President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia could offer help to Africa without strings attached unlike what he cast as the exploitative West.
Moscow is hosting 47 African leaders at the Black Sea city of Sochi from tomorrow and Wednesday, Kremlin’s first Russia-Africa summit and part of an ambitious push for influence and business in Africa.
Putin is following China’s lead and making a splashy bid for influence in Africa. Russia is taking advantage of the Trump administration’s seemingly waning interest in the continent of 1.2 billion people that includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies and a strategic perch on the Red Sea.
“We are not going to participate in a new ‘repartition’ of the continent’s wealth; rather, we are ready to engage in competition for cooperation with Africa, provided that this competition is civilized,” Putin told Russia’s Tass news agency Sunday.
Russia hopes to host such summits every three years, with foreign ministers meeting annually, said Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is the co-chair this time.
For Moscow, the prize is greater political influence on a continent with 54 United Nations member states, sprawling mineral wealth, and potentially lucrative markets for Russian-manufactured weapons.
The world’s largest wheat exporter, Russia is also looking to ramp up its supplies of grain and fertilizer to meet demand that is rising in step with Africa’s booming population. U.S. officials have vowed to counter what they see as Moscow’s growing political and economic clout in Africa as well as that of China, which has long had a large economic presence there and began its own series of Africa summits in 2006.
In December, then U.S. national security adviser John Bolton accused Moscow of “corrupt” and “predatory” business practices and of selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the United Nations. Moscow denies that.
On Monday, Putin gave the clearest idea yet of his pitch to African countries, warning of rising competition over Africa.
Turning the tables on the West, he accused it of intimidating African countries to exploit the continent’s resources.
“We see how an array of Western countries are resorting to pressure, intimidation and blackmail of sovereign African governments,” Putin told the TASS news agency.
He did not name specific countries, but said he was referring to former colonial powers on the continent.
Meanwhile, the Russian military says two of its nuclear-capable bombers will visit South Africa in what appears to be the first-ever such deployment to the African continent.
The Russian Defense Ministry said yesterday that sending the Tu-160 bombers is intended to help “develop bilateral military cooperation” and reflects a “strategic partnership” with one of Africa’s most developed economies.