Russia’s Military Mission Creep Advances to a New Front: Africa


The ties between Russia and the Central African Republic have drawn particular attention in the West. The two countries signed a military cooperation agreement last year, and Wagner Group mercenaries began showing up in Central African Republic.

“Russia has bolstered its influence with increased military cooperation including donations of arms, with which it has gained access to markets and mineral extraction rights,” General Waldhauser said in March in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. “With minimal investment, Russia leverages private military contractors, such as the Wagner Group, and in return receives political and economic influence beneficial to them.”

The United States Treasury Department two years ago imposed sanctions against the mercenary company, which is also known as PMC Wagner, accusing it of recruiting and sending soldiers to fight alongside pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. Recruits from the company have also been sent to Syria, where scores, and possibly hundreds, of them died in February 2018 during a firefight with American forces.

Two weeks ago, the Russian deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, discussed prospects for broadening cooperation with President Faustin-Archange Touadéra of the Central African Republic. The increased aid would include “the training of national personnel, and the strengthening of security and stability in this friendly African country,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

The announcement drew a cool response days later from senior French officials. “We feel very much concerned by the growing Russian influence in a country that we know well, the Central African Republic,” Florence Parly, France’s minister of armed forces, told reporters on a recent visit to Washington.

Russia is also seeking new economic markets and energy resources, in some cases rekindling relationships with countries that were in place during the Soviet era. Russia has major oil and gas interests in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria, according to the Pentagon.

“They are trying to seize the spoils,” Gen. Tony Thomas, who on Friday retired as the head of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, said last year at a security conference at the University of Texas at Austin. “They are very active.”

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Source link : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/31/world/africa/russia-military-africa.html

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Publish date : 2019-03-31 19:41:15

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