Russia’s ‘Return’ to Africa Is Less Than the Sum of Its Parts

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, with leaders of African countries at the Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Oct. 24, 2019 (pool photo by Sergei Chirikov via AP Images).
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, with leaders of African countries at the Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Oct. 24, 2019 (pool photo by Sergei Chirikov via AP Images).
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Over the past several years, international policymakers, primarily in the West, as well as journalists and commentators have frequently called attention to Russia’s renewed interest in expanding its footprint in Africa. These discussions of “Russia’s return” to Africa are usually couched in a fearmongering, manichean framework of competition, ostensibly within what are regarded as Western spheres of influence in Africa. They also frequently feature calls for Western policymakers to “counter” Russia’s activities in Africa, bolstered with references to the malevolent ways Russia exerts influence among governments and publics on the continent, including—but by no means limited to—disinformation campaigns, arms sales, […]

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