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British Concerned over Russia’s Economic and Military Influence in Central Africa

April 26 , 2021 (EIRNS)—In view of the recent destabilization of Chad and allegations raised against Turkey and British puppet Qatar as being behind the rebels, it is useful to consider the British geopolitical view of Russia’s presence in Central Africa as part of the broader picture. According to some accounts, the destabilization of Chad aims at the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) as the ultimate target.

In this context, an article by one Samuel Ramani, that the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published on Feb. 12, titled “Russia’s Strategy in the Central African Republic,” accuses Russia of using its presence in the C.A.R. as “a springboard for expanded influence in Central Africa”. In such expansion, Russia is using both military as well as economic assistance.

Russia has been present with military advisors in the C.A.R. under a UN mandate in 2018, and has recently expanded it with 300 more advisors under request by President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. Those advisors and military equipment are helping the government to fight rebels who refused to join the Khartoum agreement mediated by Russia between the C.A.R. government and opposition groups.

In the eyes of the British geopoliticians,

“In addition to bolstering its status and placing itself at the front of the line for mining sector contracts, Russia has used military force and diplomacy to counter France’s longstanding influence in C.A.R. France was the dominant international player during the first years of the civil war. However, the end of Operation Sangaris in October 2016 opened the door for greater Russian influence. Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean, director of the [French Institute of International Relations] IFRI’s Russia-NIS Center, described Russia’s presence in C.A.R. as ‘one of the main irritants’ in Franco-Russian relations and stated that there is ‘no talk of cooperation’ between France and Russia in the country.”

(This is aggravated by the fact that France and others do not want to lift the arms embargo against the C.A.R., which makes the fight against terrorism more difficult, said Valery Zakharov, head of the Russian advisors in the C.A.R., in an interview.)

The RUSI article continues:

“Russia regards its presence in C.A.R. as a springboard for expanded influence in Central Africa. It has strengthened its relationship with the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) by condemning predatory resource extraction by foreign companies. Russia also wants to spearhead large-scale infrastructure projects in the D.R.C. In May 2019, Russia deployed military specialists to the Republic of Congo, and Wagner Group PMCs cooperated with Rwandan security forces in C.A.R. In addition, Russian civilian nuclear energy giant Rosatom views its October 2019 nuclear science center construction deal with Rwanda as a gateway to Central Africa.

“Turning to the diplomatic arena, Russia has stridently opposed external interference in the Burundi and Cameroon security crises and has expanded its informal arbitration role in the D.R.C. If Russia projects diplomatic influence in C.A.R. and eventually establishes a military base there, as Touadéra has requested, Moscow could capitalize on the vacuum of U.S. leadership in Central Africa and strengthen its challenge to French influence in the region.

“As the C.A.R. civil war [the Russians refuse to call it civil war—ed.] passes its eighth anniversary, Russia has emerged as the leading external military and diplomatic stakeholder in the country. Since Touadéra’s short-term position is secure, Russia will seek to counter French power projection displays, such as its 24 December flyover mission, and work with the African Union on a more comprehensive peace settlement. With the international community focused on other challenges—such as extremism in the Sahel, Al-Shabaab’s resurgence in Somalia and the Libyan civil war—Russia’s hegemony in C.A.R. could quietly consolidate in 2021.”

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