While Russia has attempted to direct attention toward its first ever Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi, Russia this month, it has been the systematic smear campaign launched by media in the West that has raised debate over accusations made against Moscow and exposed the hypocrisy of those making these accusations regarding their own activities in Africa.
The debate provoked by Western accusations has helped focus attention on the oft neglected affairs of the African continent and the nations and people living there, as well as compare and contrast centuries of Western abuses there with the approaches of relative newcomers like Russia and China.
For Russia’s part, its summit appears well received, and were it of little or no consequence, we would probably not be seeing the significant backlash it has provoked across the Western media.
The West’s Way of Dealing with Africa…
In an ideal world, nations would be free to associate or disassociate themselves with other nations and circles of special interests in a manner reflecting their own best interests.
In Washington’s unipolar world, nations are not afforded this luxury.
This is particularly so for the continent of Africa, home to 1.2 billion people living in 54 countries, who have been subjected by the West to outright imperialism, invasions, occupations, regime change operations, economic warfare, genocide, chemical and biological warfare and literal slavery spanning several centuries.
The United States picked up where former colonial powers like the UK and France left off. But the UK and France have been willing accomplices and resurgent imperialists themselves in recent years across Africa.
To get a handle on the West’s way of dealing with Africa we might look at the North African state of Libya, targeted for decades by the US through covert subversion, economic sanctions and finally a war of aggression in 2011 that splintered the nation, transforming it into a failed state overrun by warring factions, modern slavery and triggering a regional refugee crisis.
Libya’s destruction also led to a regional terror wave that infected neighboring African states and even nations as far afield as Syria.
While Libya’s destruction was led by the US, France and the UK played a prominent supporting role.
France is also bolstering troops in its former African colonies in a less-than-subtle neo-colonial resurgence. The Business Insider in an article titled, “France’s Military is all Over Africa,” would note:
Currently, France has over 3,000 troops spread across five countries in Africa — Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — as part of Operation Burkhane.
These forces along with those of US AFRICOM and other Western nations are allegedly combating “terrorism.” Yet the very terrorism these forces claim as a pretext to justify occupying African nations is a direct result of deliberate plans to use extremists as axillary forces in the very wars of aggression that destroyed Libya in 2011.
Obviously if Western forces are cultivating terrorism while simultaneously posing as combating said terrorism, nations hosting this geopolitical theater find their options in dealing with other global players highly limited.
Both for nations suffering instability brought on by US and Western machinations, and nations that face it in the near to intermediate future, the desire for alternatives must be great, especially those that offer real development, infrastructure projects and defense ties beyond the elaborate protection racket being run by the West.
The BBC in its article, “Russia Africa summit: What’s behind Moscow’s push into the continent?,” would report:
Russia has been boosting its political contacts in the region, with 12 African heads of state visiting Moscow since 2015 – six of them in 2018 alone.
And its ambitions have prompted some concern in key Western powers they are being outplayed by Moscow.
Last year, former US National Security adviser John Bolton announced a new US strategy for Africa, partly aimed at countering both China and Russia.
However, a recent editorial in the Washington Post talked of Russia “aggressively seeking deals and security relationships” while US influence in the continent continued to decline.
The report would note Russia’s goals of developing political and diplomatic ties, providing defense and economic assistance, humanitarian relief as well as education and vocational training.
But it was a quote the BBC included, by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that illustrates perfectly not only the difference between Western and Russian approaches in building a presence in Africa, but why Russia is more successful while US influence is waning despite the vast disparity between the US and Russia in terms of economic and military might.
The BBC quoted President Putin as saying:
We do not impose our views, respecting the principle of “African solutions to African problems” proposed by the Africans themselves.
Clearly, while the US holds an immense advantage in terms of economic and military might, its ambitions in Africa fall under the framework of its unipolar world order where the US exists above all other nations as sole enforcer of international “rules and norms” decided by (and for) the US and usually at the expense of the national sovereignty of nations around the globe.
Compare this with Moscow’s demonstrated multipolar world view in which all nations exist alongside one another underwritten by the primacy of national sovereignty.
It isn’t difficult to work out which model of international relations nations around the globe would prefer, or with whom moral leadership and imperative lies.
Rather than adjust to a world shifting to adopt a more multipolar view and compete constructively with not only Russia, but also China, the US has decided to continue along its current path while attempting to use its influence over global media to depict Russia’s methods in a light as unflattering in fiction as Washington’s actual policy in Africa is.
Articles like the Guardian’s, “Leaked documents reveal Russian effort to exert influence in Africa,” allude to what is depicted as shadowy and malign influence emanating from Moscow into Africa.
The Guardian claims:
Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”, leaked documents reveal.
Building relations with existing rulers and striking military deals is what normal political, economic and military ties between nations consists of. The “grooming” of leaders and “undercover agents” sounds much more sinister, but is also something the Guardian article never manages to prove.
It and other articles like it all cite the dubious “Dossier Center” run by London-based convicted Russian criminal Mikhail Khodorkovsky which in turn cites unverified and irrelevant “leaked documents” attempting to target Moscow by emulating Wikileaks, minus the verified documents Wikileaks actually publishes.
Accusations made against Russia, particularly in regard to its activities in training and arming the Central African Republic’s military (a mission the UN itself authorized Russia to undertake, AFP would report), are admittedly flimsy.
The above mentioned BBC article even admits as much, noting (emphasis added):
For example, Russia has been active in the Central African Republic (CAR), officially helping to support the embattled UN-backed government against an array of rebel groups.
But private Russian military forces have also been working there, providing security to the government and helping safeguard key economic assets.
Russian mercenary activity has also been reported in neighbouring Sudan and Libya as well as in other countries, involving Wagner, a private military company said to have ties to the Kremlin.
Russian officials often play down these reports and it’s difficult to establish the exact links between these groups and the Russian state.
Thus, another smear campaign is being waged against Russia, despite no evidence suggesting previous campaigns have worked in aiding Western efforts to sabotage Russia’s reclaiming of Crimea, its protecting of its borders with Ukraine, its aiding the Syrian government against US-led regime change and the developing of ties even with Western European nations like Germany.
Not only does Russia (as well as China) pose a threat to Western imperialism in Africa by providing much more attractive alternatives for the nations and people of Africa, emerging global powers like Russia who deal in “no-strings-attached” diplomacy and offer protection from the means and methods of Western hegemony endanger the normalization of neo-colonialism still promoted by nations like the US, UK and France.
Russia’s success in Africa will be another bellwether of the shift from a US-dominated unipolar world order to a more sensible and balanced multipolar world where not only are US methods unable to be “normalized,” they become the grounds of America’s isolation until it abandons them.
Only time will tell whether or not this success will be fully realized or how the US will attempt to counter it. Hopefully the US will be spurred by the realization of its waning influence in Africa as well as its retreat from the Middle East, to return to the global stage as a constructive equal rather than continuing its unsustainable empire-building abroad and its increasing paranoia at home.
Gunnar Ulson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.