JOHANNESBURG- The U.S. has slammed the Kremlin over this week’s Russia-Africa Summit. A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the U.S. expects the Summit to be “more focused on messaging than on substance.”
The spokesperson added, “We have no indications that Russia is making meaningful commitments at the Summit, nor that Russia is intending to follow through on these commitments.”
Analysts say that Russia is sending Africa conflicting signals – both giving and taking away. Kenya’s leader didn’t attend the Summit, after Russia pulled the plug on allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported. “The decision by Russia to exit the Black Sea Grain initiative is a stab on the back (sic) at global food security,” tweeted Korir Sing’Oei, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
The Kremlin’s drones also bombed Ukrainian grain silos, destroying 60,000 tonnes of grain, officials said. All smiles at the Summit though, as Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, offered some free grain to six of Africa’s poorest countries and talked about debt relief. But Russia’s grain ships have yet to set sail. “These summits are long on promises and short on delivery,” Steven Gruzd, Head of the Africa-Russia Project at the South African Institute of International Affairs, told Fox News Digital.
Referring to the multiple promises made by Russia at the last Summit with Africa, Gruzd added that “little has materialized by way of deals since 2019.”
Cameron Hudson put it even stronger, “Russia made big promises at the last summit but failed to deliver on any of them.” Hudson, a Senior Associate in the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies added, “In particular, promises of increased trade and investment never materialized.”
The State Department pointed out to Fox News Digital that 46 African leaders went to Washington for last December’s U.S.-Africa Summit, whereas only 17 heads of state turned up in St. Petersburg for the Russia-Africa event. That is less than half the number of leaders who attended the 2019 Summit staged by the Kremlin.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has metaphorically held a gun in one hand and a dove in the other at the Summit, discussing with the Kremlin closer military ties, and leading an African peace initiative for Ukraine with President Putin.
This is nothing but hypocritical hype, Emma Louise Powell, Shadow Minister for International Relations in the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition party, told Fox News Digital. “South Africa cannot pledge mutual military and security cooperation with Russia as our President has done this week, at the same time attempting to mediate an end to the war. This is not neutrality, it is hypocrisy.”
So, why do African countries like to cozy up with Putin, irritating both the U.S. and Europe? “Many African nations see a U.S. hegemony in a unipolar or perhaps bipolar, with China, world,” the CSIS’s Hudson commented. “It is a widely held sentiment among African nations that they are more empowered and better off in a multipolar world where they cannot be dictated to by great powers but rather where they can pick and choose their partnership based on terms that are most advantageous to them,” said Hudson who previously served as director for African affairs at the National Security Council.
Many say that African countries are playing a dangerous game – quite possibly with real live ammunition. In May, the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, announced that he was “confident” this African country had supplied arms to the Kremlin, when a sanctioned Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, docked at a naval base near Cape Town. South African President Ramaphosa this week wrote in his regular newsletter that an inquiry into what was on the ship was on track, but gave no further details.
However, the incident at the small Simon’s Town dockyard took place seven months ago. As a result, South Africa is being accused of a cover-up to protect Russia. When approached this week, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “The U.S. government shared information pertaining to the Lady R and its presence in South Africa in early December 2022.”
The South African Defense Minister, Thandi Modise, even made a joke about the situation, mentioning a popular local chewing gum, Chappies. Speaking in Parliament, Modise said, “We did not send f*k*l (Afrikaans for nothing) to Russia, not even a piece of Chappies.”
Others do not see the situation as funny. At all.
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News Digital this week, “South Africa gladly accepts U.S. trade preferences and development assistance, while it allows seemingly corrupt exchanges of arms with an aggressor state responsible for slaughtering the Ukrainian people.”
South Africa’s Shadow Foreign Minister, Emma Louise Powell, lashed out: “Hiding this report from public view will rob the people of South Africa of the opportunity to hold those responsible for this diplomatic crisis accountable.”
Analysts say that many powerful voices on the Hill are increasingly irritated by how close South Africa is getting to the Kremlin, and questioning whether it’s time for duty-free import deals such as AGOA to be cut off by Washington. “The Biden Administration should use existing authorities to reevaluate the scope and scale of our current engagement with South Africa’s government, including its participation in AGOA,” Sen. Risch added.