Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 115

Russian presidential spokesman and foreign policy adviser Sergei Yastrzhembsky held talks in Pretoria yesterday with top South African officials, including the country’s vice president and foreign minister. Yastrzhembsky’s arrival in South Africa followed several days of talks in the African nation of Namibia, where, on June 14, the two sides signed four cooperation agreements, including one aimed at boosting military ties. The trip by Yastrzhembsky to Namibia was a follow-up to a May visit to Moscow by Namibian President Sam Nujoma.

During the course of his talks in both African capitals, Yastrzhembsky indicated that Moscow is now prepared–after a hiatus that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union–to pursue more active diplomatic policies on the African continent. The Kremlin spokesman suggested that Moscow’s Soviet-era ties with a number of African nations would stand it in good stead as it attempted to raise its profile in Africa. He also restated Moscow’s standard call for a “multipolar world”–that is, one with a plurality of power groupings rather than a world dominated by the United States–and said it applied to Moscow’s policies toward Africa. (Itar-Tass, June 13-15)

It is probably not a coincidence that Moscow’s efforts to reenergize its diplomacy in Africa have followed U.S. President Bill Clinton’s lengthy tour of the continent in late March. Washington commentators have seen that trip as a reflection of a broader awakening of interest in Africa among U.S. political and business leaders.