in the peace process in Libya. For example, he pushed forward with a Libya-wide conference on national reconciliation to which everyone is invited – and not just a few, as the West would like. And Russia will help to organize them.
Of course, Western diplomats are now actively plotting against Moscow on the African continent, trying to use the Ukraine crisis to cast a shadow over Russia. As usual, they don’t shy away from outright lies. They strike, as shameless as they are, where Africans are most vulnerable – with claims that the world and especially the poorest part of the world – namely Africa – is facing starvation because of Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine war. Lavrov told his Congolese colleagues that Moscow is not creating obstacles to the export of Ukrainian grain and that Russian attacks on, mind you, only the military infrastructure of the port of Odessa do not affect Ukrainian grain exports in any way. Rather, they are necessary to secure Russia’s Black Sea fleet. And the causes of the food crisis first became apparent at least three years ago – due to faulty policies on the part of Western countries, according to the diplomat. The same applies to energy sources.
The same issues of global importance (as well as local issues of bilateral cooperation, which are nonetheless of the utmost importance – such as the construction of a nuclear power plant and a Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal area) were discussed with the same patience by Russia’s foreign minister in Egypt. In general, these points on the map were deliberately chosen for Lavrov’s diplomatic tour of Africa: Cairo is, among other things, the seat of the Arab League, and Ethiopia is the seat of the African Union, which unites the entire Black Continent. It should be remembered here that the head of the African Union, the Senegalese head of state Macky Sall, flew to talks with Vladimir Putin at the beginning of the summer. And of course Lavrov’s visit also followed this meeting.
It is not difficult to guess what constitutes the “general line” of Moscow now. It is a policy of resistance to the new colonialism – both in their own interests and in the interests of other countries in the world, including those in Africa. After all, this approach has a long tradition in Russia, one should not forget that. Putin also sees in the model of liberal globalism imposed by the West “an updated version of neocolonialism”. Basically, it’s nothing more than
“an American-style world, a world for a select few, where the rights of everyone else are simply trampled on”.
Because they are destined to play the role of consumables and sources of resources: be it Ukraine or another state. The value of Russia as a partner for Africa lies in the fact that it pursues sovereign policies and can pursue its goals without asking anyone’s permission. Alexander Pushkin, celebrated as Russia’s greatest poet, also had Ethiopian ancestors, and the following verse fits the current development of relations between Russia and Africa like no other:
The shackle that weighs down the foot
will break down like the prison barriers,
Freedom to welcome you at the gate
And brothers hand you the sword.
The second Russia-Africa summit is imminent.
Translated from Russian.
Sergei Axyonov is a journalist, political scientist and writer. He looks back on a turbulent career as a politician and political activist (National Bolsheviks, “Other Russia”) and human rights activist in Russia.
more on the subject – Russia-Africa Summit: Is an Old Friend Returning?
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