Western elites cannot decide whether to sanction or seduce Africa in their attempts to counter Russia and China
In a rush for influence, the United States and its allies seek both the carrot and the stick
In trying to find ways to effectively counter Russia-China partnerships in Africa, Washington – and its Western supporters – are not just opting for honey or vinegar – so officials are resorting to both at the same time. time.
Typically, the Western modus operandi has been to establish a footprint in the target foreign country through military intervention under a security pretext with the hope of eventually switching to an economic pretext. Recent history suggests that the elites didn’t quite make the transition before their plans took a pear shape. Unable to get their hands on the prize – usually, the country’s natural resources – they either end up being expelled (as was the case with France in Mali) or cut their losses (as the United States has made in Afghanistan).
Russia and China have effectively exploited the vacuum created by the misguided foreign military adventures of the West. In the case of Mali, Russia offered the transitional government military helicopters, radars and weapons, in addition to « soldiers and trainers » reportedly operated in the African country (reports say it is private security company Wagner, but officials have distanced themselves from the group). Moscow is now transforming this presence into broader cooperation.
“We paid particular attention to the practical aspects of arranging deliveries from Russia of wheat, mineral fertilizers and petroleum products that the people of Mali so badly need today under conditions of illegitimate Western sanctions,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a press conference in May with his Malian counterpart, Abdoulaye Diop. France and the US sanctioned the country over delayed elections following two coups, all under the watch of Paris’s Operation Barkhane and EU training mission based in the capital, Bamako.
And now Washington is moving forward with a new tool to threaten African countries that challenge its interests. The “Combating Malicious Activities of Russia in Africa Act” would target African governments, officials and companies doing business with Russia, labeled as « handling » and « exploitation » Africans for the benefit of Russia. The plan is in the same spirit as the « Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017 » and the « Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act », targeting Iran, Russia and North Korea… but which also risks threatening India over the purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system.
The same act was used to halt construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to transport Russian gas to Western Europe under threat of US sanctions – thus opening up a potential new market for US liquefied gas exports.
Meanwhile, the Western G7 bloc has proposed a $600 billion plan to build foreign infrastructure in Africa and Latin America, with Washington pledging another $200 billion and the EU an additional $300 billion, and companies private should commit to invest. What are they going to do – sanction some of these countries and then demand that they accept money from the West? How embarrassing.
The idea is to counter China’s Belt and Road project, albeit a decade behind schedule and hundreds of billions of dollars short. The message here is clear. These countries can either deal with Russia, China and other American adversaries and be buried under sanctions, or accept this wonderful opportunity to let Washington and its Western allies come into the country to build great things.
A long-standing American criticism of China is that it exploits its Belt and Road project to “trap the debt” of countries and impose its influence. But it’s not as if Washington’s intention toward underdeveloped countries was purely altruistic.
For an example, look at how the US-funded Marshall Plan for post-war Europe helped establish CIA front companies across the continent. Or when Washington funds « civil society » projects in underdeveloped target countries that end up being exposed as operations to overthrow the government – an example being a Cuba-funded Twitter-like social media project. USAID and discovered by the Associated Press in 2014.
Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, US President Joe Biden said investment projects include an industrial-scale vaccine manufacturing plant in Senegal, a global undersea telecommunications cable across the Horn Africa, new solar projects in Angola and a nuclear reactor plant. In Romania. But at best, it makes up for the $59 billion China spent last year alone on the 144-country enterprise.
Only time will tell how much of a facade and marketing the announcement is – a valid concern given it’s the second year in a row the proposal has been tabled at the G7 summit, only to be rebranded and recycled a year later with little else happening in between.
“These strategic investments are areas critical to sustainable development and our shared global stability: health and health security, digital connectivity, gender equality and equity, climate and energy security,” Biden said, conjuring up all the warm, fuzzy buzzwords expected of him. But the true measure of the initiative will be whether it can successfully replace Washington’s strategy of burning foreign nations for the primary purpose of being able to step in later and offer to help with the cleanup.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.