Russian President Vladimir Putin, after visiting the Middle East to seek stronger ties, is now focussed on re-establishing influence in the African continent. The Russia-Africa Summit is scheduled for October 23-24 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in Russia.
Russia would want to take advantage of Africa’s demography and build on China-led improved infrastructure. Africa is known for natural assets like diamonds but Russia will rely on its age-old business of weapons.
“We are not going to participate in a new ‘repartition’ of the continent’s wealth; rather, we are ready to engage in competition for cooperation with Africa, provided that this competition is civilized,” Putin told a Russian news agency.
Russia is the top exporter of weapons in Africa and the current engagement hints at further expansion. “Weapons exports to Africa facilitate Russia’s broader diplomatic efforts to cultivate military, political, and security ties and expand its influence in Africa to compete with the United States, France, and China,” wrote Paul Stronski for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Recently, Putin visited Saudi Arabia after offering to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran amidst escalating tensions. Putin, in an interview with Arab media, had lauded his ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While many countries, including the UK, France, Russia, and the US blamed Iran for the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, Putin has been treading cautiously and never directly held Iran responsible for it.
In an apparent remark on attacks on Saudi oil facilities, Putin had emphasized that such actions will not affect the cooperation between Russia, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. He said that anyone who thinks that it will undermine Russia’s cooperation with OPEC plus is “profoundly wrong”. Putin stressed the need for dialogue among countries to iron out their differences. He said that in the case of bilateral issues, it is up to those countries to resolve.