Although Ukrainian President Zelenskys like to claim that “The world is with us!” we see that such claims are not entirely true. Most of the world, what used to be called “The Third World” is not with Zelensky at all. (Even much of the First World is getting sick and tired of his antics, but that’s another story, for another day.)
Take Africa, for example. A couple of days ago I saw this story, about Lavrov’s big African Safari tour. Hunting for friends, and finding them in droves. And the right kind of friends, not false friends, like the Europeans turned out to be. The reporters are Artur Priymak and Alyona Zadorozhnaya, the headline reads:
Russia Is Defeating The West In the Competition For Africa
Moving like poorly trained synchronized figure skaters, both Lavrov and French President Macron are conducting tours of Africa simultaneously, but never actually crossing paths. (Lavrov started first, and then Macron, almost in a panic, tried to catch up.) Lavrov has the advantage of course. Even though he is older, and doesn’t speak French (literally the lingua franca of many nations on the African continent), Lavrov is a nicer person than Macron. More importantly: Unlike Macron he is neither a colonialist nor the heir of colonialists. African politicians are not dumb, they know very well who is a colonialist and who is a real friend, or possible friend. There are a lot of lucrative and mutually beneficial deals at stake.
Jealous at Lavrov’s diplomatic success, Macron, in his public speeches, resorted to the usual anti-Russia slurs, accusing Lavrov of conducting “hybrid warfare” upon the African continent. Hybrid war, in this case, referring to possible trade deals, and also “spreading disinformation”. Macron and other European leaders are very worried that Russian diplomacy will deter African nations from joining in on Western economic sanctions against Russia.
Lavrov’s assistant, Maria Zakharova retorted tartly to Macron and the other Frenchies: “First of all, the things that France did to the African continent, nobody else can compete with that. To this day these countries remember [what they did]. That’s not to say that everything they did was bad. But the amount of resources they pillaged, and the completely lawless acts they committed, let’s not even speak about that.”
In his turn, Macron has played a stupid game. At a public speech in Cameroon, for example, he tried to bully the African leaders, accusing them of “hypocrisy” by refusing to join in the sanctions game.
The reporters quote the words of an expert named Alexander Zdanevich, who teaches at the Africanist Faculty of the University of Saint Petersburg. Zdanevich: France is used to operating in Africa as if they were still the suzerain. Paris employes the principle of maintaining full political and economic control over their former colonies. “It’s only natural that their African partners are not pleased with this approach. They currently have more options in the choice of partners, as more players enter the internal markets; including very serious players like Russia and China.”
Various African media outlets, such as the Cameroon News Agency, point to Macron’s visit as an attempt to re-exert colonial dominance over the Africans. The flip side of that is, everybody can see that French influence is waning; simultaneously with the rising influence of China and also, to a smaller degree, Russia. One sign of the new situation: Earlier this year, Mali demanded that French troops leave their country; and instead invited Russian troops to come in and help them fight against terrorists. These troops (from the Russian private military agency Wagner) went in and apparently did a good job, impressing not just the leaders in Mali, but also in the French-speaking Central African Republic. One should note that Wagner troops are currently also serving in the Ukrainian conflict, and also apparently doing a nice job; although the Ukrainians like to call them “Nazis”, pointing out that their company insignia depicts a skull. (“Are we the baddies?”)
Meanwhile, in the Congo (another French-speaking country), Lavrov discussed possible deals to buy Russian weapons and help beef up the Congo army. And same thing also in Ethiopia and in Nigeria.
Lavrov’s trip follows upon an important visit in June, of Russian President Putin with various African leaders. Where they discussed, among other things, the world grain crisis and how to fix it. This led to the “Grain Summit” in Istanbul last week; and then followed by Lavrov’s tour of Africa. Russia hopes to conclude many deals to sell their grain and other produce to hungry African nations, at a very good price. Which should tick the Ukrainians off real good, since they have a lot of Westies believing (and probably even convinced themselves) that they are the ones who feed the world.
The Emotional Factor And The Power Of Love
Seems like Africa is the center of the world now: Everybody is courting her and vying for influence: Europe, China, Russia, Turkey, Arab countries, you name it. Must be nice to be love-sick Africa, with so many gentlemen-callers. I can visualize this as a beautiful Tchaikovsky ballet: Africa sits and watches as each pair of dancers, wearing national garb, takes center stage and struts their stuff.
Although no one can deny the continuing prestige of Europe, especially France, on the African continent, the Russian suitor has an important card in his deck: The Soviet legacy of altruistic friendship. For example, Congo’s Foreign Minister Jean-Claude Gakosso loves Russia and has nice memories from his youth. He graduated from Leningrad State University in 1983, with a degree in Journalism. The video clip embedded in the piece I linked above, shows him speaking with Lavrov in fluent Russian: “We will never forget how you accepted us as students into your country, and gave us a very good education. I studied at the Zhdanov branch of Leningrad State University. I used to go to the theater in Petersburg. The Hermitage became my second home. The Bronze Horseman [statue], you know how the verse goes, Люблю тебя, Петра творение. We are with you! We are with you!”
Zdanevich: That Soviet cultural influence, that support which Moscow gave in the 1950’s and 60’s to the young African nations after their decolonization; to this day forms a basis for the use of “soft power”. There is a generational memory connected to the Soviet Union’s assistance to these countries when they were fighting for their independence. It was the Soviets who helped them establish their states and gave them economic assistance, without intefering in their internal affairs.
Next: Along these same lines, we will review this piece by reporter Gevorg Mirzayan, and also discuss the recent pivot in Soviet foreign policy, with Putin now issuing fiery anti-colonialist speeches that sound straight out of the Soviet playbook. It’s kind of funny, in a way, because I recall Mirzayan a couple of years ago writing openly racist op-eds about American “Negroes”; and Putin never had much good things to say about the Soviet Union before. But times change, and people start to realize who is who, and what is what, in this crazy world.
[to be continued]