Returning to the African theme, as promised. I have this piece by analyst Gevorg Mirzayan, who is a Dean (Docent?) at the Financial University. Like much of the current Russian bourgeois intelligentsia, Mirzayan is mostly conservative in his thinking; not a Communist, in other words, and certainly not a fan of V.I. Lenin. However, this war seems to have shaken up at least a few minor rocks in the ideological foundations of the Kremlin “regime”. Which is a good thing, I reckon. It’s a good thing to have your ideological basis shooken up from time to time, otherwise one starts to get crusty and stagnate. Mirzayan starts his piece with this quote from an African leader:
“In 1917 a new government came to power in Russia, the Bolsheviks. I don’t know how you regard them … but we like them.”
With these words, a whole series of African leaders refused to drink the Ukrainian Kool-Aid, when they declined to support Western sanctions against Russia. It’s amazing how long the memories are, in that part of the world.
Mirzayan: The Western nations continue their attempts to force the global isolation of Russia. Meanwhile, the world’s largest democracy, India, does not intend to support such isolation. The USA and Europe are looking to the Third World to fulfill their quota of “isolators”. Brussels and Washington DC are already working out scenarios for these countries, writing up how their leaders are supposed to behave with Russian representatives. For example, Peter Stano, the EU’s Lead Spokeshole for Foreign Affairs:
“Wherever Lavrov goes, it is important to remember that he is the representative of a regime which started an illegal aggression against a neighboring country. Mr. Lavrov is very well known for spreading disinformation and lies, and for promulgating war-mongering rhetoric.”
And just in case Africans don’t care to obey the pasty-faced Stano, a slightly more tanned State Department representative Ned Price also generously provides talking points to their leaders, how they are supposed to act and what they are supposed to think and say: “It is necessary to condemn Russia for its actions. […] and blame it for the deepening food crisis in the world. Russia already realizes that its own actions have led it to the point where it has become an international outcast.”
Maria Zakharova from the Russian Foreign Affairs office utters in amazement: “It has even gotten to the point where Washington is trying to forbid the regional leaders to appear in photographs with Lavrov. They fear that these photos will be used by Russia to prove that we are so isolated after all…”
West Holds Just One Card
In other words, Africa is supposed to kow-tow to Western demands.
Mirzayan: From time to time one hears [Russian] people say that Africans are lazy and ungrateful people, who respect only power, and who do not feel any gratitude towards Russia; not for all the aid that was offered during the period of the USSR; nor for the multi-billion debts that were written off; nor for the humanistic treatment they have received from us. [yalensis: Such Russians are probably mistaking Africans for Israelis.]
However, the reality is that Africa has not supported the anti-Russian sanctions, and almost half of all the African nations have refused to condemn Russia for the operation in the Ukraine. Sergei Lavrov’s recent Africa tour proved that Russia is beloved there, Russia is always greeted like a friend. The Africans have no intention of isolating Russia, and this not just for pragmatic reasons, for also for ideological reasons.
Pragmatism: The African nations are struggling to survive in the conditions of global competition between the super-powers. Russians, Americans and French are all courting Africa. It’s nice to be courted, but African leaders need to understand the risks of being used and discarded, in this grand theater.
African leaders are smarter and more cunning than many people give them credit for. This is what Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni had to say, during his visit with Lavrov: “During the times of the Cold War people used to ask me: Are you for the East or for the West? I would reply, Do you take me for an idiot? Who decided that my main task is to take one side or another? I stand for my own interests, and I build my relations with others based on how they affect my interests.”
In the final analysis, the only possible thorn in the side of Russo-African relations, was the grain issue. Which is why, it goes without saying, the Americans were harping so much on this point, or should I say, making so much hay over it [little pun there]. Thinking they could convince the Africans that Russia was trying to starve them by blocking Ukrainian wheat. Once again, Westies were taking Africans for idiots. The same kind of low-IQ idiots that European leaders are. Those white-faced Europeans gods, who will believe any B.S. no matter how nonsensical, and drink any Kool-Aid offered by Washington.
