“Tricks from the Soviet arsenal”. Why many African countries supported Russia

Most UN members condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but representatives of a number of developing and post-colonial states, half of which are in Africa, have not done so. They either opposed the UN resolution of March 2, 2022, or abstained, or did not vote at all. In another vote to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, as many as 82 states either opposed or abstained.

These results show the inability of countries to empathize with the aspirations and suffering of Ukrainians, even though Ukrainians are experiencing the same as many of them themselves: a brutal colonial attack and an attempt to deny their right to self-determination.

The Russian elites drew from the Soviet arsenal of tricks to manipulate African leaders: Soviet propagandists routinely posed as anti-imperialists, playing on the sad history of European colonial exploitation. Thus, they turned to pan-Africanists and nationalists despite the Soviet Union’s own expansionism, which left it in control of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe through the installation of puppet regimes and violent suppression of demands for autonomy in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

In fact, Russia’s efforts to conquer Ukraine are part of a centuries-old tradition of imperial subjugation of lands claimed by Russian rulers.

Beginning in the 16th century, after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, the Russians claimed the role of the messianic Third Rome, Orthodox Holy Russia. As the Ottoman Empire collapsed and retreated, the Russian Empire expanded. Russian armies captured Siberia and part of China. In the 19th century, Russia conquered the territories of Central Asia and entered into a rivalry with the British Empire over Afghanistan and Iran, known as the “Great Game”. Russia colonized part of North America. Tsarist Russia was dominated by an autocratic pan-Slavic absolutism financed by the labor of millions of serfs who worked like slaves belonging to the state and the nobility.

The Soviet Union, posing as a liberating anti-imperialist force, continued to expand the Russian Empire.

Ukraine, parts of which were ruled by Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, and which became an independent state after the October Revolution, was annexed in 1921.

Today, Russian foreign policy is guided by a Eurasian ideology that seeks to establish control over the former Soviet republics. The goal is Russian dominance in Eurasia, a civilizational region in which the boundaries of nation-states and even the very notions of citizenship and sovereignty become irrelevant due to powerful historical and cultural unity.

Russia claims that its invasion of Ukraine is not a violation of Article VII of the UN Charter, which prohibits aggression, stating that Ukraine is not really a sovereign state and that a massive military attack is just an internal “special operation”. Shortly before the invasion, Vladimir Putin clarified that, in his opinion, Ukraine’s sovereignty arose only when Lenin created the Ukrainian SSR as a separate political entity within the USSR. Between 1932 and 1933, millions of Ukrainians starved to death as a result of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s attempts to impose Soviet ideology on the Ukrainian people.

Putin successfully played on lingering post-colonial grievances with Western states by orchestrating support for his war — a war in which the Russian army killed countless Ukrainian civilians and independent human rights monitors documented numerous crimes against humanity, including rape, torture, looting, and violent deportation. He blamed the war on a trumped-up threat to Russia by NATO members, even though most Ukrainians want to join NATO for defensive purposes. However, Putin acknowledged that the real purpose of the war is “to take back what belongs to Russia.”

Despite this controversy, Russian soft power has garnered sympathy from many of those who have suffered under colonial rule and seek freedom from what they see as the stranglehold of Western intimidation. For example, pan-Africanist Kemi Seba said that Putin “does not have the blood of slavery and colonization.” Ugandan Lieutenant General Muhuzi Kainerugaba said most people of color in the world rightly support Putin.

Many developing countries are simply indifferent to war, seeing it as a proxy battle between rival superpowers that is equally detrimental to their rights and well-being. In today’s authoritarian, expansionist Russian state, dissent is criminalized and thousands of citizens have been forced into exile for their principled opposition to the war.

If Russia is allowed to continue its conquest of Ukraine, and international borders are allowed to fall without consequences, we will enter a new era of imperial and colonial conquest that will threaten all whose freedom and sovereignty are fragile.

In their resistance to Russian aggression, Ukrainians deserve the solidarity and support of all who have known the humiliation and oppression of colonial rule. Citizens of post-colonial lands, more than anyone else, must understand what it means to determine their future.

The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of the editors of The Moscow Times.

Source: www.moscowtimes.ru

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