Africa as the theater of a new proximity war between Russia and the Western bloc? Part 1

Par Roger Motaze, Directeur Scientifique du LAB de The Okwelians

While the Cold War ended more than three decades ago, we are witnessing the resurgence of confrontation between East and West in a new theater, which is none other than Africa. At the expense of the people, it appears once again that geopolitical interests are taking precedence over the stability and development of Africa. We will start by illustrating our postulate from two countries.

Libya 

Since the fall of Guide Muammar Gaddafi, the country has been plagued by insecurity.  Behind the bitter struggle for control of the country that pits the Government of National Unity (GNA) of Fayez Al-Sarraj against the National Liberation Army (NLA) of Marshal Haftar, there is a genuine opposition and diverse involvement, the United States and Russia. Although recognized and supported by the United Nations, the NLA controls only Tripoli and its environs. How then can we explain the inaction of the UN body in the face of this conflict that has been going on for more than seven (07) years? The answer lies in the reciprocal neutralization of the members of the Security Council, essentially the Russians and the Americans. It is important to understand that the control of Marshal Haftal is established over a large eastern zone of the country, where the country’s oil deposits are located. Vladimir Putin’s country has undertaken to conclude oil and construction agreements in Libya, which has the largest oil reserves and the fifth largest reserves of natural gas on the African continent.[1]   On the military level, Russian cargo planes have regularly made military expeditions to the ANL forces, carrying military ammunition and soldiers of the pro-Russian Syrian regime.[2]   Beyond that, the country of Vladimir Putin is suspected of having deployed nearly two thousand (2000) mercenaries to fight with the ANL, and nearly a dozen fighter planes to support private military contractors.  On the political level, Russia has systematically opposed the sanctions issued against the ANL by the United Nations Security Council and has allowed the printing of a rival Libyan currency in Russia.[3]


As far as the United States is concerned, the commitment is certainly less direct, but it is just as sustained. Contrary to Russia, which acts in the open, the North American country uses the United Nations but especially Turkey and the anti-Islamic coalition as its horse of three, or pretext.

Since 2011, they (the USA) have officially conducted air strikes and sporadic raids in the country against Islamist groups.  In 2014, U.S. commandos seized an oil tanker bound for anti-government militias and returned it to the Libyan National Government.[4]   While the aegis of the anti-EI coalition may justify U.S. neutrality, support for Fayez is certain. Although Turkey also pursues its own interests in this conflict, it turns out that the old adage of the enemy of my enemy’s enemy is my friend (especially under the circumstances) applies here on several levels. Turkey has periodically transported arms, ammunition and aid to the Fayez government.[5]   Officially in July 2019, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, threatened to declare war on Khalifa Haftar after receiving news of six Turkish citizens arrested by Haftar’s forces. The Turkish parliament voted on January 2, 2020, the agreement to send troops, and armament to help the internationally recognized government of Libya. As for the United Nations, Uncle Sam’s country has multiplied plans to sanction Haftar, but has also worked for talks to be held so that the Marshal could lay down his arms. Although the American interest is not as important as that of the Russians, it is the latter’s involvement that preserves American activism.  While Russia is trying to position itself, the United States will not allow a rise in Russian influence in Libya to flourish.

Central African Republic

It would be a truism to say that this country has been since its independence a preserve of the West, especially of France. This paradigm has changed for almost three years now, because of the military agreements with President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Russia has become an important cooperator, thus challenging the French persuasion. This French preponderance was visible when the violence of 2013 between the Séléka and the Anti-Balak were at their height. The UN deployed the MISCA (International Mission in Support of the Central African Republic under African leadership), which was replaced by MINUSCA (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic). In support of MISCA, France launched Operation Sangaris, composed of nearly 1,200 military personnel. Nearly 08 years later, the security situation in the Central African Republic is perilous, but in the place of French troops at the side of MINUSCA, there is Russia and nearly 300 military instructors.  The National Security Advisor to the Central African President, Valery Zakharov, is a former Russian spy.  To this should be added the private Russian company Wagner which, as in Libya, is seeking financial contracts in a country with diverse natural resources ranging from gold and uranium to hydrocarbons and rare wood species. With regard to its main strategic resource, diamonds, the country is ranked in the top ten most endowed in the world. It could be that Moscow is using the Central African Republic as a back door to larger and more resource-rich economies nearby, including Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville, two other former French prefectures.

Work Cited

  1. Ghanmi Lamine, “Libya’s Islamic militants brag about receiving new Turkish weapons,” The Arab Weekly, May 26th, 2019.
  2. Kanzanci Handan, “New arms shipments come for Haftar forces: Libyan army”, Anadolu Agency, February 8th, 2020.
  3. Londono Ernesto, Hauslohner Abigail, “U.S. Navy SEALs take over oil tanker for return to Libya”, The Washington Post, March 17th, 2014.
  4. Robinson Kali, “Who’s Who in Lybia’s War”? Council on Foreign Relations, June 18th, 2020.

[1] Kali Robinson, “Who’s Who in Lybia’s War”? Council on Foreign Relations, June 18th, 2020.

[2] Handan Kanzanci, “New arms shipments come for Haftar forces: Libyan army”, Anadolu Agency, February 8th, 2020.

[3] Robinson, “Who’s Who in Lybia’s War”?

[4]  Ernesto Londono Ernesto, Abigail Hauslohner, “U.S. Navy SEALs take over oil tanker for return to Libya”, The Washington Post, March 17th, 2014.

[5] Lamine Ghami, “Libya’s Islamic militants brag about receiving new Turkish weapons,” The Arab Weekly, May 26th, 2019.

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