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    ‘Russia, an aggressor in Europe, manages to present itself in Africa as a defender of the victims of imperialism’

    We are not at the center of the world, this is one of the great reminders of the war in Ukraine. Seen from elsewhere, Russian aggression is not perceived in the same way either because economic or interests are not identical, because geography or dependence on foreign countries dictates choices or because diplomatic historical experience diverges.

    When, a year ago at the United Nations, almost half of the African countries refused to vote for a resolution calling on Moscow to stop its invasion (a trend confirmed on February 23) the West was taken back, as if it had difficulty accepting Africans ‘ ability to formulate opinions independently.

    How can countries that lived for so long under the yoke of colonizers, some of whom paid for their emancipation with bloodshed, and which have established the principle of respecting borders inherited from colonial divisions, show the slightest indulgence towards a power with a long imperialist history ? How can they have this attitude toward Russia, which, from the Tsars to the Soviet Union, to Vladimir Putin, has constantly colonized and subjugated its neighbors from Central Asia to the Baltic States and from the Caucasus to the European “popular democracies?” At a time when the world is fragmenting and the global South is asserting itself, the answer to these questions determines not only the West’s (and particularly France’s) relations with Africa, but also the type of arguments to be used against the Putin narrative.

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    The receptiveness of certain African countries to Moscow’s “anti-imperialist” rhetoric is fed first of all by resentment accumulated during the colonial era. This was then amplified, after African countries gained independence, by regimes beholden to the West, and by the catastrophic financial policies of 1980-1990. The fact that Africans do not consider the West to be paragons of virtue in the area of ​​international law is not surprising, especially for those who, in the Sahel and in West Africa, are still living with the serious consequences of the 2011 intervention in Libya . The invasion of Iraq in 2003 also illustrates a certain hypocrisy in the discourse on the defense of state sovereignty.

    The reasons why African countries do not “see,” or do not want to see, that the Russians are waging a war of conquest in Ukraine are more complex. “Russia’s skill has been making a strange connivance between itself and the former Third World bear fruit, undoubtedly going back to the USSR’s support of the decolonization struggles, even though, on many issues (such as the enlargement of the Security Council) Russia supports positions that are contrary to those of its ‘friends’ in the South,” said Michel Duclos, former ambassador and special advisor to the Institut Montaigne, in his preface to War in Ukraine and New World Order (“War in Ukraine and the New World Order,” published by Ed. de l’Observatoire, 336 pages, €24). Speaking on the radio station France Culture, Duclos said that the paradox of Putin’s increasing aggressiveness and his ability to arouse sympathy in India, Brazil and Africa was something “we did not see coming, and something that we were unable to counter.”

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