14 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JUNE 13-19, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Iron Fist Russia aims to expand its influence and power in African countries, edging out the West. By The Arab Weekly FORUM Russia’s top diplomat pledged help and military assistance while on a whirlwind tour of several countries in Africa’s sub-Saharan region of Sahel in early June, as Moscow seeks to grow its influence in the restive, mineral-rich section of the continent. Russia is emerging as the security partner of choice for a growing number of African governments in the region, displacing traditional allies such as France and the U.S. Sergey Lavrov, who has made several trips to Africa in recent years, recently stopped in Guinea, the Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso and Chad. Moscow has aggressively expanded its military cooperation with African nations by using the private security company Wagner and its likely successor, Africa Corps, with Russian mercenaries taking up roles from protecting African leaders to helping states fight extremists. Moscow is also seeking political support, or at least neutrality, from many of Africa’s 54 countries over its invasion of Ukraine. African nations make up the largest voting bloc at the United Nations. Russia-linked entities also spread disinformation to undermine ties between African states and the West, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (a U.S. DoD institution) wrote in a March report. Moscow has been “sponsoring 80 documented campaigns, targeting more than 22 countries,” it said. Russia has thrived in countries where governance is limited, and has signed mining deals through companies it controls. An EU parliament study showed that Russia secured access to gold and diamonds in the Central African Republic, cobalt in Congo, gold and oil in Sudan, chromite in Madagascar, platinum and diamonds in Zimbabwe and uranium in Namibia. The nonprofit Democracy 21 reported last December that Wagner and Russia may have made about $2.5 billion through the African gold trade alone since invading Ukraine in February 2022. The first reports of Wagner mercenaries in Africa emerged in late 2017, when the group was deployed to Sudan to provide support to then-President Omar al-Bashir, in exchange for gold mining concessions. Wagner’s presence soon expanded to other African countries. Coups in Mali in 2020 and 2021, in Burkina Faso in 2022 and in Niger in 2023, brought military juntas critical of the West to power. All three eventually ordered French and other Western forces out, and instead turned to Russia for military support. The U.S. has lost its footing with key allies for forcing issues, including democracy and human rights, that many African states see as hypocrisy, given Washington’s close ties to some autocratic leaders elsewhere. Niger ordered the U.S. to withdraw its troops and close its multimillion dollar flagship investment in a sprawling military base in Agadez earlier this year, after a meeting with a U.S. delegation ended poorly. Weeks later, Russian trainers arrived in Niger with new defense equipment. This story first appeared in The Arab Weekly. OPINION The U.S. has lost its footing with key allies. ♦ 3 Card Poker ♠ Century 21st No Bust Black Jack ♣ Texas Hold’em ♥ Baccarat FULL BAR! BLACKJACK BONUS POINTS PAYS UP TO $20,000 SMALL TOWN BIG PAYOUTS! 1-800-Gambler • Gega-003846, Gega-Gega-003703, Gega-000889 Gega-000891 Gega-002838 The Marina Club Casino ensures the safety and security of all guests and team members at all times, while providing exceptional service. 204 Carmel Ave. Marina 831-384-0925 casinomonterey.com ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ Just minutes from Downtown Monterey Where Monterey Comes To Play ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES Stop By To Shop And Find Your Vintage Treasure OVER 100 DEALERS 21,000 SQUARE FEET The Largest Antiques and Collectibles Mall on the Central Coast 471 WAVE STREET MONTEREY (831) 655-0264 P M canneryrowantiquemall.com Open Daily 11am-6pm ’23 Voted Monterey County's Best Antique Shop