Fears that Washington is increasingly losing influence across the globe are starting to come to fruition in Africa, where a top military official says Russia is playing on perceived U.S. weaknesses to gain leverage and resources.
The most alarming inroads have come in African countries where leaders are seeking to consolidate power, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, told lawmakers Thursday, adding Russia seems to have its sights set on areas that could give them an edge over U.S. allies, Voice of America reports.
"It's, I think, clear that's their strategy along the northern part of Africa, southern part of NATO, the Mediterranean, to have influence inside of Libya, for example," Waldhauser told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
But he warned the Kremlin’s designs go even further, pointing to Russian inroads in the Central African Republic, where the Russian military firm Wagner has stationed about 175 mercenaries.
"The individuals are actually in the president's cabinet and they're influencing the training," Waldhauser said.
In addition, the Russian military itself sent 500 trainers to CAR, along with weapons, helping to train 1,000 soldiers as of September of last year.
Despite concerns from some CAR officials and the international community, Russia’s overall effort has been welcomed.
"We are a country that has endured a grave crisis, and we are returning with great difficulty because we don’t have the means to control everything that happens in our territory," CAR Defense Minister Marie-Noelle Koyara told VOA’s French to Africa service this past October.
U.S. military commanders, however, worry that Russia’s outreach is increasingly part of an effort to gain access to raw materials, like mineral deposits, as well as leverage.
"Russian interests gain access to natural resources on favorable terms," Waldhauser noted in his prepared testimony, warning that CAR elected leaders continue to "mortgage mineral rights — for a fraction of their worth — to secure Russian weapons."
As UNIAN reported earlier, Chief of the SBU Security Service of Ukraine, Vasyl Hrytsak, said travel documents issued to mercenaries of Russia's Wagner Private Military Company confirm that the PMC is a secret detachment of the country's military intelligence.
“Russia keeps lying cynically, trying to justify its crimes committed across the globe. The Kremlin keeps yelling that the armed units of its military intelligence don't protect dictatorial regimes in Sudan, Syria and have not been involved in the murder of journalists in the CAR who tried to shed light on their clandestine activities,” the SBU reported on their website.
The Security Service of Ukraine reminded that on January 25, materials testifying that Russian mercenaries and weapons were delivered to Sudan and other countries of the region “directly by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation on the request of M Invest LLC, a company owned by 'Putin's chef' Yevgeny Prigozhin.”