On Thursday, a transport plane from Russia was met at the airport of the Malian capital Bamako – four Mi-171 helicopters were delivered on it
Defense Minister Sadio Camara came to meet them, saying that the country’s authorities bought helicopters with their own money, and Russia offered to supply weapons and ammunition for them.
“I was shocked. These words are unacceptable … It is a shame and does not honor this government, which is not even such, since it was created as a result of two coups d’état “- and these are the words of French President Emmanuel Macron, spoken by him on the same day
No, Macron did not react to Kamara’s words – he commented on the recent speech at the UN General Assembly by Prime Minister of Mali Shogel Maigi, who said that “Paris abandoned Bamako in the middle of the flight.”
It was about stopping – or rather, reducing and reformulating – Operation Barkhan, “which the French have been carrying out since 2012 in Mali and neighboring countries, trying to curb the separatist Islamist groups that are gaining strength (Tuareg and not only). The French did not succeed, on the contrary:
- nine years ago, the separatists were 600 kilometers from Bamako, and now they are a hundred kilometers away.
So Macron decided to reduce the contingent and change the format of the operation, to which the Malian authorities replied:
“The new situation emerging in connection with the completion of Operation Barkhan, which presented Mali with a fait accompli and led to the fact that we were as if thrown out halfway, prompted us to explore ways and means to better independently ensure security with other partners.”
Maigi did not name new partners – but it is no secret to anyone that this is about Russia. Back in the spring of this year, Russian flags and portraits of Putin were seen at demonstrations in Bamako with the slogans “Russia, help!”, Which caused outrage not only in France, but in the West as a whole. No sooner had they come to their senses from the appearance of Russian PMCs and military advisers in the Central African Republic, as these Russians are already climbing into Mali!
“A thousand Russians will be responsible for the security of dignitaries and the training of the Malian Armed Forces. They will be paid nine million euros a month and will have access to three mineral deposits. “
In August, Macron raised the topic of the Russian presence in Mali even in a telephone conversation with Putin. And in the last couple of weeks, after information appeared in the Western press about the upcoming signing of an agreement between the Malian government and PMC “Wagner”, the French and the EU turned to public statements.
There is no agreement yet (about 50 “security experts” from Russia work in Bamako so far). The Malian authorities promise to officially inform if it is signed, but the West is already threatening Mali with might and main. First, the French Foreign Minister warns that:
“The appearance in the republic of” Wagner “, which is notoriously famous in Syria, as well as in the Central African Republic for its cruelties, robberies and various violations of the rules of conduct, is absolutely incompatible with our presence.”
That is, it threatens with the withdrawal of all French forces in general.
Then Josep Borrell reports that:
“Inviting the Wagner Group will not contribute to our relationship with the Government of Mali.”
And then French Defense Minister Florence Parley arrives in Bamako to tell his Malian counterpart: the conclusion of a partnership contract with Russian mercenaries will lead to “international isolation.” Yes, and also to the “reduction of sovereignty” of Mali.
But this is the theater of the absurd: the former metropolis, which has been trying to control the situation in Mali for all 60 years of independence (the financial system, the economy, security issues, personnel training, and so on), is scaring its power by reducing its sovereignty! And at the same time – remember the words of Macron – speaks of their illegitimacy.
Moreover, Paris is trying to put pressure on Moscow. Foreign Minister Le Drian last week in New York “warned” Lavrov “about the serious consequences of the Wagner group’s interference in the affairs of this country.” And Lavrov answered publicly:
“They turned to a private military company from Russia in connection with the fact that, as I understand it, France wants to significantly reduce its military contingent … They failed to do anything, and the terrorists are still running the show there. Since the Malian authorities assessed their strength as insufficient without external support, as external support is dwindling from those who have pledged to help eradicate terrorism, they turned to a private Russian military company. ”
The activities of the Russian PMC on the territory of Mali concern relations between it and the government of the country, and the Russian authorities have nothing to do with this, Lavrov added, and legally he is absolutely right. PMCs are needed in order to do what, for one reason or another, one does not want to formalize at the level of interstate relations, which the West has been using for a very long time (many centuries, if we recall history).
Lavrov and Borrell answered – telling about the details of his meeting with him in New York:
Africa is our place. He just said so. If he really wants to talk on these topics, it would be better to synchronize the efforts of both the EU and Russia with regard to the fight against terrorism not only in Mali, but also in the entire Sahara-Sahel region. And to say:
“I am the first here, so leave” – this is insulting for the Bamako government, which has invited external partners, and secondly, it is generally forbidden to talk to anyone like that “
It is clear that in Europe they will continue to resent the “Russian expansion” in Africa, although our presence there is incomparable with the European one.
Yes, Russia is the leading supplier of weapons to the Black Continent – but otherwise our positions there are significantly inferior to those in the West. And they are far behind the level of the 70s and 80s, when Soviet influence in Africa reached its maximum. So we have much to strive for – and, most importantly, many African countries themselves want to increase Russia’s influence. Two years ago, the first Russian-African summit was held in Sochi – the presidents of most countries of the continent came to Vladimir Putin:
“We need you to demonstrate your friendship with us in the region. Everyone knows that you are a hero, Mr. President “
So spoke at the summit, none other than the President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Under him, bilateral agreements on military-technical cooperation were concluded. By the way, they are far from the first in the history of our relations, because back in the early 60s, immediately after gaining independence, Mali became one of Moscow’s close African partners.
At the same time, no one considered Keita a pro-Russian ruler – he just saw what was happening in his country and the region as a whole, especially after the West destroyed Libya.
Less than a year later, the president was overthrown by the army, but the leaders of the new government retained an interest in strengthening ties with Russia. The Western press explains this by their “Russian” past: Defense Minister Kamara studied for a year at the Russian military academy, and Prime Minister Maigi received a diploma in communications engineer from us back in the Soviet years. But it is ridiculous to reduce the policy of the Malian authorities to the details of their biographies, especially since an order of magnitude more local politicians have French diplomas.
It’s just that the Malians (like all Africans) want real independence (not to mention the fact that they need to fight to preserve a single state), and Russia is just the force that can help them in this. This was the case in the 1960s, and it remains so now.
Then, however, many African countries announced their socialist choice – not so much because they counted on Soviet help, but because of the desire to get rid of the control of the former colonialists, to build an independent economy.
Almost no one succeeded: there were too many internal problems and conflicts in states with arbitrarily cut borders, and the former owners, in fact, were not going to let go of the threads of government. As a result, Africa abandoned socialism. But not from the dream of real sovereignty – and at a new turn in history, he again looks with hope at Moscow.
Photo: © AFP 2021 / Michele Cattani