• Monday, March 04, 2024
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Nigeria’s stake in Russia’s Africa Agenda?

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Russia has once sought global domination decades ago and failed woefully. A political, philosophical and economic arrangement intent on rivalling the capitalism of the west was bet on to build an empire to lead its envisioned world order.

In proper context, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic is not Russia as it housed a number of eastern states which together formed a super power that self-destruct in 1991. But Moscow today symbolizes what the USSR had been – a threat to the West.

In 2017 Russian President Vladimir Putin said the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, Pew Research writes. “Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory,” Putin said in a 2005 speech.

Many Russians share the same sentiments; the number of which in 2017 rose to its highest since 2005 as more number of Russians regretted the breakup of the USSR, the Levada pollster revealed.

The poll revealed that sentiments of citizens of the Eastern state is that Moscow’s status has weakened since the totalitarian socialist system of the USSR crumbled and the older population especially reminisce its former glory.

Russia does so too, and is planning to do something about it! The Kremlin is crafting and perfecting it’s agenda and whilst it cannot adopt the USSR playbook a hundred percent, is sure about it’s current plans for global influence and the role Africa would play in the melancholic script.

Four years ago, Nigeria sought Russia’s help to help fight against the Boko Haram insurgents which have caused major security concerns to states in the in the north eastern region.

Nigeria’s request was made after its government lost faith in the commitment of American and British partners in curbing the menace of Islamic extremist group, hence Mansur Dan-Ali, Nigeria’s Defense Minister, at the 8th Moscow “Conference on International Security” held April 24 recommended Russia as Nigeria’s main supplier of arms and ammunitions.

However evidence elsewhere in Central Africa suggest there might be several layers to the pact, maybe unbeknownst to Nigeria, but with important consequences for the most populous black country.

The global agenda among the world’s superpowers has Africa at its centre; China is pursuing an economic end that involves building ties with the developing world to guarantee an alliance that would wane western power and result in a widespread adoption of the Chinese influence.

United States on the other hand is employing its age-long bag of tricks of threatening sanctions and promising aid to keep developing nations (a category most African nations fit) in check.

But Moscow has shown a different plan altogether; One treasuring instability and conflict as gold, very strategic and might not necessarily rely on the commercial benefit of pitching its tent in economic viable regions of Africa or entering trade deals to secure the affection of the continent; a plan that should keep Nigeria on its toes.

In similarity of purpose to China, Russia is seeking to usurp Western influence after their 2014 sanction on its economy due to the annexation of Crimea. The move by the west showed a vulnerability in Moscow’s strength in world affairs but the Eastern Europe nation is scheming a comeback.

Russia had previously not looked in the direction of Africa before the turn of the millennium but has done so increasingly in recent times, a move that, on the face, promises balance and mutual gains but exploit Africa’s trust-just like other super powers have.

In 2017, Central African Republic called for help fearing an escalation of ethnic conflict it was not well-equipped to quell and Russia offered to help the central African nation.

Since CAR had been restricted by the United Nations in 2013 from shipping weapons into its country without the approval of the U.N. Security Council’s CAR sanctions committee, France, the former colonial masters of CAR had offered to help, although this was met with much resistance by Russia.

France had contemplated assisting CAR in purchasing old weapons but had to consider releasing weapons it had seized from Somalia because the original plan to buy arms was quite expensive.

Being a member of the U.N. Security Council’s CAR sanctions committee alongside France, Russia was able to frustrate the proposal of France and instead offered to give CAR its own weapons. Russia, in a show of strength, wrestled power from France in placing itself strategically in the latter’s former colony.

Notably, France’s foreign ministry advised that Russia strictly respects the guidelines of its arms embargo exemption in ensuring the weapons can be accounted for and do not end up in the black market.

But Russia which sent CAR weapons and as many as 500 military trainers, employed private contractors and mercenary groups, which were officially banned in Moscow, to carry out its activities.

In an interview with Voice of Africa, Kiril Avramov, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Intelligence Studies Project explained that mercenaries should be viewed as “an instrument which allows plausible deniability but also hard-power projection, which has multiple uses in contested areas.”

The activities of Russia began to cast doubt in the minds of international observers who feared an agenda of Moscow centered on exploiting the conflict in CAR for its own selfish ambition.

The murder of three Russian journalists investigating activities of a Russian security firm The ‘Wagner Group’, a paramilitary organization operating in CAR.

Russian officials denied the existence of the Wagner Group which is said to have more than 2,000 mercenaries- perhaps as unwittingly predicted by Avramov-and refused to comment if its slain citizens were journalists.

But exiled Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky claimed the Russians killed in CAR were indeed journalists working on a project called “Russian Mercenaries” The project was sponsored by a media outlet linked to Khodorkovsky.

Maybe a coincidence, or perhaps as was suggested by CAR government, the journalists died at the hands of rebels, but more recent events suggest something more sinister.

  • To be continued

 

TEMISAN ADIO
Adio, a political commentator, writes from Lagos