Heading for Africa: PMC "Wagner" is now at war in Mali

Heading for Africa: PMC "Wagner" is now at war in Mali

Heading for Africa: PMC "Wagner" is now at war in Mali
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15 September, 09:41
In the world
After a long pause, Russia is once again gaining a foothold in Africa, as evidenced by its military support for the CAR and Mali, plans to open a naval base in Sudan, and arms supplies to Ethiopia and Nigeria.

Western experts believe that by squeezing the United States and France out of the Black Continent, Moscow will forever provide itself with Africa's natural resources.

Gennady Charodeyev

The cooling of relations between Russia and the West and the sanctions against our country have largely influenced the fact that Vladimir Putin increasingly began to shift his attention to new partners, including African countries.

“Today Africa is not an eternal outsider, but a tiger before the leap, which very soon will take the role in the world economy now assigned to the countries of Southeast Asia”, - said Irina Abramova, director of the Institute for African Studies, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. - In the Russian mind, Africa is associated with backwardness, poverty, hunger. This image is absolutely wrong. Now it is one of the most promising regions in the world for foreign investment. Remember what they once said about China. They sleep on mats, malnourished. Nobody took the Chinese seriously. Now, in terms of purchasing power parity, it is the first economy in the world, a global power that largely determines world development.

Indeed, many African countries are developing quite successfully in economic terms - the economies of the sub-Sahara in the period 2000–2019, on average, demonstrated a GDP growth rate of 5.2%. In African countries, the middle class is growing rapidly, which creates a huge new consumer market, including for Russian goods and services. And of course, Africa remains a key source of the most important resources - energy, raw materials for innovative industries, non-ferrous, rare and rare earth metals, gold, platinum, and also uranium. Among these resources are those minerals for which Russia has a deficit, and it is quite economically profitable to extract them in African countries.

African leaders in 43 countries of the Black Continent still remember their trip to Sochi, where the Russia-Africa summit was held in October 2019. In the wide-open arms of the Kremlin, many saw a roll call with the Soviet Union, which did not skimp on tens of billions of dollars to support friendly African regimes.

“Russia left Africa after the end of the Cold War, and now it is coming back. That is why there were so many African leaders at the summit. After all, they are interested in what Russia has to offer after the collapse of the Soviet Union”, - said Irina Filatova, professor at the Higher School of Economics.

But the Russians, who followed the news from the forum, were more interested in the financial side of foreign policy ambitions. Not only did the summit cost 4.5 billion rubles, but the Russian authorities also announced that the African republics were writing off $ 20 billion of old debts.

Thus, the Kremlin opposed itself to the West, which literally "siphons" money from its former colonies".

“Despite the fact that the Kremlin is constantly talking about a multipolar world, in fact, it is acting in completely Soviet traditions, trying to tread on the tail of the West everywhere”, - political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said.

Anyway, contracts worth 800 billion rubles were signed at the Sochi forum. Moreover, this time Russia positioned itself as a country that will provide aid and loans to Africa on more favorable terms than the EU, the US and China. Moscow has promised that it will not demand the fight against corruption, increased transparency, democratization and restructuring of inefficient sectors of the economy, as Western countries do.

Three years after the summit, we can already say that a new "battle for Africa" is now in full swing, writes Le Monde diplomatique. According to the authoritative Parisian edition, the main players are the USA, China, the EU countries and India. Brazil, Turkey, Iran, South Korea, and the countries of the Persian Gulf are also interested in building up cooperation with Africa. So far, in terms of the volume of trade and economic interaction with Africa, Russia is inferior to almost all of the above players.

The foreign trade turnover of the Russian Federation with Africa does not exceed $ 12 billion. Nevertheless, in some areas, there is competition between Moscow and other players, and quite serious. As Russia's interests in Africa expand, Le Monde diplomatique notes, the field for possible conflicts and competition with other players will expand. For example, not only Russia seeks to help Africa in the construction of nuclear power plants - here one can observe serious competition and cases of opposition to Russia's interests.

In 2017, the ATOMEXPO-2017 forum in Moscow was visited by such interested African countries as Zambia, Ethiopia, Sudan. A number of cooperation agreements were signed with them. These are examples of the so-called "nuclear diplomacy" of Russia.

Back in 2014, an agreement was signed between Egypt and Russia on the construction of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant. Russian specialists also proposed to create plants for desalination of water, which will work on the heat produced by the reactors of the nuclear power plant. This somewhat eased Cairo's concerns about the scarcity of water resources that have caused it to have strained relations with Ethiopia since 2011. In the next decade, Russia is likely to start building a nuclear power plant in Ethiopia.

As for Sudan, although in 2016 Sudan signed agreements on the construction of a nuclear power plant and on assistance in planning the organization of the country's nuclear energy with China, the authorities in Khartoum unexpectedly showed great interest in cooperation with Russia in the construction of a nuclear power plant.

