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Russia’s Strategic Goals in Africa

(This article originally appeared as a chapter in "Russia Strategic Intentions White Paper," Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) publication series, NSI, May 2019.)
Russia has significantly expanded its engagements in Africa in recent years. These engagements often take the form of propping up embattled and isolated autocratic leaders of countries that are rich in natural resources. The United States can draw a distinction with Russia’s destabilizing role by pursuing a positive engagement strategy in Africa. The United States must avoid the Cold War trap of competing with Russia for the affections of corrupt, autocratic leaders in Africa, however, as such a policy would be disastrous for Africa while not advancing US interests.

Russia and Africa: Expanding Influence and Instability

Recommended research   published by Joseph Siegle, in Russia’s Global Reach: A Security and Statecraft Assessment (Marshall Center) on April 30, 2021

The main tools Russia relies on to assert influence on the continent—mercenaries, arms for resource deals, coopting and sustaining friendly leaders, and disinformation—are inherently destabilizing. While opportunistic, this approach provides Russia an opening to secure port access in the eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea while undermining democratic norms in the region, advancing the Kremlin’s geostrategic interests.

Late to the Party: Russia’s Return to Africa

Recommended research   published by Paul Stronski, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on October 16, 2019

Russia is pursuing engagement with African states at an intensity not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union. Through diplomatic overtures, arms sales and security cooperation, and energy development, Russia seeks to reassert itself as an economic and military partner. While Russia has made progress in attaining these goals, it also faces weaknesses that limit its ability to wield influence on the continent. Russia sees Africa as key to its goal of a more multipolar world. An even-handed U.S. approach toward Russian engagement in Africa that exposes malign influence without inflating Russian capabilities is necessary.

Recommended US Response to Russian Activities in Africa

(This article originally appeared as a chapter in "Russia Strategic Intentions White Paper," Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) publication series, NSI, May 2019.)
Russia has significantly expanded its engagements in Africa in recent years. These engagements often take the form of propping up embattled and isolated autocratic leaders of countries that are rich in natural resources. The United States can draw a distinction with Russia’s destabilizing role by pursuing a positive engagement strategy in Africa. The United States must avoid the Cold War trap of competing with Russia for the affections of corrupt, autocratic leaders in Africa, however, as such a policy would be disastrous for Africa while not advancing US interests.

Nontraditional Actors: China and Russia in African Peace Operations

Recommended research   published by Elor Nkereuwem, The Stimson Center on March 31, 2017

China and Russia (the P2), both permanent members of the UN Security Council, are playing increasing roles in the design and conduct of UN peace operations in Africa. This analysis of the P2’s voting patterns in the Security Council, reflects a shift from a pattern of abstentions to voting for the resolution. The analysis also shows a shift in China’s personnel contributions to these missions, the country has moved from not contributing personnel, to being the largest contributor of troops among the permanent members of the Council. Nonetheless, while the P2 provide strong rhetorical support for African voices to be heard, this does not translate to systematic on the ground support. China’s troop contributions are largely confined to South Sudan. Moreover, support for the resolutions highlights successful P2 efforts to limit the scope of the mandates in question. P2 interests on the continent will continue to align and be reflected in mission mandates and resources.

Chinese Security Firms Spread along the African Belt and Road

Spotlight   published by Paul Nantulya on June 15, 2021

The deployment of Chinese security firms in Africa is expanding without a strong regulatory framework. This poses heightened risks to African citizens and raises fundamental questions over responsibility for security in Africa.

Dispelling COVID Vaccine Myths in Africa

Spotlight   published by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies on May 21, 2021

A preponderance of COVID vaccine myths is causing many Africans to forego vaccinations at a time when new, more transmissible coronavirus variants are spreading across the continent.

IS-Land: Has the Age of Southern African Terrorism Properly Begun?

Recommended research   published by Richard Poplack, Daily Maverick on May 4, 2021

While the insurgency in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado grows increasingly violent, the unpoliced coastline of Northern Mozambique allows for the trafficking of hundreds of millions of dollars of heroin. The ruling Frelimo party reportedly pockets at least of $100 million of revenue from this trade each year. Efforts to combat the insurgents, who doubt that the government’s deals for natural gas exploitation will benefit all citizens have stalled, worsened by heavy handed tactics of government forces and their allied Russian and South African mercenaries. A better understanding of the dynamics at play, along with a recognition that criminalized power structures seek to protect themselves, will be required to craft adequate responses to the violence.

Dave Brigham

Dave Brigham leads the Africa Center’s Africa Military Education Program (AMEP), which helps its partner nations develop, improve, and expand their professional military education institutions. AMEP is currently conducting 32 projects in 17 sub-Saharan African countries.

Africa’s Evolving Cyber Threats

Spotlight   published by Nathaniel Allen on January 19, 2021

African governments face a fast-evolving array of digital threats from espionage, critical infrastructure sabotage, organized crime, and combat innovation.

Taking Stock of Africa’s 2021 Elections

Spotlight   published by Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook on January 12, 2021

A wide spectrum of credibility marks the 13 African elections slated for 2021. This has direct implications for the legitimacy of the leaders that emerge and their ability to navigate the security challenges they face.