Russia in Africa: in search for a revival? – Meeting Russia with Natalia Piskunova
Putin is preparing a summit with African leaders to expand influence on the continent
Russian President Vladimir Putin will host the leaders of several dozen African countries next week as part of Moscow’s efforts to reassert its influence on the continent and beyond..
The heads of about 35 African countries will gather in Sochi for the first Russia-Africa summit, which will be held on October 23-24.
For Putin, the summit will be an opportunity to revive relations that existed under the USSR and build new alliances, strengthening Moscow’s global influence in the face of confrontation with the West..
“Russia has always been present in Africa, it is a very important continent,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on the eve of the summit. – Russia has something to offer in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation to African states “.
Although Moscow was never a colonial power in Africa, during the Soviet era it was one of the most important players on the continent, supporting the independence movements and educating a generation of African leaders..
The summit will be attended by leaders from former Soviet client countries such as Angola and Ethiopia. But the participants will also include representatives of countries with which Moscow has traditionally maintained not very active relations, for example, Nigeria and Ghana..
The summit will be co-chaired by the President of Egypt and the head of the African Union, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, of whom Putin has made his ally.
“This forum signals a decisive pivot of Russia towards Africa,” says Evgeny Korendyasov, an expert at the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a former Russian ambassador to Burkina Faso and Mali..
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s relations with Africa began to deteriorate, and in recent years China has begun to assert itself as an important foreign power on the continent..
But Putin’s Kremlin, emboldened by its growing influence in the Middle East and the success of its military intervention in Syria, is trying to catch up..
Russian companies invest in oil and gas in Egypt and Nigeria, diamonds in Angola and metals in Guinea and South Africa.
Moscow is also trying to combine arms exports, security expertise and local government support to expand its political and economic presence..
“With varying degrees of success, Moscow is trying to use its Cold War connections and turn old ideological ties into business,” says Arnaud Dubien, head of the Franco-Russian Supervisory Board..
One of the most striking examples is the Central African Republic, whose president Faustin-Arrange Touadera will attend the summit.
Moscow supplies this former French colony with weapons and contractors to train soldiers.
She openly demonstrates her growing influence in this country, as can be seen from Russian military contractors patrolling the streets of the capital Bangui and from the fact that Touadera’s security advisor is Russian Valery Zakharov..
In Libya, Russian contractors are reported to be fighting on the side of Commander Khalifa Haftar, and in Mozambique they are helping the government to fight jihadists..
However, analysts say it is too early to talk about a significant Russian presence on the continent..
“There is a real difference between a masterfully promoted interpretation of events and reality,” says French political analyst Arnaud Calica.
In a study prepared for the French Institute of International Relations, Kalika noted that Russia’s return to Africa is more modest than Moscow would like to imagine..
“Now Russia needs Africa more than Russia needs Africa,” he said..