Moscow is turning on the charm with African leaders as Putin hosts the first ever Russia-Africa summit, with 43 of the continent’s 54 leaders expected to attend in Sochi from October 23-24. This comes as Trump’s administration appears to be turning its back on the continent, despite the emergence of fast-growing economies.
Putin told Russian news agency TASS: “We are not going to participate in a new ‘repartition’ of the continent’s wealth; rather, we are ready to engage in competition for cooperation with Africa, provided that this competition is civilised.”
The new summit will be held every three years according to the Kremlin, in what seems to be a significant boost in Putin’s wider aims to increase Russian influence throughout the world.
Africa is benefiting from rapid improvements to infrastructure and a resulting growth in the middle class, making economic ventures increasingly lucrative.
Another key tenet to Moscow’s foreign policy is natural resources, as has been seen in its political moves in the Arctic and Venezuela.
Africa has diamonds, minerals and oil in abundance in various areas of the continent, and represents a potential economic opportunity free of Western sanctions that have thwarted Russia following its controversial annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Putin has also regularly expressed his discontent with how the Soviet Union; in 2005 he made a speech in which he expressed that the separation of the Soviet Union was a “disaster”.
This all comes at the expense of the US, with President Trump cutting back military presence and offering little time for political engagement with African leaders.
Trump’s passive policy has already cost Washington in the Middle East, where the withdrawal of US troops from Syria has not only lead to a violent Turkish incursion, but has essentially seen Putin seize control of the region.
The Russian President has influential allies in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and has now seen previous opponents to Assad’s regime, Syrian Democratic Forces, team up with state backed military to help fend off Turkey.
If the Middle East is anything to go by, Trump looks set to relinquish control to Putin in yet another key region.