Russia has taken a more militaristic approach in Africa by is using mercenaries and arms sales to gain access to its natural resources, Thomas Waldhauser, Commander of U.S. Africa Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee, on February, 7.
“By employing oligarch-funded, quasi-mercenary military advisors, particularly in countries where leaders seek unchallenged autocratic rule, Russian interests gain access to natural resources on favorable terms. Some African leaders readily embrace this type of support and use it to consolidate their power and authority. This is occurring in the Central African Republic where elected leaders mortgage mineral rights—for a fraction of their worth—to secure Russian weapons. Russia also garners additional support at the United Nations and gains more customers for its military arms sales,” he stressed in the testimony.
According to the general, Russia involves private military contractors, such as the Wagner Group, ‘with minimal investment’. Recently, the President of the Central African Republic installed a Russian civilian as his National Security Advisor; he also promised the armed forces would be deployed nationwide to return peace to the country by forces likely trained, equipped, and in some cases, accompanied by Russian military contractors. African leaders facing similar instability and unrest could find the model attractive, Waldhauser warned.
Wagner group: Mercenaries protecting Kremlin’s interests worldwide (ENG video)
In late December, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) stated that Russian mercenaries might have been involved in the murder of military reporter Orkhan Dzhemal, film director Alexander Rastorguyevand cameraman Kirill Radchenko in the Central African Republic.
“I would just point to the Central African Republic right now where the Wagner group has about 175 trainers, where some of the individuals are actually in the President’s cabinet and they’re influencing the training as well as the same time having access to minerals in that part of the country,” CNN quotes Waldhauser.
Russia has also become more deliberate in Libya as they invoke Qaddafi-era relationships and debts to obtain economic and military contracts; these agreements are aimed at accessing Libya’s vast oil market, reviving arms sales, and gaining access to coastal territories on the Mediterranean Sea, providing Russia closer access to Europe’s southern border, the top military official said in the report.