Will Russia pull a muscle? A military base in Africa

The success of Russian operation in Syria has made too many people dream of a defense “umbrella” of Moscow

The increased military power of Russia, supported by a successful example of assistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who almost knelt before the West, but was able to grow stronger precisely thanks to Russian support, made many countries pay attention to this factor of stability. China is trying to make friends with Moscow, not inferior to it in the presence of military “muscles”. Venezuela is worshiping Russia, the arrival of two Tu-160 strategic bombers and a guarantee of military support significantly strengthened the position of President Madura, who began to more boldly display the US cookie.


In short, partnerships in military-technical cooperation in recent years have been rapidly developing with many countries. Figuratively speaking, it has now become fashionable to be friends with Russia.


So Fosten-Arkange Tuadera, president of the Central African Republic (CAR), recently announced that he was seriously considering the possibility of creating a Russian military base in his country. He said it immediately after the pan-African summit in Sochi, which took place on October 23 and gathered representatives of 54 countries of the “Black Continent”: he offered his territory to Putin under a military presence.


But, nevertheless, thanks to Russia and Turkey, it solved the key problem of its security

However, the Bangui proposal did not produce the effect of a “bursting bomb.” The Central African Republic in October 2017 made a request for military-political cooperation with Russia. And she received help in the form of Russian weapons. True, quite outdated (Kalashnikov assault rifles and Mosin rifles of the 1944 model). But this help was free.


Plus – Russian instructors went to the Central African Republic to train local military personnel in handling weapons. In addition, last summer, 30 Russian troops went to the Central African Republic as part of a UN mission.


Some hints of the desirability of a Russian military presence in Central Africa sounded last year. Now President Tuadera has announced this openly, not forgetting to add that he is asking Russia to provide the CAR with additional military assistance. That is – you are our weapon, and we will give you territory under military bases!


It is important to note that such proposals from Moscow by representatives of the “Black Continent” in recent years have been increasingly persistent not only from the Central African Republic. It is known that in November 2017, President of the Sudan Omar al-Bashir specially flew to Putin with a similar idea. According to the Sudanese leader warring with the West, Moscow could have a very useful naval base on the Red Sea. Namely, in the city of Port Sudan.


Almost simultaneously, the head of the Sudan’s defense and security committee Al-Hadi Hamid spoke on the same topic. He said that his republic was ready to deploy a Russian military base on the Red Sea, as this, they say, would help “in the fight against smuggling and the slave trade.”


Hamid even, he said, managed to discuss all this not only with Putin, but also with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Which, obviously, should have meant: even some practical details of such an unexpected African initiative were discussed.


Then this topic made a lot of noise in the Russian media space. But judging by further events, the Kremlin has preferred to refrain from the apparently tempting military expansion in the Red Sea. Perhaps – because our military base Khmeimim in Syria is very expensive for the Russian military budget. Although from Port Sudan you are within reach of the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, where our warships are increasingly serving.


What will happen to the Central African option proposed to the Kremlin now?


  • Modern Africa is experiencing the heyday of a foreign military presence, – says political analyst Alexander Zimovsky.

– To date, 13 foreign countries have deployed their troops in different countries of the “Black Continent”. Traditionally, most of the French, about eight thousand bayonets. But the Americans take the number of objects – they are located in 34 points on the African continent.


The African specifics is that there are military bases and so-called outposts. The point most saturated with foreign troops is the Horn of Africa, where 11 foreign military bases are located.

There are also foreign military personnel in the CARs from France and the USA. Today, Russia is represented there by a private military company and a small military-logistics complex.

In fact, the foreign military presence in Africa represents for local authorities, among other things, a profitable land lease business. Djibouti, for example, annually receives more than $ 300 million from a foreign military presence on its territory.

Other African Union member countries, formerly colonies of France, deploy French military bases as a result of bilateral military agreements. In this case, it’s not so much about the benefits of renting, but about maintaining a security regime for a particular government in a particular African country: “We are your security – you are the primacy of our economic interests.”


Actually, this usually motivates the deployment of foreign bases in Africa. In real life, the owners of military bases simply transfer their conflict fields to Africa. Let’s say China and India are now competing in Africa. The United Arab Emirates uses Eritrea as a base for operations in Yemen. Americans from their bases and outposts conduct drone operations, military training, direct military participation and missions, which are covered by a “humanitarian” label. And they develop the appropriate infrastructure, logistics, and transfer military personnel.

The presence of Russia in the CAR has a legal justification. We have a UN mandate for military-technical assistance to the authorities of this country and for the training of local military personnel.

The topic of a military base does not arise for the first time; at the beginning of 2018, the Central African authorities publicly articulated this proposal.

It is often forgotten that we are not new to African affairs. To date, Moscow has 19 agreements on military cooperation with sub-Saharan Africa. At the UN, 54 states represent the African continent. This is an impressive force to support Russian diplomatic multi-ways in international affairs. And the voices of representatives of these states in this matter will never hurt the Kremlin.

And then: Russia does not have a “damned colonial past”. We have always come to Africa as faithful and reliable allies. There is no “allergy” to us there. On the contrary, in many African countries Russia is seen as a power that will not allow the former colonialists to “greyhound.” And if Russia is going to continue to pursue a policy of projection of force, it would be short-sighted to ignore reasonable and promising proposals, such as those from the Central African Republic.

But let’s look at such a nuance: will Russia have enough strength to maintain such a politically and strategically necessary military base in the Central African Republic? It is one thing to supply instructors and Mosin rifles there. Quite another is to establish a full-fledged base.

Expenditures in Syria for the Khmeimim airfield and the naval base in Tartus showed that this is a “game for wear” for our Ministry of Defense. We pull, we even provide reinforcements in the form of armored vehicles and military police, but it’s already obvious that with a creak.


The base in Africa is the complexity in its content and remoteness from Russia. To keep there, for example, the Tu-160 strategic bombers, and there are now only 16 units in the arsenal of the aerospace forces, is quite expensive. The distance from Moscow to the capital of the Central African Republic of Bangui in a straight line is almost 6 thousand kilometers. You don’t run into much. But the republic has no access to the sea, so armored vehicles and air defense systems will have to be delivered by air.


The potential of the Russian army now simply does not allow its components to be scattered around the world, as the Americans do. The forces of the Russian Federation are now not the same, and, if we say, the Armed Forces of the USSR performed such tasks easily and could look into the underbelly of the United States, then Russia current army is not capable of such tasks in full.


Nevertheless, Russia is unlikely to refuse such a proposal and “will exchange glass beads for gold” – its military presence in the Central African Republic will be designated. And, most likely, it will supply additional equipment (albeit not Kalashnikov assault rifles), but which has already been withdrawn from service and is gathering dust in warehouses.


Africa is not a stranger to us. Moreover, there is fierce competition in many countries over spheres of influence. So it is advisable to “invest” in the Central African Republic.