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Opinion
Clara Ferreira Marques

Is Russia Winning the Battle for African Support?

If Sergei Lavrov’s tour this week aimed to highlight Western diplomatic weakness, he can claim some measure of success. But there are limits to his reach.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni this week.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni this week.

Photographer: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s charm offensive in Africa this week, part of efforts to rally support in the face of growing isolation, has prompted fresh Western hand-wringing. Is Moscow gaining ground in the emerging world? Why can’t African nations see that Russia is waging a war of conquest? On the other side, predictably, it fed propaganda bombast. “Russia is winning the fight for Africa,” one state television presenter told viewers. “The tour has turned out to be a triumphal march.”

Both are wide of the mark.