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20.10.2022 Author: Vladimir Danilov

Germany is forced to give up its ambitions in Africa

The US and the former European metropolises – France, Britain and Germany – have made desperate efforts in recent years to maintain their neo-colonial positions on the African continent. After all, the Western bloc views Africa primarily from a military-geopolitical and resource-based perspective, with projected prospects for global development. These aspects are viewed through the prism of competition with what the West sees as its main rivals and competitors, primarily China and Russia. At the same time, the West is closely watching the growing activity and influence of “second echelon” rivals in the region – Iran, Turkey, the Gulf monarchies, Brazil and India.

In doing so, the West is demonstrating that it is more interested in preserving its spheres of influence than in helping Africa really fight terrorism. This is despite the fact that Western policy on the African continent has been based on strengthening its military presence in Africa in recent years.

For example, Washington is carrying out its military activities in Africa through the US Africa Command, established in 2008, through military and military-technical cooperation with African countries. Each year, the number and scale of operational training activities conducted jointly with the forces of the region increase, and many regional exercises have become permanent. In addition, the US administration is pursuing an undisguised geostrategic goal of securing control over energy resources and natural riches.

As a result, the US has created a vast network of more than 60 outposts and deployment points in Africa, including military bases, camps, communication centers and ports, in at least 34 states on the continent. The former European metropolises operate in a similar way.

However, it is becoming increasingly difficult for former metropolises to keep African countries within their sphere of influence and the recent wave of rising anti-French sentiment makes this clear. Thus, similar to the forced withdrawal of US troops after twenty years of ineffective military intervention in Afghanistan, French troops had to start evacuating Mali after eight years of presence in that country as part of the ineffective counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane.

A similar situation has recently emerged in relation to the German presence in Africa, which at the beginning of this year began to consider the withdrawal of its military mission in Mali.

The special interest of the United States, France and also Germany in this African country stems from a number of circumstances. First, it should not be forgotten that Mali is Africa’s third-largest gold producer, with about 43 tones of gold mined per year. But the West is particularly interested in this country because it has some of the richest deposits of uranium in the Sahel, which are estimated by experts at 100,000 tones, with an average grade of uranium of 0.085%.

After the withdrawal of the foreign coalition from Afghanistan and the increased problems of the French military presence in Mali, the peacekeeping campaign in West Africa proved to be Berlin’s biggest abroad. This was particularly the case after the Bamako authorities announced on May 15 this year that the African country had withdrawn from the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5), a regional association of states that were fighting jihadists together with France. In this African country, German troops are present in two missions: 1,100 soldiers in the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) and 1,027 in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). After Mali’s withdrawal from the G5, Berlin intended to raise its troop ceiling in EUTM Mali to 1,400 fighters. The German MINUSMA contingent is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement, which the conflicting parties signed in 2015. However, the role of the German fighters is largely limited to reconnaissance in the vicinity of Camp Castor in Gao. In addition to the Bundeswehr representatives, Germany is also actively considering strengthening its position in Mali by increasing the presence there of the German private military company Asgard.

However, recent developments in Ukraine and Chancellor Scholz’s decision to increase support for the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev are forcing Berlin to make adjustments to its involvement in Africa. As a result, due to the US-driven global economic crisis in Europe and considerable support for Ukraine at the behest of Washington, Germany has been forced to abandon its neo-colonial ambitions in Africa. In this context, a growing number of German politicians are now questioning the advisability of a German military presence in Mali, realizing that the Bundeswehr is in a vulnerable position after the withdrawal of French troops from the region.  For example, the chairman of the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, Michael Roth (SPD), stated that the Bundeswehr’s presence in Mali, especially after the expulsion of the French ambassador from the country, should be assessed further. He said Germany should stick to the consolidated principle when engaging in multinational operations: “In together, out together”.

In the current difficult economic climate, the question of the advisability of a German contingent in West Africa is of particular importance to Berlin. First of all, because it is becoming too costly to maintain and Germany does not have any extra funds for any activities in Mali today. In addition, Berlin continues to increase its opposition to Russia at Washington’s demand, rejecting cheap Russian gas, which is also forcing Germany to spend considerable financial resources.

The German government is therefore considering the possibility of moving its troops into Niger, given the existence of a German logistics hub there already thanks to the MINSUMA mission’s Niamey airbase. At least such talks have already taken place with Nigerian President Mohamed Bazoum when German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited the country in April this year. The fact that the German contingent of the UN multidisciplinary mission in Mali (MINUSMA) may leave Mali soon was confirmed by Inspector General of the Bundeswehr Eberhard Zorn at the end of August. According to political and media assessments in Mali, it is likely that the German contingent expects to leave the republic “voluntarily” in order “not to lose face”. This is especially against the background of information coming from the civil platform Yerewolo in the country that the authorities of the republic intend to give an ultimatum to the “Blue Helmets” to fully withdraw the contingent by the end of the year due to the lack of results in their fight against local extremist and radical groups that threaten the lives of local citizens and security in Mali.

Overall, however, it should be noted that in recent times there has been a growing criticism of the policies and actions of former European metropolises on the continent in the Dark Continent countries, with the position of the European Union countries weakening markedly there. This is particularly evident in Mali, where Danish authorities were forced to withdraw their national contingent this year amid accusations of illegal deployment by the country’s transitional authorities. France, Sweden and Norway have also announced early withdrawal from the multinational Task Force Takuba to fight illegal armed group fighters, under pressure from local criticism.

Now it is Germany’s turn to reduce its military presence in Mali.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


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