Russia is now trying to increase its influence in the poor countries of Africa in order to actually open a “second front” there to oppose the West.
Source: Financial Times
Details: Best of all, Moscow managed to advance in the Sahel region (a politically unstable strip of semi-desert that lies under the Sahara).
In several countries fighting jihadist rebels, coups have installed military governments that are hostile to France and openly sympathetic to Moscow.
One of the success factors of Russians in African countries is the bad attitude towards France and frequent coup d’état.
A senior adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron considers the strengthening of Russia’s position in Africa a “second front”: “We are talking about weakening Europe and opening a front where Europe and France are perceived as fragile.”
Samuel Ramani, an employee of the Rusi think-tank, believes that Moscow has focused on a strip of countries from Mali to Sudan: “They think they can create a ‘belt of coups’ that will give them influence and oust the West.”
These tools, according to Ramani, combine “counter-insurgency operations, arms sales, promotion of autocracy and soft power.”
By applying them, he concludes, Russia has become “a great power on the scale of the entire continent.”
A senior French official who is helping to shape France’s African strategy does not deny Russia’s success: “Small, CAR and Burkina Faso failed in their attempts to confront the challenge of terrorism. Wagner is like a new game in town.”
Specifically, the Russian presence in the CAR includes some 1,500 masked paramilitaries from the Wagner Group, gold and diamond mining operations, a small distillery that produces packets of Wa Na Wa vodka with a rhinoceros logo and the slogan: “Made in Russia”: “Made in the Central African Republic using Russian technologies”.
One senior Western diplomat in CAR describes the country as a “petri dish” for Moscow’s African ambitions: “The hybrid war is going on and we are participating in it.”
voting for a UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine (blue – abstained, red – against, green – supported)
In addition, CAR President Faustin Archange Touadéra owes his survival to the Wagner mercenaries who helped crush an attempt to overthrow him on the eve of the 2020 elections.
They provide one of his personal safety rings.
“This is not just his bodyguard, he is their hostage,” says a Western diplomat in the CAR capital Bangui.
In the CAR, the Russian Federation has set up a command center and a training base about 80 km from Bangui. Mercenaries from Wagner and other Russian private military companies, as well as Rwandan soldiers, have since played an important role in restoring some order.
In addition to the well-documented collection of customs duties at the border with Cameroon, the US Treasury alleges that Wagner controls “numerous” gold and diamond mines in the CAR and even denies access to government officials who try to check its mining operations.
A group of UN experts in 2021 concluded that 95% of the gold mined in the CAR was exported illegally.
In September, Mali’s interim military government prime minister, Abdoulaye Maiga, used a UN speech to denounce the “French junta” and praise the “exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia.” Wagner mercenaries have also been spotted in Mali.
In the same month, generals in Burkina Faso seized power for the second time in 8 months, and this event was distinguished by the fact that demonstrators waved Russian flags on the streets of the capital Ouagadougou.
IN Sudananother volatile country, Moscow has close ties to Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the second man in the administration to come to power in a 2019 coup.
According to the US Treasury Department, Russian companies operating in Sudan are profiting from illegal gold exports, the volume of which has increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow has also secured military access to Port Sudan, a strategic bottleneck on the Red Sea.