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Sunday, April 2, 2023

what changes because of the Kremlin aggression in Ukraine


For this summer, the Kremlin has planned a new Russia-Africa summit: the event will be held from July 27 to 29 in Saint Petersburg, and some African leaders have already confirmed their future visit to Moscow: in particular the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov said on February 8, while in Mauritania, that he had received such confirmation from the president of that country, Mohamed Ould Ghazwani.

Before Mauritania, Lavrov traveled to Mali, where the regime is heavily dependent on Russia both for military supplies and in other areas. The Russian minister announced in Bamako the delivery of two batches of planes “for the fight against terrorism” and spoke of “the development of mineral resources, exploration, energy, infrastructure and agriculture” – areas in several of which are the Wagner PMC structure under Kremlin chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

After Mali, Lavrov should go to Sudan, where the regime also cooperates with Russia in the military and agricultural fields: this country is notably one of the largest importers of Russian cereals in Africa.

On the level of support for Russia in African countries that may dwindle due to the failure of the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine, media’s Russian Service spoke with David Gartenstein-Ross (Daveed Gartenstein -Ross), founder and head of Valens Global, a security and counterterrorism consulting firm.

Danila Galperovich: What is the interaction between Moscow and African countries based on?

David Gartensteen-Ross: I was in Africa last August and had the opportunity to speak with French-speaking officials from the west of the continent. During these conversations, officials like one spoke to me of Russia as a “rising power” with growing influence, and of the television channel RT as a growing propaganda tool, the effect of which on Africa’s media space is increasingly felt. If you look at countries like Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali, the main driver of Russian influence as opposed to French influence is that it goes to authorities formed as a result of military coups. France and European countries in general are putting pressure on these authorities to organize legitimate elections as quickly as possible. I myself make no judgment as to whether this pressure is right or not, but the leaders of these countries consider such an electoral request too hasty. On the one hand, of course, these are just excuses, but on the other, a Chadian official, for example, said to me: “We have no tradition of democracy, and they demand that we hold elections in 18 months ! How is it possible? And it’s certainly not a priority for us. And from the words of this official, it follows that since Russia has a completely different view of democracy, human rights, elections and the legitimacy of different regimes, they lean in its direction. Today, this trend is no longer very stable, but in general, the current situation has developed precisely for this reason: Russia, unlike France, is a much more natural partner for regimes with failing democracy. or to “post-coup” authorities, which does not push them towards elections and other democratic principles such as the rotation of power.

Danila Galperovich: Can African support for Russia wane after Russia suffered battlefield defeat after battle in Ukraine, which it attacked?

David Gartensteen-Ross: It is difficult to say how Russian support in Africa will be affected by the defeat of the Russian army in Ukraine. On the one hand, the envy of African countries for Russia is based on the fact that they perceive Russia as a powerful force. Therefore, against the backdrop of defeats, their support for Russia may decline. On the other hand, if you look at cases before the International Criminal Court, 90% of those who have been before that court are African leaders. And I do not support the view that sometimes emerges that a new form of colonialism is emerging in the approach of the ICC. But it is clear that some African countries are playing by different rules than those considered binding in liberal democracies. Putin does not necessarily play the same scenarios as these African countries, but if you look at the African countries that are engaged in heavy and violent border conflicts – Ethiopia and Somalia, Morocco and Western Sahara – for them his arguments in defense of Russian aggression against Ukraine often does not seem as foreign as it does to the West. However, as I said, since Russia is considered to be mainly strong in Africa, after its defeat in Ukraine, Moscow’s influence there may begin to decline.

Danila Galperovich: Could the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa be affected by the United States declaring it a transnational criminal organization?

David Gartensteen-Ross: I don’t think the decision on new sanctions will lead to a clear and immediate change in the tactics of this organization. I remind you that the “Wagner Group” is already under sanctions for supporting the separatists in Ukraine, and these sanctions have their own limited effect. But the current decision has long-term consequences: According to her, even if the war in Ukraine ends, the Wagner group will still be considered a transnational criminal organization. Also, in accordance with this decision, additional budgetary funds and powers of various departments in connection with the “Wagner group” can be used, although, as I have already said, the impact on the activities of the “Wagnerites “themselves and their financial situation will not be too noticeable. .

Danila Galperovich: Why do you think the Biden administration decided to declare the “Wagnerians” international criminals, but not terrorists?

David Gartensteen-Ross: The reasons why the “Wagner Group” was declared a transnational criminal organization and not a terrorist organization are not entirely clear to me. The actions by which a person is declared a transnational criminal organization are in many ways the same as those by which an organization can be declared a terrorist organization. Most likely, there have been internal discussions within the Biden administration on this topic: perhaps between the Treasury Department and the US State Department. There is speculation that the name “terrorist” was not applied to the “Wagner Group” because this group operates in several parts of Africa, supporting local governments which themselves fight against other organizations terrorists, and such a decision would complicate the situation. I’m not saying that was the reason, but there are such arguments. There are many official structures that such a decision affects, and such a decision would have many consequences. I believe it was the discussion of these supposed consequences that led to the decision to designate the “Wagner Group” as a transnational criminal organization, not a terrorist organization.

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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