Sudan also returned to the issue of opening a Russian naval base on its territory. The Americans tried to break the deal, promising big money, but after the US fled Afghanistan, the Sudanese apparently decided not to get involved with the unreliable Biden.

In fact, official Khartoum wants to receive economic assistance from Russia. In exchange, Sudan will lease a military base to Russia for a period of 5 years, with the possibility of concluding an agreement for 25 years. Moscow considers possible financial expenses and does not give an answer.

It is not excluded that Russia is striving in a special way to strengthen its position in southern Africa. Interaction with these countries dates back to the Soviet era, and now ties with the region are important, including in the context of work within the BRICS. South Africa is a gateway to Africa for many external players, and Russia is no exception.

From the point of view of mining, it is important to interact with Zimbabwe, where Russia is developing one of the world's largest deposits of platinum group metals "Darwendale", "Alrosa" works in Angola - it extracts diamonds. Positions in the field of hydrocarbon production are being coordinated with Luanda, since it is one of the largest oil-producing countries of the continent, a member of OPEC.

Meanwhile, according to The National Interest, the volume of military contracts concluded in 2020 between Russia and African countries amounted to more than $ 1.5 billion. The share of Rosoboronexport in the local arms market has grown to a staggering 49 percent! Over the past two decades, Moscow has significantly ousted the main competitors in the import of weapons in Africa - Washington and Paris.

"In 2020, we signed export contracts with more than a dozen African states worth more than one and a half billion dollars. We received an advance payment and started fulfilling orders", - said Alexander Mikheyev, head of Rosoboronexport, at IDEX-2021.

“There are at least 25 African states among Russia's clients”, - a military expert, reserve colonel Igor Morozov , told Novye Izvestia. - The largest buyers are Algeria and Egypt. Algeria bought more than 500 T-90SA tanks and 300 modernized Terminator 2 tank support vehicles. In addition, Algeria's military aviation consists almost entirely of Russian-made vehicles. It is also known that contracts have been signed for the supply of Su-34 front-line bombers and Su-35 fighters to this country.

Relations with Egypt are a good illustration of the rapid advancement of Russian weapons in the African market. Until recently, the Egyptian army used more than a thousand American M1A1 Abrams tanks, but now Cairo has signed an agreement with Moscow for the supply of 500 T-90MS, and the Egyptian Air Force has ordered Moscow Su-35 fighters.

At the same time, in Libya, CAR, Mozambique and Sudan, Moscow is making huge amounts of money by using private military companies. In late 2018, Russian "mercenaries" were involved in suppressing an uprising in Sudan as jihadists fought President Omar Bashir. In Mozambique, PMC Wagner was hired to fight Islamist groups in the province of Cabo Delgado, a key region for the government's ambitious gas production plans.

According to Western media, at the beginning of 2021, Russian fighters of the private military company Wagner established control over several large diamond mining centers in the CAR. In fact, they were invited to the country by the official authorities in order to fight the anti-government guerrilla groups.

Nevertheless, the results of the work of Russian PMCs everywhere, according to the French press, do not look very good, to put it mildly. Wagner's mercenaries, who fought alongside Libyan Marshal Haftar, failed to prevent his defeat in the battle for Tripoli. The Russians also suffered significant casualties in Mozambique and were withdrawn from combat zones just weeks after deployment. Their alleged activities in Khartoum could have been politically costly for Moscow following the regime change in October 2019.

As for the Central African Republic, the Kremlin appears to have decided to make the country a pilot project for its regional influence, as evidenced by its military support for the government's army amid an armed opposition offensive. According to "Novye Izvestia", a representative office of the RF Ministry of Defense began to work in Bangui.

Just the Ghanaian edition of Capital News announced the arrival in Mali of 1,200 fighters of the Russian PMC "Wagner" to carry out combat missions. They were invited by the government of the country to "fight against criminal groups and separatists". At the moment, the Wagnerians are carrying out tasks on the border of Mali and Burkina Faso.

It is interesting that in Mali there are also units of the French armed forces leading Operation Barkhan, directed against terrorist groups, but they are not active in the area where fighters of the Russian PMC are operating.

Irina Abramova, director of the Institute for African Studies, believes that the Black Continent is a zone of conflicts, but in recent years their number has been decreasing. “We must not miss Africa. This is a tidbit in the big strategic game between Europe, the USA, China and other countries”, - the expert said.

Just the Ghanaian edition of Capital News announced the arrival in Mali of 1,200 fighters of the Russian PMC "Wagner" to carry out combat missions. They were invited by the government of the country to "fight against criminal groups and separatists." At the moment, the Wagnerians are carrying out tasks on the border of Mali and Burkina Faso.

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