“The speculative report is an utterly false and mere extension of a covert and pathetic smear campaign” – Eritrea’s Minister of Information
Russia is moving to expand its sphere of influence in Africa through new military bases in a move military experts say is aimed at building a military force in the form of a Russian-type AFRICOM capable of competing with the role the US military command in Africa (US AFRICOM) plays.
Citing a secret German Foreign Ministry report, Germany’s daily newspaper Bild.de reported on Tuesday that Russia secured permits to establish military bases in six African countries.
The classified document on what it calls “Russia’s new Africa ambitions” states that since 2015, Russia has concluded military cooperation agreements with 21 African countries.
Previously, there were only four military cooperation treaties across the entire continent, the leaked report added.
According to those agreements, the paper added, Moscow obtained guarantees to establish military bases in Egypt, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Sudan.
>> ALSO READ: Russia-Eritrea Relations Grow With Planned ‘Logistic Center’
Observers say that Russia is expanding its influence in Africa as part of a broader cooperation strategy at a time when Africa has become a vital economic, political, and military playground for different countries such as China, Turkey, Iran, the United States, and France.
Russia is already a major arms supplier to the African continent.
With a market share of 37.6%, Russia is the top weapons supplier to Africa, followed by the US with 16%, France with 14%, and China with 9%.
According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, between 2015 and 2017, Russia supplied African countries with military equipment, including military and transport helicopters, aircraft and anti-aircraft missile systems.
>> ALSO READ: Eritrea Interested Buying Weapons from Russia
To achieve political, economic, and military gains in Africa, President Vladimir Putin made “Africa a top priority” by hosting the Russian-African summit in Sochi in October 2019 at which 34 African leaders participated.
On the sidelines of that summit in Sochi, Nigeria signed an agreement with Russia to purchase 12 military helicopters. Cameroon, South Africa, and Eritrea were among the countries that indicated their desire to purchase aircraft, tanks, and heavy weapons from Russia.
>> ALSO READ: Russia to Deliver Ansat Helicopters to Eritrea
Not long ago, the Central African Republic, which has been plagued by years of civil war, signed a military cooperation agreement with Russia, according to which Russian military advisers will be officially present in the capital, Bangui, to train their security units confronting threats from armed extremist groups.
Citing "secret German Foreign Ministry report", the German daily paper, Bild, alleges that Russia was "contractually assured" of military bases in six African countrie, including Eritrea. The speculative report is utterly false & mere extension of covert & pathetic smear campaign
— Yemane G. Meskel (@hawelti) August 10, 2020
* The Arab Weekly and Daily Sabah contributed to the story. (Last update: 10 August 2020)