From Bangui, With Love
“What is Europe now,” lamented Winston Churchill in 1947, “a rubble heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground for pestilence and hate.” What was once said about Europe in the wake of German expansion during WWII rings true today in many developing countries such as Libya, Syria and CAR. While these countries are rich with natural resources they often lack critical infrastructure needed to utilize and further monetize these precious resources in high demand by the rest of the world. Counties trying to jockey for the position of "World Superpower" extend their influence into these regions, shaping local conflict in an effort to exert influence over the distribution of these resources.
It's difficult to know all the details as Russian Journalists continue to die (and be resurrected), but it appears that Mr. Putin is spreading Russian influence into the developing world at an alarming rate. His combined diplomatic and private military intervention in Syria, Sudan, and now CAR threatens to foment serious unrest with other nations with regional interests.
Recent OPEC deals have forced Russia and other developed nations to cut oil production as OPEC tries to finish clearing a global glut of crude. This restriction doesn't apply to any developing nations. Deals such as this force economic superpowers to look to developing nations as candidates for future economic cutouts to supplement fossil fuel production. Russia, in CAR for example, has negotiated mining rights in return for stabilization and economic support. The "mutually beneficial" nature of these relationships is rarely mutually beneficial and more often than not backs these nations into a corner forcing them to choose short term gain for potential long term servitude. This is neocolonialism.
While China attempts to rebuild the Sahel-Saharan trade routes that the French once dreamed of at the height of their colonial power, Russia is seeking to unite the oil fields of CAR with those of North Sudan to further their influence in the region. With increased influence, Russia and China see economic benefits and leverage support in the UN from their new economic "partners".
Far from the only African country subject to this kind of interest from the East, CAR is a prime example of the campaign from the Kremlin. Thierry Vircoulon, a CAR specialist at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) think tank has called the CAR "a state on its knees, which is for sale. The buyers are the emerging powers (like) China, and an old power, Russia, on the comeback trail. The West is no longer a buyer - it's the 21st century, and the colonisers have changed."
As we demonstrate in Syria why no one wants to go toe to toe with the US war machine, it is worth considering that we aren't as prepared for the indirect war of economics being waged in the dark corners of the world.