Russia’s growing interest in Africa

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After the collapse of Soviet Union, it turned its back on the African continent in the 1990s but under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is making a push to engage once again. The Soviet Union used to have a major presence on the continent but its economic and political clout waned in the post Cold War period. President Vladimir Putin has a vision which depicts that the strengthening of ties with African countries is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities. Moscow sees its presence in Africa in very broad terms, building on ties from Soviet times. Russia has been boosting its political contacts in the region, with 12 African heads of state visiting Moscow since 2015 six of them in 2018 alone. Though Russia’s role in African continent remained limited however the past decade has seen a surge of Russian interest in Africa as the country’s Foreign Ministry reported a 350% increase of trade with African countries over the past decade. Russia has been attempting to regain influence in Africa and the Indian Ocean region in recent years. From a historical perspective, although the former Soviet Union had first begun making port calls along the East African coast astride the southern routes to the Suez Canal in 1965, and it had long wanted to spread its influence in both the Indian sub-continent and in East Africa, it was not until mid 1968 that it had supported these efforts with a growing and continuous naval presence in the Indian Ocean region. Russia is an important defence partner for Africa and the major supplier of arms to the region, but Africa is not its biggest defence market that’s in Asia. However, defence relationships are growing – and since 2014, military co-operation agreements have been signed with 19 African countries. In 2017-18, Russia had weapons deals with Angola, Nigeria, Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea. These included fighter jets, combat and transport helicopters, anti tank missiles and engines for fighter planes. There must be many other developments in the pipeline to further augment the relations between both Nations.

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