The Russia-Africa summit this week could not have been held at a more timely juncture in international relations. The event symbolizes seminal global change, which ultimately heralds a better future for humanity, despite the dangerous and terrible wrench associated with that change in the present.
Amid the dreadful NATO-fueled proxy war in Ukraine with Russia, leaders of nearly 50 African nations attended the two-day forum in St Petersburg, hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The conflict in Ukraine has been raging for more than 500 days and is in danger of spiralling out of control into an all-out world war between the United States-led Western states and Russia.
Washington and its NATO allies have spurned any attempt to end the bloody war through diplomatic means. African voices imploring a peaceful settlement have been dismissed with typical Western arrogance.
Indeed, the Western powers are recklessly escalating the violence by goading the Kiev regime, which seized control of Ukraine via a CIA-backed coup in 2014, to commit ever more infantry in a suicidal conflict.
This war has wreaked havoc on global food supplies and prices which have hit Africa’s 1.3 billion population mercilessly. Russia is the world’s biggest supplier of wheat and other grains, accounting for about 20 per cent of the total. Ukraine accounts for about 7 per cent.
Of course, the war has badly impacted global supplies and prices. But who started this conflict and who is preventing its end? The U.S. and its so-called security alliance NATO take full responsibility.
“On the one hand, Western countries are obstructing supplies of our grain and fertilizers, while on the other they hypocritically blame us for the current crisis situation on the world food market,” President Putin told the summit in St Petersburg.
On July 17, Russia pulled out of a UN grain deal with Ukraine which was brokered last year. That deal was supposed to guarantee the shipping of Ukrainian agricultural exports through the Black Sea in return for ending Western unilateral (and illegal) sanctions imposed on Russian exports. The Western side of the bargain was not implemented.
When the Kiev regime bombed the Kerch Bridge to Crimea for the second time on July 17, Russia immediately called off the grain accord. The deadly attack on the bridge, which killed two Russian civilians, was merely the last straw for Moscow. The shipping arrangement had long been abused by not honoring obligations on lifting Russian sanctions, as well as due to evidence that the Ukrainian cargos had also been used to secretly ship in NATO weapons, such as submersible drones implicated in the Kerch Bridge strike.
Despite Western economic sanctions, Russia nevertheless managed to export over 11 million tonnes of wheat and other grains to African countries last year. During the summit this week, Putin assured that this supply of food staples would continue to African markets. The Russian president also announced major additional exports of grain free of charge to several African nations acutely at risk of food insecurity.
Top of the agenda at the summit was food sovereignty. Russia has vowed to ensure the supply of grains to Africa regardless of shortfalls in Ukrainian exports.
It is cloyingly rich for American and European NATO members to accuse Moscow of “weaponizing hunger” and “hitting the world’s poor”.
UN data shows that the lion’s share (0ver 80 per cent) of Ukraine’s exports under the now-defunct deal was transacted to high and middle-income countries. Africa and other low-income nations received only about 3 per cent of Ukrainian agro-exports. Russia, by far, was the main supplier, despite Western sanctions intended to block this trade. The Western powers had made a big play about “humanitarianism” in pushing the grain deal. And yet the beneficiaries were not poor countries, but rather a handful of rich nations, as well as the Kiev regime, which returned Russia’s forbearance by carrying out terror attacks on civilian infrastructure.
African nations as well as many others in the Global South understand what the Ukraine conflict is really all about. It is about the United States and a clique of Western powers trying to prop up their declining hegemony. That is reflected in African states adopting an ambivalent position at the United Nations regarding the conflict. The continent as with other regions of the Global South has rejected Western efforts to dragoon them into falling behind a Cold War-style isolation of Russia.
Historically, too, Africa has benefited from Russia’s support for independence from Western colonial and neocolonial control. There is immense residual goodwill and solidarity with Russia as a power that never had the pernicious baggage of imperialist meddling in the way that the United States and the Europeans have. American and European politicians disparage Africa as a “shit-hole” and Africans for wanting to break into “our garden”.
Moscow’s advocacy of multipolar world relations and genuine respect for national sovereignty (not disingenuous rhetorical blandishments from the West) is deeply resonant with African nations.
African Union chairman Azali Assoumani, who shared the podium with Putin this week, said the continent greatly appreciates Russia’s solidarity and commitment to full independence and sovereignty.
For his part, Putin noted that sovereignty is not a once-off achievement but rather is an ongoing status that needs to be continually strengthened, defended and asserted. The Russian leader was implicitly referring to the historical fact that while many African nations achieved political independence from European colonial powers after the Second World War, they continued to be hampered in their development through various insidious means of neocolonial control over financing and trade.
Africa’s huge potential as a global power has yet to be realized largely because of ongoing colonialist legacies. That alone is a shameful indictment and revelation of bankrupt Western pretensions of virtue.
However, the world is rapidly changing whereby Western hegemonic dominance is unraveling, and with that, African nations can look forward to new possibilities of prodigious development.
The robust attendance of African nations at the summit in St Petersburg is testimony to a desire and determination to embrace a new multipolar world, one where Africa can emerge with unfettered and splendid success. Western powers tried their hardest to pressure the continent to boycott the summit. But those dirty, old tricks failed to stop the tide of history.
With the proper partnership of a multipolar world, Africa’s natural wealth will be for its people’s development, not for the enrichment of the Western powers who have robbed and subjugated the continent for centuries.
The coup this week in Niger against a Western-backed president speaks of the growing unrest in Africa against perceived old forms of Western tutelage. West Africa has seen seven coups against French or U.S.-sponsored regimes over the past three years. As in Niger this week, protesters have been waving Russian flags in what can be taken as a symbolic defiance of Washington and European neocolonial lackeys.
In any case, returning to the main topic of the Russia-Africa summit. The key issue is national sovereignty and food sovereignty. This can be achieved without the reliance on Western powers or their Kiev proxy’s games over food exports. Just like Russia’s energy exports, there is no need for a Ukrainian “middleman” ripping everyone off.
Besides, a much more significant, bigger picture beckons. The agricultural potential of Africa, if properly harnessed, could see the continent becoming not only food sufficient but a powerful exporter of food to the rest of the world. The only obstacle to that beneficent future is arbitrary Western elite political and economic restrictions on other nations. Such elitist privileges and controls over whole nations are as anachronistic as other evils such as slavery and exploitation.
Russia’s challenge to illegitimate Western presumptions of hegemony as manifested in the Ukraine conflict, as well as Russia’s promotion of multipolar independence from nefarious mechanisms of Western dominance (the U.S. dollar, unilateral sanctions, financial debt, and so on), is on the right side of history.
Africa’s fraternal embrace of that vision is profoundly righteous and is another nail in the coffin of dying Western hegemony.