August 21, 2008

HARRISONBURG—Today in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, focuses attention on Russian foreign policy’s recent interest in Africa.

Noting that the both Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by President Vladimir Putin in 2001 and the updated version of that document signed by his handpicked successor Dmitry Medvedev last month both called for developing economic ties with Africa, especially in the energy sector, the article documents the extensive natural resources which Russian firms have acquired in recent years as well as the expanding financial, political, military, and other ties which the Kremlin has forged with African countries.

Dr. Pham concludes:

While the web of strategic access and other ties that Russia has been reconstituting and expanding in Africa does not necessarily presage a return to a zero-sum Cold War competition across the continent, the long-term implications of these engagements should nonetheless be of concern to Africans and non-Africans alike, especially when, as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted last week, “ Russia’s behavior over the past week has called into question the entire premise of that dialogue and has profound implications for our security relationship going forward.” Given Africa’s increasingly recognized geopolitical significance as well as the strategic importance of its natural resources to the security of the United States, American policymakers and analysts would do well to be wary of the Russian bear’s return to the Dark Continent.

To read the full text of the article, “The Russian Bear Returns to Africa,” click here.