World: Blinken leads US bid to counter Russian charm offensive in Africa

Neither Moscow nor Kyiv can control Ukraine's skies. These are the jets they're using to fight the air war.

  Neither Moscow nor Kyiv can control Ukraine's skies. These are the jets they're using to fight the air war. As of late July, observers have identified 36 Russian aircraft and 35 Ukrainian aircraft as lost, but the totals for both sides are likely higher.Throughout the buildup to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries, including the US, insisted they would not send troops to the region amid concern that the presence of their personnel on the ground would lead to a dangerous escalation of the conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel next month to South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, the State Department announced Friday, as Washington ramps up diplomacy in Africa to counter a Russian charm offensive.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel in August 2022 to Africa as Russia seeks inroads © Andrew Harnik US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel in August 2022 to Africa as Russia seeks inroads

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will also go in August to Ghana and Uganda and the US aid chief, Samantha Power, recently completed a trip to longtime US ally Kenya, as well as troubled Somalia, where she highlighted the rise in malnutrition aggravated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov says Russian goal to oust Ukraine's president

  Lavrov says Russian goal to oust Ukraine's president KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia appears to have reversed itself after the country's top diplomat said Moscow's overarching goal is to topple the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Russian artillery barrages and air strikes continue to pummel cities across Ukraine. The remark from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov comes amid Ukraine's efforts to resume grain exports from its Black Sea ports, something that would help ease global food shortages, under a new deal tested by a Russian strike on Odesa over the weekend.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov plants a tree at the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa on July 27, 2022 © EDUARDO SOTERAS Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov plants a tree at the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa on July 27, 2022

The diplomacy comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov undertakes his own extensive tour of Africa, where he has sought to cast spiraling global food prices as a consequence of Western sanctions -- an idea rejected by Washington, which points to Moscow's blockade of Ukrainian ports.

Blinken will send a message that "African countries are geostrategic players and critical partners on the most pressing issues of our day, from promoting an open and stable international system, to tackling the effects of climate change, food insecurity and global pandemics to shaping our technological and economic futures," a State Department statement said.

'New Cold War': Russia and West vie for influence in Africa

  'New Cold War': Russia and West vie for influence in Africa JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Russian, French and American leaders are crisscrossing Africa to win support for their positions on the war in Ukraine, waging what some say is the most intense competition for influence on the continent since the Cold War. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emanuel Macron are each visiting several African countries this week. Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, went to Kenya and Somalia last week. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will go to Ghana and Uganda next week.

USAID chief Samantha Power speaks during a joint press conference with Kenya's Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia in Nairobi on July 22, 2022 © Tony KARUMBA USAID chief Samantha Power speaks during a joint press conference with Kenya's Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia in Nairobi on July 22, 2022

South Africa, a leader in the developing world, has emerged as a key diplomatic battleground as it has remained studiously neutral on the Ukraine war, refusing to join Western calls to condemn Moscow, which still enjoys affection over its opposition to apartheid.

Blinken will visit Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria from August 7-9. He will then head to the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa in a bid to show support for sub-Saharan Africa's vastest country as it tries to turn the page on decades of conflict.

He will complete his trip in Rwanda, which has seen a flare-up in tensions with DR Congo after it accused its neighbor to the east of backing M23 rebels, a charge Kigali denies.

Isolation complication? US finds it's hard to shun Russia

  Isolation complication? US finds it's hard to shun Russia WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration likes to say Russia has become isolated internationally because of its invasion of Ukraine. Yet Moscow's top officials have hardly been cloistered in the Kremlin. And now, even the U.S. wants to talk. President Vladimir Putin has been meeting with world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member. Meanwhile, his top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, is jetting around the world, smiling, shaking hands and posing for photos with foreign leaders — including some friends of the U.S. And on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he wants to end months of top-level U.S.

The State Department said Blinken will press for the release of Paul Rusesabagina, who is credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide and inspired the movie "Hotel Rwanda."


Video: Sec. Blinken meets with family of slain journalist (ABC News)

A US permanent resident, Rusesabagina is a critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and was sentenced to a 25-year prison term for "terrorism" after a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed in Kigali in 2020.

Blinken will be paying his second trip to sub-Saharan Africa since he took office last year with President Joe Biden's administration.

Late last year, he traveled to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal as he sought to highlight democracies.

Before Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, US efforts in Africa had a heavy subtext on competition with China, which has poured money into infrastructure building on the continent and contrasts itself with the United States by making no demands on democracy or human rights.

- Rejecting Russian narrative -

Two of Putin's top Russian pilots were killed by US-supplied HIMARS, report says

  Two of Putin's top Russian pilots were killed by US-supplied HIMARS, report says One of the Russian pilots' fathers revealed that he believed his son's death was caused by HIMARS, a long-range weapons system from the US.Throughout the buildup to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries, including the US, insisted they would not send troops to the region amid concern that the presence of their personnel on the ground would lead to a dangerous escalation of the conflict.

While the Biden administration identifies China as the primary long-term competitor of the United States, it has focused in the short-term on countering Russia.

Western nations have overwhelmingly voiced outrage and sought to punish Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine but developing nations, especially in Africa and South Asia, have been more hesitant.

Yoweri Museveni, the veteran leader of Uganda where Thomas-Greenfield is heading, met Tuesday with Lavrov and said, "How can we be against somebody who has never harmed us?"

Lavrov, speaking the next day in Ethiopia, urged Africa to resist a world "totally subordinated to the United States" and warned that other nations risked punishment if they run afoul of Western interests.

Blinken on Wednesday described Lavrov's trip as "a desperate game of defense to justify to the world the actions that Russia has taken" including its "aggression" in Ukraine.

President Emmanuel Macron of France, which has a long history in Africa, on a visit to Benin on Wednesday called Russia "one of the last imperial colonial powers."

Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, on her trip to the Horn of Africa unveiled more than $1 billion in emergency assistance to fight rising hunger and challenged other nations such as China and Russia to follow suit.

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Biden administration launches Africa strategy. But the real targets seem to be China, Russia .
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has a tough sell in the new U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa.Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken insisted his five-day swing through sub-Saharan Africa is aimed at making the region a priority for the administration in a dynamic of “equal partners.

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