The war in Ukraine has turned Africa into a geopolitical battleground for China, Russia and the US


photo. Kiev and Moscow may be thousands of kilometers away from Africa, but the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was felt across the continent, from Khartoum to Cairo, especially due to the food crisis. Gustavo de Carvalho, a researcher of Russian-African ties at the South African Institute of International Affairs, believes that the war had an impact (mainly indirect) on Sino-African relations, which in many aspects were and are strong. In his opinion, “the conflict has created a new geopolitical reality [nie tylko w Europie – przyp. red.] because China and the West have started a fierce competition for influence in Africa. Last month, the US sent Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield to Africa to counter China’s growing influence while pressuring African countries to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Another delegation of US special envoys attended the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Since launching a “special military operation” a year ago, Russia has sent Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Africa three times in an attempt to win African countries over to its side. Moscow, using mercenaries from the Wagner Group, has also increased its military involvement in African countries, including Libya, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic. The new Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang, began his work with a visit to Africa, visiting five countries: Ethiopia, Angola, Gabon, Benin and Egypt. Despite the growing interest in Africa, many countries have long preferred not to get involved in global disputes, prioritizing their autonomy and independence. However, there are some exceptions. Recall that when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited South Africa last year, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations, Naledi Pandor, said that forcing African countries to condemn Russia was “patronizing” the West. In March last year, South Africa was among a dozen African countries that, along with China, abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite criticism from the United States and some European countries, South Africa is currently conducting joint military exercises with China and Russia, which is opposed by the largest centre-right opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). In her view, such actions “make South Africa complicit in war crimes.” “We are caught up in Russia’s propaganda spectacle,” said DA top politician Kobus Marais. Last month, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre stated that “the United States fears any country … practicing with Russia, especially at a time when it is waging a brutal war with Ukraine.” In response, a spokesman for the Russian consulate in Cape Town stated that “South Africa, like any other country [może – przyp. red.] conduct military exercises with friends around the world.” According to political scientists, many Africans see the double standards of the West, i.e. the intense military support that the West has given to Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees and the lack of similar support in African conflicts. Beijing is taking advantage of this situation cleverly. Benjamin Barton, an expert on China and Africa and associate professor at the University of Nottingham in Malaysia, believes that the war perversely improved China’s position in Africa, significantly improving its image. “Less attention has been paid to what China is doing on the continent, and instead the focus has been on how Moscow sought support from specific African states to legitimize its invasion of Ukraine,” says Barton.

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