As already well-known, since Soviet days, Russia has pursued a pragmatic policy aimed at enhancing multidimensional ties with the countries of the continent on the bilateral and multilateral basis. Experts say while building mutually beneficial cooperation remains one of the main priorities of Russia, its economic cooperation with Africa has hit stumbling blocks, for example, trade turnover with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa for the period from January to December 2015 was estimated at US$ 3.3 billion.
Few would argue that Russia’s recent display of military assertiveness, in both its hybrid confrontation in Ukraine and recent intervention in Syria, is antithetical to its proposed self-image as a regional power. This is largely the basis of Emil Aslan Souleimanov’s article explaining how Russia is using the threat of the Islamic State to attempt to reinstate political-military hegemony throughout the former Soviet states. But Souleimanov missed the broader aspect of Vladimir Putin’s true motivations in the Middle East and throughout the Caucasus: countering perceived U.S. and NATO hegemony in the region and beyond.
On March 18th, 2014 following a popular self-determination referendum of the people of Crimea the Russian Federation declared re-annexation of the Crimean Peninsula which was annexed by the Soviet Ukraine in 1954. Nevertheless, the western global corporative media, politicians and statesmen classified such act as a matter of “aggression, violation of international law and unlawful occupation of a part of a territory of internationally recognized independent state and the UN’s member”.
For the United States and the now brainless Europe, initially the Russia-EU Summit in Sochi in March 2014 had been cancelled due to the Ukrainian crisis, but later, after the regular referendum which saw the peaceful annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol with over 4,000 votes, the relations between Russia and the West continued only at G7 level.
After the collapse of the Soviet empire, Russia has steadily shown interest in many spheres, ranging from political consultations through business and economic cooperation to culture with African countries. Of a special focus, Russia attaches significance to deepening trade and investment cooperation with Africa.
Over the past few years, Russian authorities have been prioritizing media cooperation and the use of soft power to address the falling image of Russia among the political and business elites in Africa. The authorities have also made persistent efforts to inform the elites and business community about the positive developments and emerging economic opportunities in Russia, but Russian media and policy experts say there is still much room for improvement.
Russia has come back to play lead role in international affairs with its direct involvement in Syrian crisis even if it has done so with the tacit approval of the other veto members including China which refuses to get involved in regional tensions, unless the development directly affects the Chinese national interest.