Russia-Ukraine war: Implications for African development

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, February 24th, 2022 in order to demilitarize and de-westernize Ukraine, this is because a fully 'westernized' Ukraine (NATO membership) would constitute geostrategic and existential security threat to the Russian Federal.

Russia-Ukraine conflict: An explainer and implications for African development

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) under the leadership of the US is one of the enduring legacies of the Cold War (1947-1989). It was established in April, 1949 as a military alliance of countries that subscribed to capitalist ideology for organizing the political life of citizens.

For the purpose of balance of power, socialist countries led by the defunct Soviet Union, came together in 1955 and set up an alternative military alliance dubbed Warsaw Treaty Organization otherwise called Warsaw Pact.

While the Warsaw Pact has been liquidated since 1991 following the dissolution of the USSR - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, NATO still exists and one by one it has been admitting former socialists countries in the Eastern Europe as members.

The bone of contention is that while Ukraine as a sovereign country has rights to freely join the NATO, Russia insisted that Ukraine's membership of the NATO would constitute a threat to its national security. This is because NATO would set up its military base in Ukraine after its accession.

Under international law, Russia had no right to demilitarize, de-westernize or prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. It is for this reason that Russia decided to hurriedly recognize two self-proclaimed breakaway republics from Ukraine namely the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

From a geostrategic point of view, in the event that Ukraine finally joins NATO, the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, would serve as Russia's buffer/neutral zones against possible attack from irreversibly pro-West Ukraine or NATO. Since 2014 Donetsk and Luhansk separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces in their quest for independence.

Implications for Africa

One of the major implications of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is that it has further enhanced Russia's influence in Africa, as a world power that could provide alternative security and development technical assistance towards Africa's development.

It was reported that those who celebrated the coup d'etat in Burkina Faso in January, 2022, were seen waving Russian flags. This is a wakeup call for Western countries to rethink and recalibrate their engagement with Africa in order to prevent Russian incursion, which could undermine consolidation of democracy in Africa.

Using its 'Syria Model' success of neutralizing extremism, and ensuring regime stability, Russian private military contractors/mercenaries have been able to secure contracts in Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR) with impressive outcomes in their counterterrorism operations. Though the Russian approach might be ethically questionable, fragile regimes might be forced to opt for the Russian option.

Since the end of Cold War about thirty years ago (1991), Africa's development has been retarded by numerous intra-state conflicts by non-state actors. The intra-state conflicts have mutated into violence extremism across the continent.

Containing terrorist/separatist organizations has become top priority of most African States, while commitment to accelerate development of Africa is being de-prioritized. Consequently, the failure of democratic regimes to reduce poverty and make life better is one the reasons for recent coups in some African countries.

This is the time Africa's development partners in the Western world need to rejig and fine-tune their development and humanitarian projects in Africa for shared prosperity. The European Union (EU) for instance, has more to gain from supporting sustainable development in Africa, than Russia.

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