Russia didn’t actually need to prove anything; however, just to make double sure to block this one weak play, the Russian side pulled off the Istanbul Summit and were able to wash their hands of the whole grain issue. Which means the African countries can also wash their hands of this, ignore irritatiing American propaganda, and distance themselves from the entire Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The other nice thing is that Russia, unlike the West, is not trying to force Africa to pick sides. It’s like a divorce, where they are allowed to remain friends with both spouses. The Russians are not writing scripts for the African leaders, telling them how they must behave, and what their talking points are, when Blinken comes to visit. Russians are too respectful to behave like that in somebody else’s home. The Russian policy has always been to cultivate mutually-beneficial and mutually-respectful relationships, without interfering in the internal affairs of the other side. That’s the way it should be.
Africans can see the difference. And they can also see how the West only offers them empty advice (about “fighting corruption”, “building democracy”, etc.) but no real economic assistance. The West only extracts their resources, but does not help them build necessary infrastructure, without which true democracy is not possible.
Russia, on the other hand, according to Mirzaev, helps to build stuff. Granted, the level of Russian investment is not so high right now. But Russia does possess valuable experience and knowledge of African economies, also a legacy of the Soviet period. Russian assistance is focused, not on extracting resources, but on the creation of a national industrial foundation. True economic development, in other words.
The Soviets had a significant influence on African industrialization. Back in the day, the USSR had technical/economic deals with 37 African countries. Soviet specialists helped build around 600 enterprises, of which over 300 were put into action by the end of the 1980’s. Soviet engineers helped to build around 30 energy generating plants with a summary capacity of 2.9 million kilowatts. The biggest one was the Aswan Dam hydro-energy complex in Egypt.
On the African continent the Soviets helped to build three oil refineries, 29 machine and metal works plants, and 40 agricultural enterprises. These kinds of projects are exactly what Africa needs today. Industrialization is the key to prosperity. The Chinese are also contributing a lot, but their methodology is a bit different from the Russian: They build Chinese factories staffed by Chinese management and Chinese labor, with the main goal of servicing the Chinese economy. Russian methodology would be to hire and train locals.
To this day, the Russians hold a major ace in the deck: the ideological one. The fact that Russia was never a colonizer of the African continent. Even in Tsarist times. The fact bears repeating: Moscow never had a single colony on the African continent. Moreover, it played a major role in the de-colonization of that continent, when the time came.
In the continuation, we will explore that theme a bit more, and also see how Putin’s rhetoric has changed recently, he has started to talk almost like a fiery socialist with his famous words about the “Golden Billion” and all that jazz…
[to be continued]
“They build Chinese factories staffed by Chinese management and Chinese labor, with the main goal of servicing the Chinese economy.”
actually, from what I could gather, that also seems to be more propaganda than truth, based on some past actions and behaviour by China. During the past several years, as I could gather, Chinese projects are actually built with the participation of the locals, and later run either as a common enterprise or solely by the locals, maybe with some Chinese co-management.
It might be propaganda. This is Mirzayan talking, maybe he is biased against Chinese, I don’t know. From what I can tell of his political views, he is quite a strong Great Russian Nationalist, despite his Armenian surname.
It follows the same narrative as the CHINESE DEBT TRAP. (cue theremin music)
Remember that one? Even Bloomberg and the Atlantic, usually not China (or Russian) friendly, debunk that one.
BTW, from what I have learned about strong Russian nationalists over he years: they can be very xenophobic.
I am wary of Mirzayan. I don’t know if he has written any other op-eds about China, so I don’t really know his attitude, though. There are some Russian nationalists who are wary about the Chinese, think they want to seize Siberia, etc. In my view, that feeds into the CIA playbook. I would personally like to see Russia and China cooperating as allies and even friends. If they worked together on the African continent, for example, they could do a lot of positive projects, along with the Africans.