Supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is foolhardy
What you need to know:
- If in 2020 I expressed scepticism about Russia’s (and China’s) capacity to sustain their friendship with a naughty and largely incompetent, corrupt Africa used to easy money from the West, the current conflict and a depleted Russia make the prospects for that friendship grimmer, not more auspicious.
On July 12, 2020, in this column, I wrote an article (Can Russia, China, Africa remain friends for long?), in which I suggested, obviously in jest, that Vladimir Putin should be made an honorary African.
A few days later, an official at the Russian Embassy responded in Daily Monitor. Although cool and even displaying a touch of humour, clearly, he was not amused by my association of the Russian leader with Africa’s tinpot dictators. Diplomats of functioning democracies generally ignore minor foreign newspaper columnists and cartoonists who regularly lampoon the top politicians who post the diplomats.
The fact (not content) of that response reinforced my view, that Putin had conditioned everyone in his political machine to instinctively treat him as an omnipotent figure with the ego of an ancient emperor. No thought-provoking irritation was too small. Big Brother ignored nothing.
Eighteen months later, not on impulse, but methodically, with the relentlessness of a megalomaniac completely impervious to reason, Putin was assembling his armaments, listening to the flood of appeals by the international community, ignoring them and finally invading Ukraine.
But Putin’s delusions are not played out in a world of the relatively limited menace of Cossack horsemen or Bachwezi warriors. He has at his disposal thousands of air, land and seaborne war vehicles, thousands of missiles, and a huge arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
For overtly seeking entry into the EU and Nato, Ukraine’s cities are being shelled. Thousands are dead, millions have been displaced, and Putin still has no conscience to be moved.
Africans who support Putin in this crisis, even if only vaguely by hiding behind the veil of ‘neutrality’ or ‘non-alignment’ to protect their ‘interests’, are foolhardy.
It is not any wiser to support Russia (as I have heard some say) because Ukraine is America’s friend, and America mistreats Moslems; or because America also gave Russia an ultimatum over nuclear missiles in Cuba some 60 years ago; or because some Africans have been treated shabbily when fleeing Ukraine.
At stake is something much bigger. Putin is rebranding imperial fascism to counter the liberal ethos. Many African rulers may welcome that enterprise. However, whether or not Putin subdues and occupies Ukraine, the West will fashion a comprehensively structured response to his barbarism, and may not rest until Russia is literally poor.
To counter Russia’s fossil fuel muscle, some targets of the carbon agenda may be revised in the short run. Erstwhile enemies that produce oil, like Venezuela, may be rehabilitated. In the mid-to-long term, renewable and alternative energy programmes will be accelerated.
Meanwhile, any kind and number of disruptions, global economic shocks and inflation are assured, with poor African countries less able to absorb the pain.
Far away from Ukraine, Somalia is among the first to make a war-related appeal for food.
Far away from the war, Uganda may find the cost of its Albertine crude oil infrastructure climbing, and the speed going down. By the time the oil starts flowing, collapsed crude prices are conceivable; thanks to the accelerated mid-to-long term renewable and alternative energy programmes I have referred to. A very long pipeline could look like a very fat white elephant.
If in 2020 I expressed scepticism about Russia’s (and China’s) capacity to sustain their friendship with a naughty and largely incompetent, corrupt Africa used to easy money from the West, the current conflict and a depleted Russia make the prospects for that friendship grimmer, not more auspicious. Unless, of course, disillusioned, Putin’s ego implodes and he commits suicide.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.