Reuters reports that Russia (the erstwhile major player in African affairs) intends to bolster its diplomatic involvement on African issues such as the Darfur crisis. Mikhail Margelov, Russia’s envoy to Sudan, said in Khartoum on Sunday, “Russia is back in Africa,” and that Moscow had an “open door” to any nations looking for assistance in development projects. Margelov, chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee and a heavy hitter in Russian government circles, had some words about the new and more substantial role he hopes Russia will play in Africa:
We want our voice to be heard in all the international discussions on African problems. We understand our part of the responsibility for what is happening in the African continent and we are serious about it.
Russia’s voice could be an influential one in the coming weeks, as the International Criminal Court’s ruling on the ICC chief prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir looms large. As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Russia can propose or veto an Article 16 resolution to suspend the ICC investigation, a move that China has been toying with for some time. Margelov, appointed to his envoy post in December, says that Russia is, “working on [their] position now,” and that he plans visits to Washington and European capitals in February to discuss the impact of the increasingly likely indictment of President Bashir. However, Russia’s new push on Africa should be taken with a healthy grain of salt: the severe dip in global oil prices means that Moscow has a lot less walking around money than it did just months ago. I am not sure that the Russians really care about Africa at this stage, but the rhetoric seems consistent with long running efforts by Putin and those around him to again have Russia taken seriously on the global stage.