When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Winning African Hearts And Minds: Why Russia Has An Edge Over The West

Russia's Foreign Minister is in South Africa for the second time in a year. In spite of the West's best efforts, Vladimir Putin's delegation is still welcomed in large parts of Africa, which still harbors colonial resentment toward Europe.

Photo of Sergey Lavrov during his visit to South Africa

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor shake hands

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, has not traveled much since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But he arrived yesterday on an official visit to South Africa, his second official trip there in a year.

But it is not a coincidence: Africa is a priority for Russian diplomacy.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

The West was caught off guard when, at the United Nations last year, a large part of Africa refused to condemn the Russian aggression on Ukrainian territory. They were all the more surprised because, since the 1960s, the African continent has wisely adopted a principle recognizing the borders inherited from colonization: it wanted to avoid possible inter-state targeting, which is what Russia is trying to do in Ukraine.

Moscow has been able to capitalize on this refusal of Africa to align itself with the West.

Russian is blowing on the poorly extinguished embers of resentment towards the former colonial powers. This is currently exemplified by France's announcement to bring to an end its eight-year anti-jihadist operation in the Sahel in North Africa.

The latest addition is Burkina Faso's request for the withdrawal of French troops within a month, as Mali did previously.

Joint naval maneuvers

The case of South Africa is revealing. Even if it is going through a bad patch, it remains one of the continent's strongest powers, regularly mentioned for a permanent seat on the Security Council. It is the interlocutor of Europeans or Americans on global affairs.

They don't want to take sides because they don't feel concerned by a war between Europeans.

And yet, the ANC, the party in power, Nelson Mandela's party, has not forgotten that during the apartheid, it was the USSR, not the West, that supported it. The ANC is still grateful to Moscow, even if it is misplaced today in the midst of the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

It goes even further, since next month South Africa, with the Chinese and Russian navy, will be hosting naval maneuvers off the coast of Durban, in the Indian Ocean. A South African news site called them "obscene" because the maneuvers will coincide with the first anniversary of the start of the war.

But South Africa, like many states on the continent, is not looking at this conflict the way we do in Europe or the United States. They don't want to take sides because they don't feel concerned by a war between Europeans.

Western irrelevance

The West has not succeeded in convincing South Africa that it is a question of saving international law because their behavior in the past has been far from exemplary.

There is a boomerang effect originating from a history of interference. Because South Africa is a democracy, there is a debate, and the parliamentary opposition is denouncing the "moral fault" of what it labels as alignment with Russia. Yet it was unable to prevent the government from rolling out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin's envoy.

We are not done analyzing why, from South Africa to Mali, African states extend a welcome to Russia despite the war in Ukraine.

Massive disinformation does not explain everything. It is not enough to understand why the West is becoming irrelevant in an increasingly important part of the world.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Double Exposure For Russia's Draftees — Lessons A Year After Mobilization

A year has passed since Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization of military reservists on Sept. 21, 2022. As rumors of a second wave of mobilization continue to circulate on social media, the independent Russian news site Vazhnyye Istorii (Important Stories) and the Conflict Intelligence Team found how the Russian draftees were largely treated as cannon fodder for the Ukraine war.

Photo of conscripts lined up before leaving to join the Russian Armed Forces

Conscripts line up before departing for service with the Russian Armed Forces

Alesya Marokhovskaya

Exactly a year ago, Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of partial mobilization. As a result, over 300,000 Russians were sent to war. Many of them are still in the combat zone. Some will never return home.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

A year of mobilization has taken the lives of thousands of Russian men. Volunteers from the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) and Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories compiled a list of the draftees who perished on the front line to understand how, when, and where they died.

In the entire year that passed since the partial mobilization, Russian authorities have not once published the total number of dead Russian draftees. Still, new obituaries appear daily throughout the country, from Moscow to the easternmost region of Chukotka.

Whether it was a cook from a neurological institution, a rural school teacher, or a tractor driver, they all shared a similar fate — they went from the conscription office to their grave in less than a year.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest