On May 31st, Vladimir Putin met with the President of the State of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, at the Kremlin. The meetup was ostensibly to fortify trade and economic cooperation between the East African nation and Russia. However, broader implications concerning the emerging multipolar world system are also at play.
President Putin welcomed Eritrea’s president, noting that the occasion was Mr. Afwerki’s first visit to Moscow. Russia’s leader also said Eritrea’s celebration of 30 years of independence. However, the primary purpose of the meeting between Putin and Afwerki was to discuss trade and economic relations and the signing of several intergovernmental agreements.
The two leaders also agreed that the two countries could collaborate in many areas. With the Second Russia-Africa Summit just around the corner, President Putin reiterated Russia’s warm invitation for Eritrea to attend. Likewise, president Afwerki took the opportunity to applaud Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei’s work during his trip to Asmara and the positive outcomes of a subsequent visit of our delegation led by his counterpart Osman Saleh Mohammed. The two foreign relations experts having laid the groundwork for expanded cooperation, Mr. Putin and Mr. Afwerki, seem to agree that a new multipolar world will soon take the place of the singular hegemony that’s dictated to the world for the past 30 years.
President Putin took the opportunity in these opening remarks to characterize the Western elite order as having ‘declared war’ on the emerging world. He said the West had split the world into controllable spheres of influence. He went on to enumerate the tactics of this policy of containment and control. The West, led by the United States, has used demonization, ostracism, interferences, political subversion, instigation of crises, sanctions, and flagrant violations of law that include open military assaults. The Russian president continued:
“The undeniable fact that containment of the economic, military, industrial, technological, informational, cultural and institutional growth of other free peoples and countries is tantamount to and cannot have practical meaning other than the declaration of war.”
Tamara Naidoo, program manager for international affairs at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (is recognized as an undesirable organization in Russia) South Africa, argued for the African nation to reevaluate its BRICS commitments. Her rationale was that China was usurping South Africa’s role as a gateway to the continent by empowering other African countries. In five years, never has an analysis been more wrong.
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (is recognized as an undesirable organization in Russia), with more than 60 offices in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and in New York at the UN, and a small country bordering Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, the Red Sea, and Saudi Arabia beyond, is the latest geostrategic puzzle piece in view. The old colonial powers, ramrodded by the United States nowadays, are in desperation mode seeing Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi have out gamed them. And the State of Eritrea is vital to the broader direct connectedness of the Far East and the rest of Africa. While the tiny African nation does possess valuable gold, copper, and zinc resources, the nation’s most important asset is geography. The country sits in the middle of the maritime Silk Road and is a potential land connective between China and Sub-Saharan Africa. China’s Xi says all of Africa stands to benefit from One Belt One Road (OBOR) strategy because “inadequate infrastructure is the biggest bottleneck to Africa’s development,” and most of the continent’s leaders agree.
By infrastructure improvements, the Chinese mean to pave the way to burgeoning commerce to boost China’s importance and finances. Looking at the maps of current transportation links, like the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway that connects Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden to Addis Ababa, deep into Ethiopia, I envision rail connections running north to Egypt and the Mediterranean sprouting up soon. Already, China penned an agreement with the Kenyan government to build the Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway connecting Mombasa to Nairobi. Once the proposed Sudan railway and road projects are completed, you’ll see a clearer picture of a new Silk Road. And its creation will not just benefit China. The fact the Saudis want in on the BRICs should always be kept in mind.
As for Russia’s role, Western think tanks harp about trading in arms and the influence of the Wagner Group all the time. They ignore, however, a central need almost all African nations have – food security. If you read the hegemony side of this new Africa emerging, China and Russia are always portrayed as the villains seeking to take over the oldest continent and the world. This is as if the United States and the Europeans have not pillaged all of Africa for decades now. Russia is essential in the emergence of the multipolar world, particularly Africa, for myriad other reasons.
Take the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom, which provided a $25 billion loan to begin construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant – a $60 billion facility. Now, Russia is at varying stages of negotiation with seventeen African countries and has preliminary nuclear project deals in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zambia. Given that nuclear energy is the clean alternative the world needs instead of offshore windmills, and the Russians are the partner the old and new BRICs need. Moreover, according to the latest news, 30 countries have officially or unofficially asked to join the economic alliance. When this happens, these emerging economies will control over half of the world’s economy.
Finally, I find it ironic that the founder of the FES, Friedrich Ebert, was accused of creating a path for the emergence of the far right and Adolf Hitler, during his time as president of German organization he formed, finds more fault with the Russians today than with the new Nazi Reich centered in Kyiv, Ukraine. Both the Italians and the British once occupied Eritrea, and the people of the small country saw their situation grow worse, not better. The Brits took over after the Italian continental army was defeated in 1942. Isaias Afwerki and his country have been the stanchest supporters of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Perhaps this has something to do with anti-fascism, but I think it’s more to do with seeing the future coming.
Eritrea will soon be a transportation hub at the center of trade between the most distant partners on the planet. It’s not difficult to imagine actual and maritime links passing through the country on their way to Tanzania, South Africa, and from there by sea to Latin America. It’s also easy to envision each nation in this new multipolar world excelling at what the people of those places do best. I think we will also see a new kind of economics take shape, something to replace the failed capitalism that’s been practiced since WW2.