How Russia is back in Africa, an example of « intelligent pragmatism »

Following the insights shared in infoguerre  » The smart power of the Russian atom », Kremlin announced $12.5bn worth of deals struck during the African-Russian summit back to october 2019. Which shows the success of the so called « intelligent pragmatism »  (razumniy pragmatism) based on rationalism of diplomatic relations, and economic efforts.

The main difference between the Europe / United States strategy remains on the definition of time, we can reasonably consider that Russian foreign policy is part of « long time ». Heritage of Soviet cooperation policies, the Kremlin developped several partnerships based on region-to-region model.

For example, Russia’s Sverdlovsk Oblast sent a delegation to develop economic investment with Eritrea in February 2019. Russia has adopted a similar approach in Syria. The Kremlin is also working to build parliamentary links with African officials. Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin held a forum to engage African parliamentarians in July 2019, in the aim of educating cadre of future leaders in Africa. Russia is funding new scholarships for Africans. The Foreign Ministry has held numerous ambassador-level engagements with local universities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Botswana, Namibia.

In contemporain russian world (Mir) GEO.graphy – GEO.economy – GEO.politics can not be separated.


Given to the colonial background of the African continent, the Europeans powerships (France, Italy, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal) have historically had relational facilities in this geographic area. Russian companies, and the Kremlin in particular, are trying to beat bilateral relations on the ruins of the USSR’s positions, devastated by the Perestroïka. Moscow was a crucial player in Africa in the Soviet era, backing independence movements and training a generation of African leaders. The Kremlin ambitions, and his strategists ends with incredibly results, knowing the in a political instability context. In matters of GEO.graphy, Russia has deepened its relations with Egypt, first within the framework of a free trade economic zone between these two countries. The central place of the Egyptian army in the political and economic landscape, including the president and his Praetorian guards, opens the way to an agreement about the access to Egyptian airspace for Russian aviation. Besides the strategic position of the Suez Canal, the important market represented by the 100 million Egyptians, this partnership is also a step towards Libya. At the gateway to Europe, Libya is literally in civil war. In one hand between the government of Tripoli, and on the other hand, the Marechal Haftar.

haftar shoigy

Born in 1943, Khalifa Belqasim Haftar studied in Egypt and the Soviet Union at the Mikhail Frunze military academy. Khalifa Haftar is fluent in Russian, and is supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia. In addition to its historic ally, Algeria, the Kremlin can thus develop its area of ​​influence over a large part of the Mediterranean sea. Thomas Waldhauser, the Commander of U.S. Forces in Africa, stated that :

« Russians are present there both on land and in the air. » General Waldhausser highlighted that, « Russia is trying to influence the final decision on what the composition of the government in Libya will be. »

This information in confirmed by the russian aircraft turnover between Khmeimim-Lattakia base in Syria, to El Marj airport in east Lybia


Flight RFF8329 (IL-76 86906) from Khmeimim-Lattakia (Syria), to El Marj (Lybia)


As of today Russia’s trade with Africa is less than half that of France with the continent, and 10 times less than that of China. However, the last october 23th and 24th,  two-day event in Sochi, more than 3,000 delegates were expected to prepare deals and discuss topics from nuclear technology to mineral extraction. Various projects has been announced, signed, published.

In terms of access to natural resources, such as oil and natural gas, Africa represents a strategic interest for Russia.
Despite its own huge mineral resources, Russia has some critical shortage of certain raw materials, including chrome, manganese, mercury, and titanium, and faces depletion of
reserves of others, including copper, nickel, tin, and zinc. It also needs coltan and rare metals for new technologies and quantum computing for instance. The recent example of Russian committment in Africa is in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in the Republic of Central Africa , Russia is engaged in the extraction of coltan, gold, diamonds and,  uranium.

Moreover, Russia is offering nuclear power technology through ROSATOM to several African countries. One of the pharaonic project is the construction of the first nuclear plant in Egypt within the next years,  all financed by a $25bn loan from Russia.

Nuclear sector is not the only one receiving special attention, Gazprom is also currently planning to build a $10 billion gas pipeline from Nigeria to Algeria. Mining business is a way to export influence as well, the russian world mining Alrosa extracts diamond in South Africa, Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Angola, and controls 60 percent of diamonds extracted in Angola. 

In addition of conventional economy, Russia is also very present into defense and security, end december 2019 is almost official that algerian goverment is going to acquire 14 Sukhoi-57, the fifth generation air fighter. High technology is important for highlighting the russian knowledge, however, african leaders are in needs of russian’s military expertise.

russian mil cooperation

Russian military presence in Africa up to 2019

Hage Geingob, the namibian president, has clearly expressed his interest into russian military experts and advisors. The year 2018 has been crucial for Republic of Central Africa, the president Archange Touadera obtained military support from the Kremlin in parallel of the UN mission MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic). During the Russian-African summit in Sotchi, president Touadera reiterated explicitly  his wish of extenting the current military cooperation with Russia .

On a bilateral level, the most important event was the signing of the joint declaration on the establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Africa. The declaration commits the countries to enhancing co-operation in various fields, including politics, trade and economic, parliamentary, defence, science and technology, and humanitarian.  The evolution is still the presence of 2 Tupolev TU-160, also called « Blackjack ».

The  bombers, which are capable of launching nuclear missiles, are the first to ever land in Africa and will be escorted by fighter jets from the South African Air Force when they touch down at the Waterkloof air base in Tshwane, the South African National Defence Force said in a statement.

EHZXydBWwAAHzeR (1).jpg

GEO.politics Sergey Lavrov has stressed the need for “African solutions to African problems” and asserted that “Africa is underrepresented” in international organizations like the UN.


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