Russia is returning to Africa and wants to restore the Soviet influence on the continent – perceived as Western media and experts the two-day forum “Russia – Africa”, which ended on Thursday in Sochi. The summit brought together heads of States and governments in more than 40 African countries and about 9,000 businesses. Russian President Vladimir Putin for two days participated in bilateral and multilateral meetings with African leaders. At the summit he reminded that Russia had previously written off the debts of African countries worth over $20 billion, and promised in the next five years to double trade with the continent.
According to the press-Secretary of Putin, Dmitry Peskov, organizing such a forum, Russia is not seeking to compete with China and Europe on the African continent. However, the West perceives Russia’s policy this way. “Moscow is fighting with the West, China and Gulf countries for the benefits of and access to hydrocarbons, gold, diamonds and other natural resources in Africa,” writes the British newspaper the Times. The economic competition of Russia to withstand tough: the volume of trade turnover between Russia and African countries in 2018 for the first time exceeded $20 billion – about 10 times less than the turnover of Africa with China, and in the case of the European Union the gap even more, says Die Sueddeutsche Zeitung. German Der Spiegel believes that Russia’s desire to strengthen economic cooperation with Africa is an attempt to find a new partner and to save the Russian economy from the negative impact of European and U.S. sanctions.
However, Russia appears to be a real rival to the West in the field of deliveries of arms and military personnel, like an expert of the Brookings Institution Landry Signe. According to the Stockholm Institute for peace studies, Russian exports to Africa more than all the weapons in the world – about 40%. According to Signe, Russia often uses military assistance to gain control over the presidential candidates in Africa and subsequently have an impact in the region. In addition, the expert said, in recent years, the rise of soft power, which Russia actively projects in Africa, in opposition to the Western powers. A big role, as in Soviet times, education plays: Russia offers to students from Africa in Russian universities and scholarships for teaching, opens in Africa centers of Russian language and culture.
Putin said the leaders of Africa about written-off debt of $20 billion
At the forum in Sochi is a combination of military assistance and soft power seemed effective. Being photographed with the AK-15 to the stand of “Kalashnikov”, a member of the delegation of Chad Saleh Hajar’s Surguja reported to The Times: “This is the most famous weapon in the world, it is a legend, which is used by our army. In Soviet times, Africa was very strong, but after the Soviet collapse, relations have been weakened. Now we see that Russia can be a reliable partner, which comes to us not as a neo-colonial power, like Britain or France, and as an equal partner.”
However, “Russia is still very far from recovering in Africa, a status which once used of the Soviet Union, not to mention to get a role comparable to the modern China,” writes in his article, senior researcher of the Carnegie endowment for international peace Paul Stronski. In his opinion, Russia lacks a clear and coordinated strategy in Africa. Moscow’s influence extends to a few dependent States that do not have strategic importance, for example in the Central African Republic. In fact, Russia has no real military presence in Africa, nor the resources to ensure the development and safety of this continent, said Stronski.
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