RUSSIA

Russia Strengthens Ties With South Africa

 
 
Vladimir Putin is resurrecting Russia’s special relationship with the ANC that has lain dormant for several years. Why?

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia withdrew somewhat from the world stage. The newly “democratic” and redefined nation struggled to find its place in the world. President Vladimir Putin, however, has changed all that.

After consolidating his own power at home via a shift toward authoritarianism, Putin has been making Russia’s power felt around the world as he seeks to reassert his nation as a global power. In relations with former Soviet states, with Europe and even the United States, Putin has taken on a more confrontational stance than the world has seen from Russia in more than a decade. Armed not only with a nuclear arsenal and massive oil reserves but also an assertive, some would say even “czarist” leader, Russia once again has the confidence to stand up to the West and make its present felt in the world.

It is within this context that we must view Putin’s two-day visit to South Africa this September—the first ever visit to that nation by a Russian president.

After providing strong support to the African National Congress (anc) for decades and playing a decisive role in bringing it to power in 1994, Russia’s relations with South Africa have been low key over the past decade. Now, however, as Putin propels Russia forward and as the contest for natural resources, particularly in Africa, heats up, Russia is turning its attention to resource-rich South Africa and its old Communist friends, the anc. It appears that President Putin has decided it is time to rekindle those relations and call in Russia’s favors.

During Putin’s September 5-6 visit, widely recognized as a move to secure resource deals with South Africa in the mining and metals sectors and make inroads into the rest of Africa, the two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship. However symbolic that treaty might be, it was given substance by a multitude of additional treaties and agreements that were concluded in areas ranging from nuclear power to education. Putin was accompanied on the trip by a delegation of over 100 top-level officials and businessmen, including the heads of several major Russian resource companies. Among them was one of Russia’s wealthiest men, the president of diamond giant Alrosa, and the head of Russia’s largest independent natural gas producer, Novatek.

Though private Russian companies are already involved in South Africa in industries such as diamond, nickel, aluminum and gold production, Putin seeks to take Russia’s investment to a new level. Putin held talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki on expanding economic and political cooperation between their countries, “exploring possibilities of using their enormous mineral wealth to tap into one another’s potential” (Inter Press Service News Agency, September 9). Russia and South Africa agreed to expand cooperation in the energy and transportation sectors, the defense and aerospace industry, fishing, healthcare, culture, sports and tourism. ria Novosti reported September 6:

The Russian president highlighted prospects for bilateral mining cooperation and the development of South African natural resources.

He said Russian companies could invest and participate in exploration and prospecting work in the African country. … Putin also called for cooperation in the oil and gas sector. …

South Africa has … proposed programs for the construction of ferroalloy smelting plants, assistance of Russian diamond producer Alrosa and the construction of an aluminum plant.

“I think the issue is about investment worth hundreds of millions of dollars in several years, which can hit billions if we continue moving on this,” Putin said.
During the visit, officials concluded a $1 billion agreement for Russian investment in a manganese production plant. Another key deal was the joint cooperation agreement made between Russia’s state-owned Alrosa and South African De Beers—two diamond producers that between them account for three quarters of the world’s diamonds. De Beers alone was responsible for 40 percent of diamond production in 2005. Agreements were also reached in the energy, automotive, banking and media fields.

“Relations between Russia and the Republic of South Africa have lately reached a qualitatively new level,” State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov stated October 23, in reference to the historic visit (tass, October 23).

Russia, of course, is keenly aware of South Africa’s vast mineral wealth that includes gold, diamonds and heavy metals. South Africa is the largest producer of gold, platinum and chromium in the world. The nation possesses 94 percent of the world’s platinum reserves, 92 percent of its manganese, 77 percent of its chrome, 72 percent of its vanadium, 62 percent of its gold.

As such, the revived relationship between Russia and South Africa’s anc government, and the ensuing rush of treaties and agreements, may be a precursor to something the Trumpet wrote about in 1997: “a future mineral and metals blackmail against the combined Western economies.”

At that time, we quoted Joseph de Courcy, editor of Intelligence Digest, from Dec. 3, 1993 (emphasis ours throughout):

A recurring nightmare of the Cold War for Western military strategists was the possibility that a revolutionary government in South Africa could combine with the Soviet Union to deprive the West of vital raw materials. …

Russia and South Africa together possess over 90 percent of the world’s strategic minerals. The Russian security services believe that a Russian-South African metals and minerals cartel could wield enormous influence over the industrialized world and that this could be used to enable Russia to catch up with the West economically.

Should such a cartel ever be established, the potential effect on the industrialized world cannot be exaggerated. South Africa is a geological freak of nature. It is the largest gold producer in the world; it also has the world’s largest known deposits of chrome, manganese, vanadium, fluorspar, andalusite and platinum.

Talks with the anc about future co-operation over the supply of strategic minerals and metals is very much a part of Kremlin understanding of where Russia’s future as a world power lies.
Is what we currently see developing the beginnings of such a metals and minerals cartel? Russia certainly is seeking to catch up with the West. Why would it not then take advantage of its historically extremely close ties with the party that presently rules South Africa? President Mbeki himself at one time underwent military training in the Soviet Union.

Which nation, then, would be most direly affected by such an embargo?

The United States is heavily dependent upon South Africa for key minerals including chrome, manganese, vanadium and platinum. Though two decades old, the following New York Times report highlights not only U.S. dependence on South African strategic minerals, but its vulnerability to any future Russian-South African blockade. Written at the time of sanctions against South Africa in the apartheid era, the Feb. 8, 1987, article read:

The State Department has told Congress that the United States economy and the military remain dependent on South Africa for 10 minerals and other raw materials that were not included in an import ban enacted last October.

In a report sent to Capitol Hill this week, the Administration asserted that without South Africa, the Soviet Union would be the only source for sufficient amounts of many of the items needed to build jet engines, process steel, refine petroleum and perform other industrial functions. Even some officials who favor tougher measures against South Africa acknowledge that the United States faces a difficult problem in finding other sources of key items, especially chromium, cobalt, manganese and platinum group metals.

Other crucial items are andalusite, antimony, chrysotile asbestos, industrial diamonds, rutile- and titanium-bearing slag and vanadium.

American vulnerability to disruptions of such supplies is an old concern of officials and private experts. …

Chromium is essential in producing superalloys with such corrosion-resistant metals as nickel, cobalt, aluminum and titanium. These are used as components of aircraft engines, such as turbine blades, that are exposed to high temperatures. Chromium is also used in insulating liners in boiler fireboxes. …
The United States will only become more vulnerable the more global competition over strategic resources heats up (and anti-Americanism across the globe increases). Nations have already begun scrambling not only for energy resources, but strategic minerals, which are vital for defense industries in particular.

If South Africa locked into a pact with anti-American nations competing for global influence, the U.S. could be isolated from vital resources. If Russia were to gain controlling influence over South Africa’s resources, it, in cooperation with China and the European Union, would be in a position to enforce a blockade on the Anglo-American nations.

This is the precise scenario prophesied in the Bible to come upon the nations of Britain and America (the modern-day descendants of ancient Israel) in Deuteronomy 28:52. Read “The Battleground” to learn how the competition over resources will play out among the world’s great powers. 

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2 Responses to “RUSSIA”

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