Russian Weapons Flood Africa.

Russian arms are flooding into Africa. Reports say between 39% (Global Risk Insights) to 49% (The National Interest) of all weapons exported to Africa are Russian. Weapons include, but are not limited to:

  • Helicopters
  • Tanks
  • Armored vehicles
  • Anti-tank missiles
  • Anti-ship missiles
  • Air defense systems
  • Fighter aircraft
  • Small arms

America, France and now China have been providing weapons to Africa for a long time, but Russia’s offerings have the advantages of being low cost, reliable, and come with liberal financing. That is a hard to beat package, even for China.

A list of countries buying Russian include:

  • Burkina Faso
  • Mali
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Angola
  • Egypt
  • Algeria

Moscow Times has reported that Russian arms sales to Africa are somewhere in the $50-$55 billion. This commerce in arms shows a renewed Russian interest in Africa, which went dormant after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Reports suggest that Russian interest in the region is threefold:

  • The importing of raw materials to Russia including diamonds, bauxite and platinum
  • The supplying of sophisticated, reliable and affordable weapons without any human rights baggage
  • The seconding of Russian “contractors” such as the Wagner group to prop up certain regimes and add influence political outcomes where possible throughout Africa.

Russia’s gain, in addition to commercial benefits, is to put Russia back on the African continent as an influencer as it once was in the heyday of revolution and the end of colonialism.

Is that strategy working? It is hard to say what will happen in the long run, but for now, Russian cash registers are ringing, and business is very good.

What do you think about this? Please let us know your thoughts on this topic or on the broader topic of the global arms trade. We are always glad to hear from you.

Photo: Dimitry Terekhov via flickr

In The African Sahel Of 2021 There is Sand and Heat – But No Easy Solutions.

Since 2014 France has had a military presence in Africa’s Sahel named operation Barkhane. Africa’s Sahel region lies between the sands of the Sahara and the jungle of the savannah and is made up of several countries includes Mauritania, Mali, Niger Burkina Faso, and Chad.

The purpose of operation Barkhane is counter-insurgency, or the suppression of a whole range of Islamic fundamentalists of different stripes. Forces arrayed against the insurgents include:

  • French military forces
  • United Nations Forces (MINUSMA)
  • Forces of the G5 Sahel
  • Task Force Takuba (European Special Forces)

Anti-government and Islamist forces include a wide spectrum of organizations including:

  • Al Qaeda In Islamic Maghreb’s (AQUIM)
  • Jama’at Nursat al Islam (JNIM)
  • Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP)
  • Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS)

Fighting has taken its toll on French forces and particularly on the UN’s MINUSA which suffered a reported 200 casualties already. Some high profile Islamist figures have been targeted and eliminated, but the insurgents are by no means finished.

President Macron of France has an unpopular war on his hands with only about 50% support or less at home. In addition, the French are portrayed as neo-colonialists by their many in the region. It seems Macron is trying to energize the G5 Sahel countries to take responsibility for their own security with mixed results.

Recent history has shown clearly what happens when the Islamic State takes power and the misery and suffering it inflicts up its unwilling “citizens.” So were France and the other coalition partners to withdraw, lawlessness would unfold followed by the establishment of the most repressive of regimes if what we have seen when IS held power in the recent past.

Another factor is that Metropolitan France is not that far away, and political chaos and widespread repression by IS would trigger not only mass migration but also the possibility of attacks both on France and other EU states as well by emboldened militants from the Sahel.

History shows us very few examples of where insurgent forces were eliminated or rendered harmless. The question then is what can be done? Would a giant United Nations presence be the answer, allowing France to withdraw? Could the G5 Sahel become efficient enough themselves to handle the situation?

It could be said that France is riding on the back of a tiger with only two choices, to continue to ride, or to get off and face the consequences. There are no easy solutions in the Sahel in 2021, only difficult and complex problems and questions.

Let us know your thoughts on this.

Photo: Minestere des Armees via facebook.

The Year Begins With A Bang.

Well, 2020 started off with bang. We are not quiet getting back to things as usual but starting things from a very dangerous place. World tensions were ramped right up to a 9.0 over the US airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Tensions have been high since Donald Trump became president, and now they have gone to an all-time high.

As written in an earlier RG21 post, Iran is no match for the US one on one. Iran, however, does have the ability to conduct asymmetric warfare against the US through it naval and Special Forces and its proxies throughout the region.

Even before this, there were signs that things are changing in the region. December 2019 saw the first combined Iranian, Chinese, Russian naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman. If there was ever a sign of the waning and waxing of world powers, this could be it. America’s decline in world power and prestige could be traced to these exercises.

2020 also no relief for China in its ongoing problem in Hong Kong. All indications are that this problem will continue throughout the year although council elections in 2019 might have given the democratic opposition the face it needed to be seen as legitimate and to be taken seriously. China’s best bet is to let Hong Kong air its grievances through the ballot box and to responsibly govern under the One Country, Two Systems scheme.

The British people have sent a clear message about Brexit: it is their will that it happen. Before there was doubt, but the election was a “second referendum” and Boris Johnson is empowered to perform Brexit and bring Britain out of the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron has his own set of problems and demonstrations on a Hong Kong scale minus the violence. It is just possible that Macron will hold on for a long time and join the ranks of France’s most respected presidents.

And the United States is scheduled to have a presidential election in November that will decide whether Donald Trump and the Republicans get another four years, or whether the Democrats can cobble together a coalition of voters strong enough to gain the White House and the senate. The events of the first week of January indicate that 2020 will be truly memorable–that is, if things continue at the current pace.

What is your opinion and what are your predictions for 2020? Please share your ideas with us.

Photo: Ancient Persian Guardsman via flickr.