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West 'Scared' by Close Russia-Africa Relations, Russian MPs Say

© Sputnik / Kirill Kallinikov / Go to the mediabankThe building of the State Duma of the Russian Federation on Okhotny Ryad Street in Moscow with the illumination on.
The building of the State Duma of the Russian Federation on Okhotny Ryad Street in Moscow with the illumination on. - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.03.2023
The year 2023 has marked a further development of Russia-Africa ties. Russia has held joint naval exercises with China and South Africa and is now preparing to host the second Russia-Africa Summit in July. Beyond that, this year has seen Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov visit Africa in January and February.
Africa has disappointed the Western world with its pragmatic approach to Russia, and while there are attempts to drive a wedge into relations, they are clearly not successful, and Russia has only benefitted from that so far, members of parliament interviewed by Sputnik say.
Recently, contacts between Russia and African countries have intensified. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this year made a tour of African countries. Moreover, this year will see further major events involving Russia and Africa. On March 19-20, Moscow will host the second Russia-Africa international parliamentary conference, the main topic of which is the multipolar world. The conference is a preoperational event ahead of the second Russia-Africa Summit, which will take place in Saint Petersburg in July.
On the eve of the inter-parliamentary conference, Sputnik asked lawmakers what closer contacts between Russia and Africa mean in the modern world.

"It is no accident that Russian-African relations have become the target of heightened Western activity," said Konstantin Kosachev, vice speaker of the Federation Council.

The reasons for the West's concern are simple – these are either its political or economic goals. Speaking of the former, as Kosachev recalled, up to half of the countries in Africa have opposed, abstained from, or refused to vote on anti-Russian resolutions since March 2022. And the "selfish motive" that Western countries suddenly "remembered" their former colonies was seen and realized in Africa.
"The African continent has become a problem for Washington and its allies in their attempts to present their 'proxy war' against Russia as the actions of the entire world community," he points out.
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The presence of Russia on the continent is also worrying for another reason – the expansion of markets for Moscow, resulting in losses for the West.

"Russia's expansion of markets for manufactured products, cooperation in the extraction of natural resources, opposition to American hegemony – these and other touchpoints between Russia and Africa make the West nervous," said Dmitry Belik, member of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs.

The pragmatic approach of African countries, as well as the unwillingness to support anti-Russian sentiments, has disappointed the West, and against the backdrop of unsuccessful visits by American and European politicians to the continent, the Russia-Africa Summit planned in Russian Saint Petersburg also causes concern among foreign partners, the members of parliament add.

"Africa disappointed the Western world – Washington, Brussels, London, – Africa did not accept the Western point of view in the Ukrainian conflict and denied the Anglo-Saxons' senseless isolation of Russia," deputy head of the Russian inter-parliamentary group Yevgeny Popov emphasized.

At the same time, as Vladimir Dzhabarov, the first deputy head of the International Committee of the Federation Council, points out, the West is not "finished" with Africa, and they know it. However, visits by Western officials to Africa have not yet made a difference.

"Western politicians, including the leaders of France and Germany, the US secretary of state and secretary of the Treasury, have frequented Africa. But the effect of these visits is not at all triumphant," Konstantin Kosachev noted, adding that at the upcoming summit, Russia will try to fully justify the West's concerns.

For instance, December last year saw the US-Africa Leaders Summit hosted by the US, which took place without the participation of Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. The first four countries did not receive an invitation from the US, and Zimbabwe was still under Western sanctions, which includes a travel ban.
In contrast to the US, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said, Moscow is inviting all African countries to the upcoming Russia-Africa Summit.
The US-led event was also criticized by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova for Washington's "inability to engage in equal dialogue and fair competition."
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Along with events such as the US-Africa Summit, widely viewed as part of US attempts to impede the growing influence of Russia and China in Africa, the West also does not rule out attempts to directly interfere in relations between Moscow and Africa. As Belik admitted, new sanctions could become an instrument of such interference.

"They will definitely try to get in and drive a wedge into our relations with African countries, scatter distrust of Russia," Dzhabarov added.

As for the attempts to "drive a wedge" between Russia and Africa, in May 2022, the US House of Representatives adopted the "Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act," which allows the US to punish African nations if they expand their ties with Russia in certain areas, supporting the decision by stating that Moscow's activities in Africa could "undermine United States objectives and interests".
The bill has repeatedly been criticized by both Russia and African nations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called it "an American provocation" that harms primarily Africans themselves and reflects the West's colonial approach to the countries of the continent.
Along with him, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, during his meeting with US President Joe Biden on the margins of last year's US-Africa Summit, said the bill would harm Africa and "marginalize" the continent.
Speaker of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe Jacob Mudenda also expressed displeasure with the bill, stating that African countries reacted with disgust to it, as it infringes on African nations' sovereignty and territorial integrity.
At the same time, Popov notes that the West is annoyed by any activity of Russia on the continent – "whether it be trade or recent exercises together with South Africa."
Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, second right, with Chinese naval officers attend the Armed Forces Day in Richards Bay, South Africa, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.02.2023
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Recently, South Africa hosted its second trilateral naval military exercises with Russia and China, which have been repeatedly criticized by the West.
For instance, even before the beginning of the drills, David Feldmann, spokesperson for the US Embassy in South Africa, and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre expressed concern over South Africa's preparations for the exercises.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry also slammed South Africa for participating in the drills and accused it of "adopting the experience of the Russian military machine."
Speaking about interactions between Russia and Africa, Yevgeny Popov said that in the West "they are seen, and absolutely unreasonably, as a threat. But, nevertheless, Africa is in the near future 1/4 of the planet's population."
Besides the West's attempts to hinder the development of relations between Russia and African nations, the members of parliament also point out positive outcomes of the long-running friendship between Africa and Russia.

"Our relations [with Africa] have a long history. Do not forget that it was Russia that stood at the origins of African countries gaining independence. It was thanks to Russia that the well-known colonial empires of France, Belgium, Portugal, and Great Britain in Africa were destroyed. The African peoples remember that very well and have always treated Russia warmly," Dzhabarov noted.

Relations between Moscow and African countries are natural, and as Kosachev noted, despite the fact that Africa is not pro-Russian and anti-Western, there is a clear unity in the main matter: the countries of the "continent of the future" no longer want to be participants and hostages of new cold wars between great powers.
It is important to build mutually beneficial relations with Africa, now Russia is building up this interaction, the members of parliament emphasize. According to Popov, several dozen lawmakers are engaged in establishing inter-parliamentary relations.

"That is why the Russia-Africa summit is so important: our hydrocarbons, fertilizers, food, technologies, including military ones, education are important for Africa. And Russia's peacekeeping efforts too. Africa, tormented by colonial conflicts and slavery, needs a stable and equal partnership. I think this will be one of our most successful joint summits," he concluded.

This year's Russia-Africa Summit is a follow-up on the first meeting between Russia and African nations in October 2019 in Sochi, which was attended by 54 African delegations and resulted in 92 agreements and memoranda being concluded.
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