African Experts Read Between Lines of Putin's Remarks in Beijing
13:42 20.10.2023 (Updated: 13:51 20.10.2023)
On Tuesday, Putin arrived in Beijing to participate in the 3rd Belt and Road Forum, which aims to develop new mechanisms for regional economic partnership. During the visit, Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and discussed a number of issues, including bilateral relations, the situation in Ukraine and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's statements in Beijing, China, during his recent two-day visit to the East Asian country for the third high-level Belt and Road Forum, covered a wide range of topics, including the recent deadly strike on the hospital in Gaza, the situation in Ukraine, and the Russian-Chinese relations.
Sputnik Africa spoke to African experts
to read between the lines of the Russian leader's remarks in the Chinese capital.
Cape Town University's Head of Political Studies Department and Associate Professor of Political Science Zwelethu Jolobe, shared his impressions of Putin's statements, highlighting the strengthening ties between Russia and China as a significant development.
Jolobe noted that despite expectations in the West that the Ukrainian crisis and sanctions would negatively impact the Russian economy and international alliances, this has not been the case. On the contrary, the crisis has shown that many perceive Russia, de facto, as part of the global South's overall interests.
"I think that all the Ukraine crisis has served to show is that many people tend to think of Russia de facto as part of the overall interests of the global South," he told Sputnik Africa. "The growing relationship between China and Russia has simply confirmed that."
Jolobe also emphasized touched upon the initiatives such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and, more recently, BRICS Plus. Many in the Global South, including Africa, have a sense of nostalgia for the old relationship they had with the Soviet Union, he argued. As a result, they still view Russia through that lens.
Talking about Putin's statements, Lere Amusan, Professor of International Relations at North-West University in South Africa, noted that the 21st century has brought about various issues that developing countries have long been advocating for. He drew attention to the Eurocentric economic system and the challenges faced by developing nations in terms of investment and trade.
"Now, when we look into what Vladimir Putin said, one would appreciate the fact that there is an ongoing phenomenon in the international system whereby the issue of South-South cooperation is unfolding at the global level, and this then is being championed by China, this Road and Belt initiative of which the conference ended today," Amusan said. "I believe that that is the only way that we can do so as to ensure development in the developing states, most especially in Africa."
The recent escalation of violence in the Palestinian-Israeli region, triggered by Hamas on October 7 "in response to Israeli provocations," has resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.
During Putin's press conference in Beijing, the Russian president described the striking of a hospital
in the Gaza Strip of Palestine as a tragedy, expressing hope that the conflicting sides would come to the negotiating table. More than 500 people have been killed as a result of that Israeli attack.
Commenting on Putin's remarks, Amusan emphasized the importance of adhering to international law and the laws of war. He condemned actions such as the bombing of hospitals and refugee camps, stating that they constitute violations of existing international law.
"That is nothing but an aggression against the defenseless human beings in the Gaza area," he said.
Professor Amusan agreed with Putin's stance on the need for diplomatic negotiations, rather than the use of hard power against innocent people. He also criticized the support Israel receives
from various Western countries, including European states, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and sometime Japan.
Regarding the creation of an independent Palestinian state, Amusan supported the idea and questioned the reasons for its delay. He acknowledged that Israel tends to win wars against Arab nations, but stressed the importance of seeking a lasting solution through diplomatic negotiations.
In the same vein, Professor Jolobe emphasized the importance of de-escalation and the need for a responsible international community that avoids taking sides. According to him, this approach requires "cool-headedness" and a commitment to finding an impartial resolution.
"Palestinians have a right to self-determination like everybody else," the professor also stressed.
Dr. Bowden B.C. Mbanje, Lecturer in the Department of Peace and Governance at Bindura University of Science Education in Zimbabwe, also agreed with President Putin's assessment of the Middle East conflict and emphasized the need for the conflicting parties to come to the negotiating table to prevent such tragedies from happening again.
Dr. Mbanje stressed the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations for lasting peace, highlighting the historical context of the creation of Israel and the need for the return of Palestinian land.
"We should always remember that the state of Israel was the Bauhaus birthed in 1948. That's the way it came into being. So prior to that, that land belonged to the Palestinians. So after 1948, when it was created, Israel began to take more and more Palestinian land. And most of Palestinian land now belongs to Israel. So that cannot bring any peace at all," contributed Mbanje.
