Africa summit: how great is Russia's influence?

In the course of the two-day Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg Russian President Putin offered free grain deliveries to individual African states. In the run-up to the summit Russia had allowed the Black Sea Grain Initiative to expire, leading to an increase in world market prices. The participants reacted cautiously to Moscow's offer and voiced isolated criticism of the war against Ukraine. Europe's press takes stock.

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Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Empty offers have little impact

The Kremlin is unlikely to be thrilled with the outcome of the summit, the Kleine Zeitung writes:

“There was no rallying cry in support of Putin or Russia. The African Union assessed Russia's proposals for grain deliveries as insufficient and called for a ceasefire in Ukraine. South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed that he had not come for handouts, and wants to see Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea resume. Meanwhile, the real menace to global food security sought to beguile participants with bogus offers. Putin craves even greater influence in Africa, where he seeks to control the market. But his expansionist aspirations are likely to reach their limits. The Kremlin's allies have long been been few and far between - and this summit did nothing to change that.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Africa won't be harnessed to anyone's wagon

The fact that Putin has hardly been able to score points with his promises is good news for the West, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung nods:

“However it is no reason to become arrogant. Because where Russia has gained influence on the continent in recent years, it could soon leave devastation in its wake. Look at Mali, where the situation for the civilian population has deteriorated dramatically since the Wagner troops arrived at the end of 2021. And yet where Russia is insignificant, the same applies to the West: many African governments have no desire to be harnessed to one or the other geopolitical wagon. The West will also have to work harder in the future to forge alliances with African nations.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Motives anything but humanitarian

With its donations of cereals the Kremlin leader is trying to push Ukraine even further out of the global market, Handelsblatt concludes:

“It would be hard to show more cynicism. Putin's alleged gifts seem even more absurd when one considers that they can do little to fight hunger in large areas. In parts of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya more than 13 million people are threatened by acute hunger. But Ethiopia and Kenya do not seem to interest Putin. If he really cared about alleviating hunger, he would have let Ukraine continue exporting.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Moscow can score points

Russian expansionism in Africa is not hindered by the scars of history, observes the pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet:

“Because of the West's sanctions, Russia now has to expand in all possible directions to seek support and revenue. One of the major arenas for this is Africa, where not even those with the best memory can recall a time when their country was devastated by Soviet tanks. But many do remember the suffering caused by Western colonialism. This gives Moscow an advantage in the region.”

France Inter (FR) /

Russia and France in direct competition

Humiliating France is part of Moscow's strategy, observes France Inter:

“Russia's presence in Africa is immensely irritating to the West, particularly to the former colonial power France. Surprisingly, France has become Russia's target in Africa. Wherever France has a traditional presence, it faces competition or even expulsion by Russia. Humiliating Paris in Africa has been a popular game in Moscow for several years.”