African Relations with Russia Uncertain Amid Ukrainian Conflict


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“Will it be the new cold war, or will it be the new hot war? We still do not know.”

Russia
has played an increasing role on the African continent through trade, aid,
military training and paramilitary security. Analysts say the future of that
relationship will be tested as Russia’s tensions with the West escalate amid
the Ukrainian conflict.

The
South African government condemned Russia’s action in a statement, saying “it
is dismayed at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine” and “calls on Russia
to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine in line with the United Nations
charter.”

Other
African countries remained quiet Thursday as Russian forces pushed into
Ukraine.

Russia
has increased its presence on the continent in recent years and is scheduled to
host a Russia-Africa summit this November.

Regardless
of how African nations react to Russia’s invasion going forward, analysts say
the continent will feel repercussions.

Irina
Filatova is the professor at Russia’s Higher School of Economics University.

“Will
it be the new cold war, or will it be the new hot war? We still do not know.
But whatever it is, Africa is one, is going to be one of the victims of it,”
Filatova said.

Countries
reliant on imported oil and gas like South Africa will feel the pain of
skyrocketing prices.

Northern
African countries that import grains from Ukraine will feel disruptions in
supply and price.

The
conflict could also impact the availability of funding and resources for
international development and aid that many African countries rely on.

Dzvinka
Kachur is a researcher at the Centre for Sustainability Transitions at South
Africa’s Stellenbosch University.

“It’s
also going to create a long-term distraction from and attention from the
sustainable development goals,” Kachur said. “So we can expect the budgets
of states around the world will be gearing towards more militarization and not
the developmental goals.”

The
conflict not only risks disruptions to aid, but also military and peacekeeping
support on the continent.

Pauline
Bax is the deputy director for the International Crisis Group in Johannesburg.

“A
lot of attention will be taken away from conflicts that are quite urgent here
in Africa, such again as the Sahel, the conflict in Mozambique and the conflict
in Ethiopia,” said Bax. “A lot of diplomatic efforts will have to be
put in the Ukraine crisis now and has already been put in – to the detriment of
other crises here in Africa.”

However,
the conflict could also bring opportunities.

Kachur
says African leaders should call for changes in global power structures,
especially at the United Nations.

Russia
is of of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

“This
is an opportunity to show that U.N. system is ineffective if the aggressor is
one of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council,” Kachur said.
“…. This is a good time for African countries to talk about the change
of the global system of international relations and to redistribute power.”

Analysts
note it’s too early to be sure how the conflict in Ukraine will affect
countries thousands of kilometers away. But to the extent the world order is
being altered, Africa will feel the impact.

 

VOA


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