Africa-Press – Liberia. In July, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of the Congo to discuss cooperation, regional issues, the global food crisis and the preparation for the second Russia-Africa summit in mid-2023.
In an interview with Sputnik, Anna Evstigneeva, Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations on Political Affairs, expressed her opinion about ties between Russia and the African nations, western economic pressure on those countries and issues of grain supplies to the African continent.
Sputnik: Russia is now paying a lot of attention to the continent of Africa and its top officials often visit African countries. Has the situation in Ukraine inspired Moscow’s desire to find new partners in Africa?
Anna Evstigneeva: Discussions took place at the General Assembly. And within the framework of the bilateral relations in the continent, including Minister Lavrov’s trip to a number of African countries, there is a goal to promote ties between Russia and African nations. The minister’s trips and so on, has nothing to do with Ukraine. We are not a new friend to Africa. We have been there for more than 60 years. We supported the African people’s struggle for self-determination and contributed to the decolonization of the continent. Our trade, economic, and political relations were not subject to any political or worldwide events.
What raises questions is how western countries have now begun chasing African countries. Listening to speeches in the General Assembly from a number of European countries – especially of a small caliber – it was interesting to see how they are trying to flirt with Africa, to talk about new ideas and initiatives. This is shameful, full of hypocrisy and double standards. During my interactions with African diplomats, it is clear that they are clearly aware of this hypocrisy and assess it accurately.
Furthermore, they see recent initiatives by both Washington and the European Union as repackaging old ideas aimed at continuing the structural dominance and imposition of western values in the name of human rights and democracy. This is taken by [our African] colleagues with a pinch of salt. African countries also view pressure by the West to severe relations with Russia as an insult to their political independence. As respected African leaders have recently said, they have no reason to join the ranks to fight with Russia and it is unlikely that anyone will be able to portray Russia as an enemy, since it has always been a friend of Africa. Therefore, there are no grounds for changing this fundamental attitude of the Africans.
Sputnik: Do you think that African countries are now ready to withstand the threat of western sanctions and maintain their independent approach and independent policy?
Anna Evstigneeva: Of course, the political and economic pressure on African countries is huge. This cannot be ignored, because the whole system of relations between western countries and the developing countries of Africa was based on creating and maintaining a certain leverage of influence and pressure. They will certainly continue to use this.
However, I don’t think in the long run the pressure will work because it goes against the course of history and the desire of the continent’s people to own their present and future. Over the years, I have seen the desire of many African countries to be free of western dominance. The establishment of the African Union gave an important impetus towards forming a consensus between African countries on global issues. It has strengthened African voices in the international forum, including the Security Council.
I see today a more assertive Africa able to use the present turn of global events to unshackle itself from neo-colonial structures, to form new mechanisms for partnership and cooperation that will allow the continent to benefit better from the world – politically, economically and culturally. This also concerns the development of the African Union, as well as cooperation within the framework of the African Union and the development of cooperation within the framework of regional organizations. Also, horizontal ties between countries under sanctions in Africa, how can they jointly resist this? All these processes are now developing and I think that they will emerge, including in the UN.
Sputnik: At the UN, you are in constant communication with colleagues from Africa. Do you have to explain a lot about Russia’s foreign policy to them?
Anna Evstigneeva: Yes, I do, but my conversations with African diplomats showed me that many in the continent understand Russia and have respect for its history and contribution to the world.
With regard to the situation between Russia and the West, many Africans do not need explanation. The fact is Africans suffered most from the policies of the West. Military intervention in Libya, the assassinations of African national leaders, and support for the apartheid regime in South Africa are still fresh in the memory of many Africana. One cannot cancel history. They have a deep understanding of the hypocrisy of western nations. Most of them understand the current geopolitical situation and the factors that are driving the world towards instability, why all this is happening. There is a resurgence in Africa. Everyone understands that the difficult emergence of a multipolar world is underway. Africa will certainly be one of those poles. This is the time to pursue, above all, national interests and the interests of the continent.
Sputnik: What are the dynamics of trade relations between Russia and African countries? With whom does the Russian Federation interact most actively and which countries are now a priority for increasing mutual trade?
Anna Evstigneeva: Africa has big potential. It is endowed with natural resources, a vast coastline, and above all human potential – a dynamic youth population. The African Continental Free Trade Area is an ambitious agreement that could make the continent an economic powerhouse. Russia is always keen to develop its economic ties with the continent. We always maintained trade relations with many countries in Africa back in Soviet times. In the past decade, we have been working to scale up and diversify our economic ties which was consolidated through the Russian-African Summit [the next will be in the middle of next year].
Our objective is to build economic relations that are mutually beneficial, respect the political choices and without political or other conditions. We have good prospects over there. Undoubtedly, there is cooperation in the spheres of natural resources, energy, infrastructure and agriculture. The issue of food security is on the agenda as well. In addition to the direct supply of grain or other agricultural products as a means to tackle humanitarian need and economic assistance. Western sanctions on Russia have restricted the export of fertilizers to Africa. We have demonstrated our readiness to ensure the supply of fertilizers to African states. The initiative announced by President Vladimir Putin to redirect fertilizers stuck in European ports without charge has sparked wide interest in African countries. African countries are able to produce their own agricultural products but they need to be given the opportunity to do so. In this regard, I see good prospects in fertilizers supplies. Moreover, I see great potential in expanding technical cooperation, technology, education and the industries. We have a very large base in all these fields and I think it will develop further.
Sputnik: There were many events related to the African continent on the main agenda of the 77th UN General Assembly and on the sidelines. How did Russia interact with African countries during the High-Level Week, and what was achieved?
Anna Evstigneeva: It seems to me that almost a third of the meetings that were held with Foreign Minister Lavrov were with African countries. We saw meetings with traditional partners: South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Sudan, Burkina-Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau. We have deep, friendly ties with all of these countries, as well as trade and economic relations. What is important is that all these countries share similar views on the multilateral agenda.
We work together to ensure that the United Nations remains reflective of its diversity, not a place to dictate one worldview. The situation in some of these countries are being considered by the Security Council. We always advocate more understanding and support to national governments and resist attempts by western countries to weaponize the Council to inflict unjustified pressure. And we stand by them there, helping to channel discussions in a balanced way, favoring a swift and fair resolution of conflict. It was quite logical that we met on the sidelines of the General Assembly as it afforded discussions of both the bilateral agenda and developments in multilateral forums.
Sputnik: You have already touched on the issue of fertilizers, and the issues of supplies of grain to Africa is also being raised. Is Russia able to help resolve these issues? What exactly is Moscow doing to solve these problems?
Anna Evstigneeva: We will primarily rely on the bilateral contracts that we have concluded with the African states. Many African states usually buy a lot of Russian agricultural products. But as a result of the sanctions and other economic restrictions imposed on Russia, fulfillment of these contracts and their further development was under threat. This is not our fault, this is the fault of the West, which violated financial schemes with their pressure, messed up the logistical chains. The rise in insurance prices impedes the fulfillment of these contracts. Bilaterally, we are looking for ways to conclude new agreements to stop the West’s negative influence. This is for starters.
The second point is the so-called Istanbul grain deal. We regret that the UN has taken advantage of a campaign that Ukrainian grain can allegedly save African countries, which led to such a non-event. Only a tiny part of those [ships with] grain from Ukraine ended up on the African continent and in developing countries. This situation needs to be fixed. We have repeatedly raised, and will continue to raise, this issue within the framework of the UN. We also believe that African countries themselves should do this since they are the ones which are interested in ensuring that nothing hinders the supply of agricultural products to these countries.