Washington reacts to the activity of the Kremlin chef in Africa

Chef Peter Opare brings a taste of West Africa to Washington, D.C.

Will the first sanctions against Yevgeny Prigozhin’s partners become a sign of a new American policy on this continent??

The United States last week imposed sanctions on partners of Russian entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin. The man who, as has been proven by many investigations, is behind the “troll factory” and mercenaries from the “Wagner Group”, tried to reduce the effect of previously imposed US sanctions with the help of people and companies in Sudan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

In Sudan, the Russian company M Invest, controlled by Prigozhin, served as a front for the actions of the Russian Ministry of Defense and was responsible for developing plans of action for ex-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to suppress protests that sought democratic reforms in the country..

Also, as stated by US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, “Yevgeny Prigozhin and his network [of partners] are using the natural resources of Sudan for personal gain and spreading harmful influence around the world.”.

The response of the United States to Prigozhin’s activity in Africa can be considered a sign that Washington has decided to take a closer look at what is happening on this continent. The United States, experts say, is trying to assess how far penetration into the economy and politics of the African countries of Russia and China has gone.

This follows from recent statements by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Answering journalists’ questions on July 9, Pompeo accused China and Russia of the fact that their assistance to African countries is explained solely by the desire of Beijing and Moscow to advance their economic interests, and not humanitarian reasons:

“When the United States comes with humanitarian aid, that’s what it is. We continue to be the largest source of development assistance on the African continent. We will continue to do this under the current administration, and we are doing this because it is the right thing to do, we believe it is the right policy to help people inside Africa. When the Chinese do it, it is always in exchange for something. “.

Anna Borshchevskaya: Africa is not a priority yet

Anna Borshchevskaya, senior expert at the Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, says in an interview with the Voice of America Russian Service that sanctions against Prigozhin’s partners could mean more than a one-time reaction:

“These sanctions are more than just a single stab, they show that the destabilizing actions of the Wagner Group in Africa and, more broadly, Russian activities there are of very serious concern to the United States. The administration is clearly trying to do something to limit this activity. However, it is too early to say how effective these sanctions will be – sanctions have already been imposed against Prigozhin for his interference in the American elections, but he continues to be active in this regard. “.

Anna Borshchevskaya notes that what is happening in Africa is not something of a priority for the current US administration: “The priorities of US foreign policy now are China and Russia, and it is difficult to say whether African affairs can become as important for Washington, but here it stands out. Libya – the destabilizing activity of the “Wagnerians” is especially visible there, and Libya for Washington may look more important than other countries. In addition, now, of course, the main problem is the revival of ISIS and the activity of other terrorists in the Middle East “.

“Sanctions do not have an immediate effect, although they are the right tool in and of themselves. There should be a broader strategy that includes the use of this tool, but in conjunction with other actions, “the expert of the Institute for Middle East Policy is sure.

Michael Carpenter: You shouldn’t respond to every move of Russia with sanctions

The senior director of the Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Michael Carpenter, in a commentary for Voice of America, called the steps in the United States in response to the actions of the “Kremlin chef” in Africa symbolic: did not take Russian aggression seriously and did not act really tough to suppress it. Therefore, I see this step as rather symbolic. Besides, I don’t think that sanctions are always the right answer to every Russian adventure in the world. “.

Michael Carpenter gives examples of Russian activities in Africa: “We see a very diverse activity of Russia in Africa – both the supply of combat aircraft to Libya and political consultants working from Sudan to Madagascar. Some of these actions are designed to advance Russian interests in the sphere of covert operations, but not all of Russia’s steps there need to be answered – for example, I think that we cannot particularly interfere with the activities of political advisers, and let them play there, nothing special. When Russian armed groups appear somewhere, the United States may play a role of a deterrent “.

Washington reacts to the activity of the Kremlin chef in Africa

“On the other hand,” the Biden Center expert continues, “I don’t think that, for example, supplying military aircraft to Libya in response to Russian supplies, covertly or openly, would be the right answer. I believe that it would be necessary to engage with governments across the continent to advance our values ​​and influence, helping them solve their problems. So we could contain Russian and Chinese influence on them “.

Carpenter, who worked as a political adviser to former US Vice President Joe Biden, criticizes the current administration for abandoning an active role in world politics: “America First slogan and politics under this slogan, the policy of withdrawal from various regions of the world , are deliberately doomed to failure in terms of real influence in places like Africa – you need to be really present there in order to influence, there you need to delve into development issues, security issues, local nuances “.

Kimberly Martin: This move against Prigogine can be effective

Kimberly Marten, professor of political science at Barnard College at Columbia University, explains that sanctions can be quite effective in this case: countries. These companies are located in countries where US sanctions will be enforced, and this changes the situation. The fact that these firms are located in Thailand and Hong Kong, and are not directly related to Prigozhin, but to another person, may mean that the sanctions may have a greater impact. “.

According to the political scientist, the difficulties for Yevgeny Prigozhin in carrying out his activities outside Russia will increase: “We must remember that Prigozhin is associated with organized crime and leads a group that is almost certainly connected with the Russian state. I’m sure he has ways to get money from other sources. But if the US continues to follow him, it will complicate his activities. “.

Kimberly Martin finds it difficult to predict whether Moscow will react to US sanctions against Prigozhin’s partners: “The Russian state claims that it has nothing to do with the Wagner group. Who knows how it will react. These are sanctions, and to them, as to any others, one of the reactions may be the imposition of retaliatory sanctions. But if they apply retaliatory sanctions, it will be an admission that the “Wagner Group” is a Russian state organization, so let’s see. “.

  • Danila Galperovich

    Reporter for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in Moscow. Collaborates with «Voice of America» since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and presenter of programs in the Russian service of the BBC and «Radio Liberty». Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.

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  • Valeria Jegisman

    Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics

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