Below is our translation of an article from RIA Novosti with commentary and notes [in brackets] by Vince Dhimos.
“The USSR tried to give communism to the whole of Africa, but giving presents is always expensive for the giver, and it is logical that this strategy did not end as well as it could have. Modern Russia has a different strategy. The fact is, our country does not participate in "races" – it offers specific services to specific countries for specific money, and the main competitive advantage is precisely geopolitical freedom and the absence of any hidden conditions [my highlighting]. Those who appreciate this exclusive option of cooperation will find attentive and interested partners in Russia. In any case, trying to bribe or fight for those who do not understand makes no sense.”
There you have in a nutshell the secret of Russia’s success in trade with foreign nations. It’s not really a secret, but Russia doesn’t have to fear that the US might imitate it. The US is culturally incapable of dealing with other nations without manipulating and bullying them. And that too is a reason for Russia’s success.
West: "We lost Africa to Russia." Russian media in a panic
October 28, 2019
If you look at the reaction of foreign media to Russian successes in Africa, it is quite noticeable that they tend to interpret them in the context of the "humiliation" to which the United States was subjected in Syria. "Putin enters the fight for Africa after humiliating the US in the Middle East," Qatari Al Jazeera writes [well, yes, but let us recall that Qatar was recently ostracized from the pro-Western camp by Saudi and the UAE for aligning itself economically with Iran, so this is not a Western viewpoint]. A CNN article came out under the heading “Putin has just made a victory lap of honour in the Middle East. Now he is turning to Africa.” “Vladimir Putin seems unstoppable after a series of victories that Trump handed him on a silver platter. <...> (Putin. - Ed. Note) Demonstrated global ambitions by welcoming (at the summit. - Ed. Note) all 54 African countries for billions of dollars of new business deals,” states the American business publication Business Insider [let us remember that the msm in the US is mostly Democrat, and is anti-Trump. So this reporting most likely has more to do with humiliating Trump than about Russia].
Unfortunately, every foreign policy success, such as the Russia-Africa summit, almost always becomes a cause for harsh criticism of the country's leadership for a certain part of the media community and political micro-influencers in social networks.
The stark contrast between Western analyses from leading media and the poorly concealed anti-Russian hysteria of some micro-influencers in Russian social networks and messengers looks especially entertaining. While Western analysts were counting Russian successes and benefits, Russian users had to read ridiculous jokes about the "$20 billion forgiven debt."
An attempt to present the cancellation of debts owed by African countries to the USSR as a sign of weakness or stupidity is understandable, but can only work on the most uninformed audience. If "writing off debts" is weakness and stupidity, then the IMF, the World Bank, and even China will have to be deemed weak and stupid organizations, because they all write off "bad debts" to African countries in exchange for expanding their capabilities on this important continent.
Take China, for example, which, despite its reputation as a tough and pragmatic lender, is trying to work in Africa as a smart banker, not a stupid collector. Stratfor, an American analytical company (better known as a “private intelligence agency”) describes Beijing’s real, not mythical, methods of working in Africa: “The Chinese government continues to argue that the One Belt, One Way project has no political motives and China is not pushing one developing country into a ‘debt trap.’ In fact, China has shown willingness to write off debts to it and review some debts and agreed to defer payment to others. China has written off debts totalling about $50 billion."
With rare exceptions, neither the IMF, nor other Western lenders, nor China are trying to "take everything they can get" from African countries, especially since it is often simply physically impossible, and an attempt to "enforce" in the style of the 19th century will generally cost more than the money received. Writing off debts, if properly executed, is an excellent tool for obtaining opportunities that otherwise would not exist.
The results of the Russia-Africa summit speak for themselves. According to Russian presidential adviser Anton Kobyakov, the total amount of contracts signed with African countries and companies amounted to 800 billion roubles.
Russia offers not only arms, but also the opportunity to develop the economic sovereignty of African countries, without requiring victims in return for political sovereignty. The range of what is interesting to African partners turned out to be strikingly wide: it included the supply of Russian equipment to the Moroccan oil refinery, and the “creation of a joint ammonia and urea production complex” for $ 1.2 billion in Angola, the construction of an oil pipeline in the Republic of Congo, and assistance in the development of the Angolan railways; and even the construction of the "Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology" in Rwanda. This is not a complete list of signed contracts and agreements, but it is sufficient to understand the Russian rational approach to working in the most promising emerging market of the planet.
It is significant that domestic [Russian] criticism of diplomatic and economic expansion into Africa focuses on criticism of the mythical Russian altruism, while Western criticism focuses on the absence thereof. That is, influencers in [Russian] social networks fundamentally refuse to see that Russia makes money on the Black Continent, while Western analysts see Russia as making money. And they are very dissatisfied with the fact that money is floating away from under the nose of the United States and European neo-colonial powers.
For example, CNN said: “Analysts believe that Russia’s renewed interest in the continent is hardly altruistic. Guests arriving in Sochi were delighted with exhibits of Russian-made military equipment: military helicopters, fighter jets and armoured vehicles. The idea is clear: the Kremlin presents itself to African governments as a reliable supplier of military expertise and modern weapons - without many additional conditions."
Those "additional conditions," the absence of which is noted by Western analysts, are requirements that are always attached to Western loans or transactions. These [conditions] are IMF programs, privatization programs, and political control. They are also traditional requirements for reducing social spending and promoting the rights of all kinds of minorities. In this context, it is understandable why Russian proposals for the sale of weapons or economic cooperation are criticized as cynical: Moscow fundamentally does not go into politics, social programs and the ideological stuffing of the internal political life of its customers and partners.
When lovers of pseudo-expertise whine that in any case, Russia cannot compete in Africa with the United States or the European Union, because they have more money, this simply indicates their anti-Russian bias or a fundamental reluctance to understand the essence of the options for cooperation proposed in Sochi. Moscow is the only place in the world where entire countries can buy at least a bit of geopolitical freedom from the greedy, impolite, and rather aggressive "Western partners." It must be remembered that each conditional Russian machine gun, combat helicopter, reactor, or railroad has an important bonus attached, and that is freedom, and freedom is often more expensive than money, as many African leaders understand.
Foreign media love to write about a new “race for Africa” or “clash for Africa,” drawing rather cynical parallels with the 19th century, when global empires “bayoneted” the Black Continent. In this context, attempts to criticize Russia for allegedly fitting into the “race for Africa,” which it cannot win against the USA, China, and EU countries, seem rather inadequate. The USSR tried to give communism to the whole of Africa, but giving presents is always expensive for the giver, and it is logical that this strategy did not end as well as it could have. Modern Russia has a different strategy. The fact is, our country does not participate in "races" - it offers specific services to specific countries for specific money, and the main competitive advantage is precisely geopolitical freedom and the absence of any hidden conditions. Those who appreciate this exclusive option of cooperation will find attentive and interested partners in Russia. In any case, trying to bribe or fight for those who do not understand makes no sense.