NEWNow you can listen to Fox News articles!
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Secretary of State Anthony Blinken flies to the battlefield of the superpowers when he travels to Africa this weekend. But he’s not the new Captain America in the Marvel movie. Rather, he is the latest high-ranking diplomat to enter the arena of a struggle for influence on the continent between the US, China and Russia.
Over the past few weeks, emissaries from Washington and Russia have traded accusations about Ukraine and related food problems with each other during meetings with African leaders.
“People are starving. People are suffering,” the US ambassador to the UN said. Linda Thomas-Greenfield how she fired a volley at the Kremlin. “The reason that there is currently a food security crisis on the African continent is the unprovoked Russian attack on Ukraine.”
Responding to the Biden administration, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hit back that swept across Africa last week by saying that Africa’s food shortages are “due to the absolutely inadequate response of the West, which has imposed sanctions, undermining the availability of food in the markets.”
After his trip to Asia, Blinken will arrive on the continent this weekend and, as the State Department noted, he will send a message that “African countries are geostrategic players.” Blinken will put on the friendliest face when he sits down with the leaders. South AfricaDemocratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda over the next week.
“The timing and intentions of Blinken’s visit are clear and unambiguous,” Priyal Singh, a senior fellow at the Institute for Security Studies, told Fox News. There is “geopolitical competition for influence among African states following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
“While the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister more or less served as an illustration that Russia could turn to partners on the continent to cope with its growing isolation among Western states, Blinken’s visit could accordingly further highlight the renewed geostrategic importance and importance of for the continent,” he added.
But the secretary of state will not feel like everything is going smoothly, Singh says: “Blinken will have to be especially tactful about how the US is Invasion of Ukrainegiven the fact that key foreign policy and decision makers in the ruling parties of several African states have an ingrained worldview in international affairs.”
That’s an understatement when it comes to Blinken’s first stop, South Africa. The country is a member of BRICS, a trade and political fan club that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China. Politicians here still believe in retribution for the Kremlin’s historic support for the overthrow of apartheid. South Africa was one of 17 countries that abstained from voting. United Nations General Assembly vote, not condemn Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
“South Africa cares about what happens in Ukraine,” Clason Moniela, head of public diplomacy at the South African equivalent of the State Department, told Fox News. “We continue to emphasize that dialogue, mediation and diplomacy is the only way to end the current conflict.”
Emphasizing South Africa’s support for the non-aligned movement and indicating that Pretoria would not take sides on the Ukraine issue, Moniela added: “We resist being drawn into a policy of confrontation and aggression advocated by powerful countries.”
The Biden administration is having a hard time trying to influence African countries to take Washington’s position. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni this week, and in translating a diplomatic speech, the US envoy really got his point across: “They discussed efforts to mitigate the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on global food security and commodity prices.” This was announced by the acting official representative of the US mission to the UN Melissa Quartell.
But the seat she sat in at the State House was still warm from Lavrov’s visit just a few days ago. If he stood next to Minister of Foreign Affairs of RussiaMuseveni lyrically put it: “If Russia makes mistakes, we will tell them about it,” he said, “but when they do not make mistakes, we cannot be against them.”
When Museveni was asked about Thomas-Greenfield, his response was not so friendly: “No one can give us instructions,” he told the BBC.
Analysts say another sign that the US is not getting its way in Africa is the warning not to buy Russian oil or gas that Thomas-Greenfield issued immediately after she walked out of the meeting with Museveni: “If the country decides to enter into a Russia, where there are sanctions, they violate these sanctions.” And she added: “then … they have a chance that action will be taken against them.”
Secretary Blinken did not hint at any such threats. But even before his plane entered African airspace this weekend, the Atlantic Council joined others in criticizing the timing of the trip. “This visit is almost overdue as it follows Lavrov’s,” Ambassador Rama Yade, senior director of the Council’s Africa Center, told Fox News.
“South Africa and beyond the African continent itself is so strategically important that everyone should have understood this before Lavrov’s trip. Moscow treats African countries as strategic partners.”
Yade concluded that support in Africa largely favors Russia: “Vladimir Putin attended the last BRICS summit as a guest of honor, while Vladimir Zelensky’s online speech at the African Union (AU) summit in June was followed only by the heads of four African states.