Interview with Grigory Trofimchuk
Andrew Korybko conducted an interview with Mr. Grigory Trofimchuk, an expert in the field of foreign policy, defense, and security, and Chairman of the Expert Council of the Moscow-based research support fund "Workshop of Eurasian Ideas", about the future of Russian-African relations ahead of the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit to be held in Sochi from 23-24 October, 2019.
1. What are the driving forces responsible for Russia’s return to Africa?
The beginning of today's broad cooperation between Russia and Africa was predetermined by the development of the entire world situation over the past two decades. I want to emphasize that Russia is not the USSR, so we are not talking about its return to Africa, but the process of forming a new system of relations based on equal cooperation. This, of course, is beneficial to Africans and the countries of Africa, whose leaders will take an active part in the opening of summit "Russia-Africa", which will be held in Sochi.
On the other hand, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the vast majority of African states have realized that there are no strategic prospects in working with the Western centers of power because such a process always ends in the same way as in the days of colonialism. But today, drugs traffic, the creation of terrorist groups, and the illegal trade of weapons have been added to other existing problems such cheap labor and draining resources.
Moreover, wars and internal instability especially in North Africa show the degradation of the continent. Unfortunately, we were not talking about any strategic economic development at all. Therefore, it is quite natural that the states of the continent once again turn their heads in the direction of Moscow. It should be added that China is also not the Soviet Union. Beijing has no goals to form new ideology in region, but it has economic interests. This is not the scale of global integration to which Africa was accustomed in the last century and has something to compare.
All these reasons have led to the fact that Russia is organizing a large forum on African issues to determine the direction of work with this continent for decades. Moreover, there is not under the dictation of Moscow, but it will be organized with the participation of a wide pool of interested organizations. As President Vladimir Putin said, Russia is ready to propose a broad agenda for cooperation.
2. The upcoming Russia-Africa Summit will bring together dozens of heads of state and involve practically all of the continent, so how will this event shape Russia’s comprehensive strategy towards the continent as a whole?
The Russian strategy in relation to the continent has already been developed in general. It is for this reason that the summit will be attended by nearly fifty foreign heads of state. They know what they will gain by participating in this forum, but the main thing they have is trust in the organizers.
The Russia-Africa summit will be an excellent opportunity to direct investments of African businessmen in Russian enterprises and regions, as well as the implementation of national projects in Africa by Russian business. It is planned to form the development prospects for broad inter-regional and cooperative ties with economic entities of the Russian economy, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation of Russia with certain African states, including the development of energy infrastructure and transport communications. After all, if you just look at the map, Africa is the center of the world, which until recently was forgotten and abandoned.
Therefore, Russia has a simple strategy: mutual strengthening of economies against the background of global instability, which will help the world not start a new war. Therefore, the African initiative of Russia should be supported in Europe and the United States.
It should also be noted that Russia does not impose its program on African partners, but plans to discuss with them a common strategy for moving forward and bringing the continent out of permanent crisis
3. The US relies on military means for maintaining its influence in Africa, France uses a combination of financial ones through the CFA Franc and its military bases in Françafrique, while the Chinese prefer loans and infrastructure projects, so what does Russia depend upon and what overall role can it play in this complex geopolitical equation?
Indeed, each center of influence has its own methods of work in Africa. And they are all radically different from each other. You pointed out that the United States relies on military means to maintain its influence on the continent. But where there are military means, there are unofficial methods of force pressure, as usually these methods go hand in hand.
I have already said about Chinese tactics, although Russia is not going to act alone in Africa. I think that all of these countries that are wishing to work in Africa not through force, but through integration mechanisms – such as China, Turkey, etc. – also will pay attention to the "Sochi" proposal. By the way, if we talk about Turkey, it has been sending its specialists to some African countries for a long time, but by definition it does not have enough resources for such an entrance.
Therefore, in cooperation with Russia, all this can happen faster and more reliably. This is the role that Moscow can play in this complex geopolitical equation, as you very accurately said. In addition, Russia has all the necessary resources for such a project. However, no one "will pull" such a huge and responsible project on their own, so Sochi is great opportunity to form a common strategic African pool.
4. Considering everything that was just discussed, how important is Africa becoming in International Relations, and what are your predictions for its future?
The return of Africa to the current world political and economic agenda is extremely important. As I said, this continent fell out of it for several decades, and it is not because of Africa wishes, but because there were ambiguous processes in the world, and because of the collapse of the USSR, which changed the whole course of world development. Now, Africa must take its place in the new world system.
How exactly this will happen will be shown by the upcoming events, which began with the Sochi summit "Russia-Africa". I must say that the new Russia is rediscovering Africa, so it is very interesting for me, as well as for all Russians.
My prediction is that not only the East (Asia), but also the South (Africa) will play a big role in tomorrow's world, where the primary role will be played not by countries but by continents. Therefore, Africa, forgotten by all, once again comes to the forefront in the international context.
By Grigory Trofimchuk
Expert in the field of foreign policy, defense, and security, and Chairman of the Expert Council of the research support fund "Workshop of Eurasian Ideas" based in Moscow
One World Global Think Tank
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