A look at the Russian military threat in Africa

By Hannely Storm

ON October 11, 2019, a local weekly paper published an article under the heading ‘Leaked documents reveal Russian effort to exert influence in Africa’. Some searching on the internet revealed that it’s a partial reprint from The Guardian, a British daily newspaper. Notably, the article appeared in the latter four months before.

In this connection the question is why did the editorial board of the newspaper publish the article again and now? If to recall that the first Russian-Africa summit in Sochi takes place in a few days the answer is on the run-off: the reprint is a politically motivated order of Russia’s Western opponents, specifically London or Washington.

Both of them are gnashing their teeth at even a slight movement of growing Russia on the international scene. Given that western diplomats are present in a very truncated form, everything points that the publication is the doing of the Americans in order to deter the Russian government from strengthening relations with the African continent.

Now let’s talk about the content of the article. To be frank, there is nothing new in it. It is nothing but another piece of fake news, which the western press is filled with nowadays. Moreover it is primitive and unfounded.

All the way, the authors (Luke Harding, expelled from Russia for his abusive articles about President Putin, and Jason Burke, based in Johannesburg) refer to unspecified documents obtained by a certain ‘Dossier Center’, an investigative unit based in London and funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian businessman and exiled Kremlin critic.

Should this source of information be trusted after that? But what is more important is that nothing is said in the article about a primary source from where the ‘documents’ leaked. Consequently, how to rely on them?

The thrust of the article is that Russia increases its military presence in Africa. As ‘evidence’ of this, the authors invoke the Russian peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, the alleged presence of a team of Russian army specialists in the DRC, and supposed military agreements of Kremlin with about 20 African states. And nothing else!

But even if it is true, what’s wrong with it? Is it not appropriate for C.A.R. to introduce proper order in the country or one that wants to sell its weaponry (by the way, they are of high quality but several times cheaper than the western made) to Africa?

The authors try to bark empty threats. They’d better write about real menaces, such as US military expansion all over the world, including Africa, while using reliable facts.

For example, according to the Pentagon’s worldwide property portfolio it maintains 514 outposts in 164 foreign countries. Put differently, it has a military presence of some sort in approximately 84 percent of the nations on this planet!

The overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition (a group of military analysts who advocate shrinking the U.S. military’s global “footprint” (note that the United States possesses up to 95 percent of the world’s foreign military bases). Meanwhile countries like France, Russia and the United Kingdom have perhaps 10-20 outposts each. China has just one.

In the latest Department of Defence report the number of those troops exceeds 44,000. The cost of deploying U.S. military personnel overseas, as well maintaining and running those foreign bases, tops out an estimated $150 billion annually.

A recent investigation by Intercept, an online news publication, based on documents obtained from U.S. Africa command (AFRICOM) through the Freedom of Information Act, revealed a network of 34 bases heavily clustered in the north and west of that continent, as well as in the Horn of Africa.

The Pentagon’s official inventory does include the two forward operating sites: Ascension Island and the crown jewel of Washington’s African bases, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which expanded from 88 acres in the early 2000s to nearly 600 acres today.

The official Pentagon tally also mentions a site that goes by the confusing moniker of “NSA Bahrain-Kenya.” AFRICOM had previously described it as a collection of warehouses built in the 1980s at the airport and seaport of Mombasa, Kenya.

Another AFRICOM based in Kenya is Camp Simba, mentioned in a 2013 internal Pentagon study of secret drone operations in Somalia and Yemen. Personnel from that same air wing can be found at another outpost – Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger.

Some outposts are situated nearby Cameroon, including a long-time base in Douala, a drone airfield in Garoua, and a facility known in Salak. That site – according to a 2017 investigation by Intercept, the research firm Forensic Architecture and Amnesty International – had been used by U.S. personnel and private contractors for drone surveillance and training missions and by allied Cameroonian forces for illegal imprisonment and torture.

For the last ten 10 years , AFRICOM has sought to define its presence as limited in scope and its outposts as small, temporary, and little more than local bases where Americans are tenant. For instance, on a visit to a U.S. Facility in Senegal, AFRICOM Chief Waldhauser took pains to emphasize that the U.S. had no intention of establishing a permanent base there.

“The U.S. footprint on the African continent has grown markedly over the past decade to promote U.S. security interest on the continent,” said one navy commander. Gentlemen from The Guardian and those who secretly place their political orders to crooked African newspapers, shame on all of you!

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