Stakes are high as African dignitaries met Russian president Vladimir Poutine in St Petersburg for the second edition of the Russia-Africa Summit on July 27th. Growing pressure from US and EU diplomats to stand against the war in Ukraine has raised concerns about the massive destruction of property and lives lost.
This war was started, according to experts, with NATO’s expansion to the east.
US ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, strongly refutes this idea.
"It is not providing direct lethal assistance. The Nato Alliance is not training Ukrainian soldiers. We are leaving that to individual countries. That's their own sovereign decision to make, and we want to make sure that our friends in Africa understand what's at stake in Ukraine, understand what NATO is and is not doing. I would note that NATO is providing some important non-lethal support to our friends in Ukraine," said Julianne Smith, the United States Permanent Representative to NATO.
Despite the ongoing pressure campaign for African countries to stand with Ukraine, 17 heads of state out of the intended 43 were in St Petersburg in what can be seen as a way to seek new allies for Russia.
Nevertheless, the US ambassador to NATO sees the absence of the remaining countries as a signal.
"Some leaders in Africa now feel compelled not to go to signal their concern about Russia's unprovoked aggression in Ukraine," the ambassador said.
Russia has recently terminated the Black Sea grain deal, which many believe will negatively impact certain African nations.
The issue of food security is one of the most urgent on the continent, and African leaders are looking to President Putin for concrete promises on grain supplies.
"As Russia withdraws from the very important Black Sea Grain initiative, are there concerns by African leaders that that action by Russia will impact food security in their own country? If they are, if that leader is feeling the impact of that war, particularly as it relates to food security, then they may indeed feel compelled to go to the Russians and urge them to, number one, get the Green Deal back online. And number two, end the war as soon as possible," the ambassador said.
Though NATO's presence in Africa appears quite subtle, its work on the continent can be observed through the alliance's pragmatic cooperation with the African Union.
Since 2005 Nato has been aiding the AU in various fields such as operational/ training support and structural assistance.