Russia in Africa: the ‘covert action’ strategy

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Faustin Archange Touadera, president of the Central African Republic, in St. Petersburg last year. On the ground in the CAR, Moscow has pursued a quieter approach
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera in St. Petersburg, May 2018 (source: dpa)
  • Russia is seeking influence in the Central African Republic, after years of absence on the continent
  • Years of civil war, and the vacuum left behind by recent Western interventions, set the stage for Russia’s arrival
  • Moscow has sent arms and private security personnel, while Russian investors pursue opportunities in the mining sector
  • Lacking the heft of China’s Africa policy but avoiding the moralism of Western powers, Russia’s low-key strategy may well pay off

For about 15 years, China’s strategy on the African continent has received increasing scrutiny from specialists, diplomats and Western political pundits. This interest was clearly visible last September in Beijing, at the third summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

But China is not the only international player to set its sights on the continent and challenge an increasingly fragile Western leadership that is rapidly losing its appeal. The interests of countries such as Turkey, India and Brazil have all been tied to Africa. Now, having been absent from the African scene since the fall of the USSR, Russia seems to be looking for a foothold in the continent.

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