Russian and Malian defence ministers have signed an agreement on military cooperation in Russia.
The document was signed at the ARMY 2019 International Military and Technical Forum by Russian General of the Army and Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and Malian Defence Minister General Ibrahim Dahirou Dembele, the Russian Ministry of Defence said on 25 June.
“In our opinion, the intensification of military ties is in the interests of our two countries,” Shoigu said.
He stressed that the agreement will strengthen bilateral relations in the defence sphere.
“We want your country to quickly overcome internal problems and succeed in reflecting the onslaught of outside terrorist forces. We are grateful for the support of Russian foreign policy initiatives. We appreciate Mali’s understanding of our approaches to Ukrainian and Syrian issues,” Shoigu said.
“We consider the solid experience gained during this period as a good basis for strengthening the partnership in various fields,” he added, in reference to the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year.
Since Western nations sanctioned Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014, Moscow has signed at least 19 military cooperation deals in sub-Saharan Africa, including with Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, according to its foreign and defence ministries and state media.
Moscow is making a renewed push for global prestige and influence, and its involvement in Africa is part of a wider campaign shaking up long-standing power dynamics on the continent.
Russia is now trying to revive some of the relationships that lapsed after the Soviet Union’s collapse. It joins a number of countries such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates looking to set up bases in Africa, mediate in diplomatic stand-offs and strike business deals.
China has long had a major economic presence in Africa but it has shied away from any military involvement. It did go a step further in 2017, however, opening its first military base outside China in Djibouti.
Near the world’s busiest shipping lanes, Djibouti is also home to a large French base, the only U.S. base in Africa, an Italian camp and Japan’s only overseas base.
Djibouti blocked Russian attempts to set up a base, however, saying it wanted to avoid becoming the terrain for a proxy war. Moscow is now planning to build a logistics center at a port in neighboring Eritrea.
While France has a military bases outside Djibouti in former colonies Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal and its soldiers also operate in Chad, Mali and Niger, analysts say Washington’s influence is on the wane.
Russia has struck military cooperation deals with many African countries since 2015, though some have yet to come into force. The agreements typically involve providing weapons and training in areas such as counter-terrorism and piracy.