According to Dr. Mbanje, "until Palestine is returned that land, that's when it becomes a sovereign state, an independent state, that's when peace will come to the region."
Moving to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, Mbanje echoed Putin's view that Western weaponry deliveries to Ukraine would only prolong the conflict. Dr. Mbanje expressed concern about the potential escalation of the conflict, emphasizing that Russia would likely retaliate against such actions.
In the Beijing press conference, Putin denounced the delivery of American ATACMS
missiles to Kiev. In his view, Western weaponry will only prolong the conflict.
"It's now quite evident that the war is now a more American war against Russia, and the Ukraine is just a mere proxy being used to test American weapons," the Zimbabwean academic said.
Mbanje also highlighted the risks of arms falling into the wrong hands, posing a threat not just to Ukraine but to the entire international system. He argued that "what America is doing is creating so many problems for the whole world."
"Those long range missiles might end up in the wrong hands and some terrorist groups might end up having those long range missiles, and it would be catastrophic for the whole international system," Mbanje told Sputnik Africa. "And when you look at arms trafficking, it's actually a problem here in Africa."
For his part, professor Jolobe emphasized that the privately owned military industrial complexes in Western countries prioritize profit maximization over political objectives. He expressed concern about the unclear political objectives behind such arms deliveries, and he also warned that the risks created by arms trafficking extend beyond Ukraine.
"I would not be surprised, for instance, if you see those arms sales in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if you see them in the Congo, if you see them in the Sahel region, Sudan, etc., I'm not surprised," Jolobe said.
Meanwhile, prof. Amusan discussed the risks posed by the delivery of American ATACMS missiles to Ukraine, highlighting that geographically, Russia will not tolerate having a potential enemy, Ukraine, so close to its borders.
"That is one of the reasons why Russia will never allow Ukraine to be a member of NATO," he said.
Amusan argued that supporting Ukraine with Western weaponry is not a solution, and instead, the focus should be on facilitating dialogue and finding a lasting solution between Moscow and Kiev.
Commenting on Putin's announcement that Russian aircraft equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missile complexes will regularly patrol the airspace over the Black Sea, Amusan stressed that as long as Western countries continue to support Ukraine, Russia will respond accordingly. He noted that Moscow will not remain inactive when a crisis is brewing near its borders.
Mbanje viewed the deployment of the Russian aircraft in the Black Sea as a positive development, a measure to protect strategic areas such as Crimea.
"It's quite positive for Russian warplanes to patrol the Black Sea region. In that, we should remember that in Crimea there is the Black Sea fleet. In the past months, we've actually witnessed the Ukrainian long range missiles hitting some parts of Crimea," Mbanje shared.
Growing Russia-China Cooperation
On the topic of Russia-China cooperation
, Jolobe acknowledged the growing volume of trade between the two countries, surpassing $200 billion in one year, emphasizing the significance of this rapprochement in the context of a multipolar world.
In his turn, Dr. Bowden Mbanje pointed out that only a few years ago, Russia's trade was mainly with the European Union, and in just one year, Russia's trade with China exceeded $200 billion. According to him, this growth in trade signifies the essence of mutual trade between equal partners
"Russia has actually shown the developing countries and other developed countries in the international system that it is always wise to trade with China. China is a trading partner that can be trusted as seen by the volumes of trade between Russia and China. And for Africa this is a very good example. This is the path that Africa should follow," Mbanje suggested.
According to Jolobe, Southern Africa, as well as the African continent in general, with its established ties to China and Russia, stands to benefit from this alliance. However, Jolobe also highlighted the need for Southern Africa to strike a balance between its major trading partners, including China, the EU, and the US, to safeguard its own interests.
"I think that there is a general consensus here [in South Africa] that the relationship with the BRICS countries [Brazil, Russia, India, China] does provide greater prospects for prosperity here," Prof. Jolobe said.
Touching on the topic of Russia-China cooperation and the possible benefits for African interaction with them, Amusan saw Russia as a historical friend of the oppressed, especially Africa, during the Cold War era.
He also highlighted the formation of BRICS as a sign of a new international economic order on the global stage. With Russia's support for China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, Amusan asserted that a paradigm shift is taking place that will benefit developing countries, especially those in Africa.