Putin Forms Alliance Against ‘Western Imperialism’

Russia, with several allies including China, Cuba and South Africa, launches ‘Forum of Supporters of the Struggle Against Modern Practices of Neocolonialism.’
Putin Forms Alliance Against ‘Western Imperialism’
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of a meeting with African leaders at the Constantine (Konstantinovsky) Palace in Strelna, outside Saint Petersburg on June 19, 2023. (RAMIL SITDIKOV / RIA NOVOSTI / AFP via Getty Images)
Darren Taylor

JOHANNESBURG—Russian President Vladimir Putin has formed a “global alliance,” along with key allies including China, Cuba, North Korea, Syria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, with the goal of fighting “Western imperialism.”

At a weekend gathering in Moscow, Dmitriy Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, announced the establishment of the “Forum of Supporters of the Struggle Against Modern Practices of Neocolonialism.”

The meeting took place days before the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Neocolonialism is a shameful legacy of centuries-long plunder and exploitation of the people of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and other regions of the planet,” Mr. Putin stated in a statement read at the conference.

He asserted that Russia, and especially the former Soviet Union, had done a great deal to dismantle the foundations of the colonial system and to support national liberation movements.

In a statement issued ahead of the meeting, Alexey Drobinin, director of the Russian government’s Foreign Policy Planning Department, blamed the West for imposing sanctions on rivals and freezing their assets, economic exploitation, and propagating “deviant sexual orientations.”

The lead actor, Mr. Drobinin said, is the United States, where government policy protects Western capital, goods, and services at the cost of emerging economies.

“Joe Biden went even further to wage a Western-led war against Russia, using the Ukrainians to do the fighting for him,” Mr. Drobinin said.

South Africa

One of the main speakers at the Moscow event was Fikile Mbalula, second-in-command of South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC).

The former Soviet Union and China were the main providers to the ANC of weapons and ammunition in its armed struggle against apartheid.

Many of the party’s current leaders, including Cabinet ministers, were educated and received military training in the USSR.

The ANC government has refused to denounce the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since the conflict began in Eastern Europe, the ANC has forged close military ties with Moscow and has been accused by the United States of supplying weapons to Mr. Putin’s war effort, an accusation the ANC denies.

South Africa and Russia are also partners in the BRICS bloc of emerging economies, with both instrumental in recently adding Iran as a member.

Mr. Mbalula and other senior party officials have been frequent visitors to the Kremlin in recent years.

Greg Mills, director of the Brenthurst Foundation, a prominent Johannesburg-based think tank, said South Africa’s presence at the Moscow Forum was “misplaced ... at least on paper.”

“It was a gathering of anti-democratic states seeking to entrench the idea that unelected vote-riggers who run their countries like personal fiefdoms are the best guarantors of freedom,” he told a webinar hosted by the Daily Maverick newspaper.

“Despite the ANC’s many failures, South Africa is, for now, still a democracy, so the ANC stuck out like a sore thumb until Mbalula spoke. ... It then became clear from his utterances that the ANC is now firmly in the authoritarian camp, a wholly owned subsidiary of Moscow,” Mr. Mills said.

When he addressed the meeting in Russia’s capital, Mr. Mbalula said, “We have been honored to be invited as the ANC to this profound gathering under the banner of the Forum of Supporters of the Struggle Against Modern Practices of Neocolonialism, which is aimed at ushering the freedom of nations.”

The forum met as news broke about the death in prison of Alexei Navalny, the pro-democracy activist long considered to be the chief threat to Mr. Putin’s hold on power.

While Western countries suggested the Russian leader was responsible for Mr. Navalny’s fate, no one attending the “anti-neocolonialist” meeting mentioned Mr. Navalny by name.

Follow Russia—or Else

“The trouble with being a subsidiary of Moscow is that you become enmeshed in its shadow world of sleazy deals and backhanders and find that you have to follow the Russian line or the consequences might be grave,” Mr. Mills said.

“South Africa has drifted so far from its democratic moorings that the only way to make coherent sense of its foreign policy is that it is doing the bidding of the rogue nations and organizations it strongly identifies with, from Russia to Hamas and Iran.”

Mr. Mills said the ANC, mired in corruption scandals since it assumed office in 1994, was in Moscow because it had been “lured by party funding and giant, rent-laden infrastructure projects such as the recurring desire to build (Russian-financed) nuclear power stations.”

The ANC has acknowledged that one of its biggest donors is Viktor Vekselberg, a U.S.-sanctioned Russian oligarch who is close to Mr. Putin.

A diplomat who attended the recent anti-West event in Moscow told The Epoch Times that Mr. Vekselberg was a “prominent mover” behind Mr. Putin’s “anti-neocolonialism” initiative.

Mr. Vekselberg didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

He and the ANC’s “business mechanism,” Chancellor House, are joint owners of a South African mining company, United Manganese of Kalahari.

Washington first imposed sanctions on Mr. Vekselberg in April 2018 over what the Treasury Department called “worldwide malign activity” from a number of oligarchs “who benefit from the Putin regime.”
A case filed against Mr. Vekselberg in the United States in 2022 revealed his shadowy past.

In 2001, he was accused of using soldiers to “gain control of a Siberian oilfield.” In 2004, there were claims that he had stolen client bank funds, using the money to buy Fabergé eggs.

Mr. Vekselberg has denied the claims, as well as allegations of racketeering, money laundering, and bribery that have followed him throughout his career.

In 2022, the U.S. Treasury applied a new set of sanctions on him, following the Ukraine invasion.

“Vekselberg has taken part in Russian diplomatic and soft power activities on behalf of the Kremlin, accompanying (Russian) officials on cultural missions abroad,” the department said.

More than 200 bipartisan members of Congress are pushing President Joe Biden’s administration to impose “punitive measures” on South Africa for its alliances with the United States’ major geopolitical adversaries, including China, Iran, and Russia.
Mr. Mills said the ANC’s clear support for Russia’s “Forum of Supporters of the Struggle Against Modern Practices of Neocolonialism” could further jeopardize an “already fraught” relationship between South Africa and the United States.

‘Poking the Sleeping Dog’

“The Biden administration is very tolerant, and it clearly sees the value of keeping Africa’s most developed democracy, and Africa’s second-largest economy, onside. But how long can the ANC continue to test Washington’s patience? The ANC keeps on poking the sleeping dog,” he said.

The U.S. House of Representatives might consider legislation that would require the Biden administration to conduct a full review of U.S. relations with South Africa, including the country’s inclusion in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

This gives South Africa tariff-free access to the U.S. market for a wide variety of goods. In 2023, South Africa was AGOA’s top beneficiary, earning the country hundreds of millions of dollars.

If approved, the “U.S.-South Africa Bilateral Relations Review Act” also would require the administration to report to Congress, “explicitly stating whether South Africa has engaged in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests.”

ANC leader and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has suggested that the bipartisan bill is part of a “fightback campaign” after his government took Israel, a U.S. ally, to the International Court of Justice on genocide charges.

Mr. Ramaphosa also said “some forces” are pushing for “regime change” in South Africa because of the ANC’s “moral stance” against injustice around the world.