Kremlin’s ‚Key to Africa‘: EU Should Curb Russia’s Growing Influence in North Africa

Written by | Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

The EU’s incoherent policy on Libya has allowed Russia to gain a lot of ground just south of its shores, argues Guma El-Gamaty, a Libyan academic and politician, in his latest opinion piece. Located on Europe’s southern flank, Libya is a strategically important country for the European Union. Political shifts and conflicts in this oil-rich Northern African nation have immediate and extensive consequences for the EU. Unfortunately, since the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi’s régime, the diverging interests different European countries have in the region have resulted in the EU following inconsistent policies towards Libya. The lack of a coherent European policy towards the country has not only exacerbated and prolonged the ongoing Libyan conflict but has also allowed Russia to expand its influence over the region.
Russia has been backing Haftar’s campaign to topple the GNA, in the hopes that the renegade general would install a new Gaddafi-style dictatorship in Libya that would serve the Russian agenda. Russian military involvement in Libya escalated sharply in April 2019, when Haftar launched a military campaign to capture Tripoli. In recent years, the Kremlin used mercenaries not only in Libya but also in other conflicts in Africa, such as in Central African Republic, to protect its interests while denying any official military involvement. „But Brussels cannot afford to let Russia shape this country according to its wishes, given its proximity to the European shores. This would undermine and threaten the EU’s security and economic interests, especially if Moscow succeeds in installing an authoritarian military regime in Libya,“ Guma El-Gamaty warns, urging the EU to „encourage key European/NATO-allies to play a more active role in curbing Russia’s growing influence in North Africa.“
But Russia has set its eyes not only on Libya but it is reportedly planning to step up its military cooperation also with other African countries as part of its new Africa strategy. According to German daily Bild, Moscow plans to build bases in six African countries, citing a secret German Foreign Ministry report. The classified document on what it calls “Russia’s new Africa ambitions” says Russian President Vladimir Putin had made “Africa a top priority.” An important aspect of Russia’s advance in Africa is military cooperation with some of the continent’s dictatorial regimes, it said. “Since 2015, Russia has concluded military cooperation agreements with 21 countries in Africa,” a sharp increase from only four military cooperation treaties across the entire continent before 2015.
The secret document also reportedly says that the Kremlin was “contractually assured” it would “be allowed to build military bases in six countries,” namely the Central African Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Sudan. The first naval base established since the collapse of the Soviet Union should be set up on the Red Sea in Sudan, whereby this prestige project is designed to expand Russia’s presence in Africa. That, experts say, could have global geopolitical implications.

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