By Peter Wanyonyi
Vladimir Putin, formerly a KGB spy, has never been one to keep his adversaries guessing. In July 2021, Russia’s president laid out what was to become his rationale for dismembering Ukraine this past February. At times sounding like a history professor lecturing naughty schoolkids, Putin referred to centuries of Russian history, pointing out that the polity known as “Ukraine” did not exist as an independent country until 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up. “Ukraine’s sovereignty”, Putin stated, “is only in partnership with Russia.” Translation: Ukraine is an imaginary country, a historical part of Russia that the West is using to gain a foothold against Russia in Eastern Europe. Putin’s swift decapitation of Ukraine in February was, similarly, a message: Ukraine is Russia’s red line, and Putin would not allow the West to cross that line.
Russia’s military action resulted in the usual consequences: Russia is a big player in the oil and gas export industries. Russia has the world’s largest natural gas reserves, and the eight largest proven oil reserves in the world. As Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, the bumbling Joe Biden – the always-confused American President and exact antithesis to the energetic, calculating Vladimir Putin – tried to put together a coherent response that turned out to be stunning in its lack of ambition or deterrent. Biden – or rather, his handlers, for Biden rarely seems to know what he’s doing or where he is, and sometimes even reads the teleprompter cues that his handlers include in his speeches – slapped sanctions on a couple of Russian banks, made some noises about how bad Putin is, then turned around and left, presumably heading straight back to bed. It was left to his indefatigable Press Secretary to emerge into the baying press pit and then do her best to avoid answering any questions from the quote-hungry White House reporters.
Europe was next in line with a series of weak, uncoordinated actions. This was no surprise: Europe’s public policy has been taken over by the small but vociferous global-warming leftie crowd whose central policy plank has been ending the use of cheap fossil fuels and forcing Europe to transition to “green” energy, which presumably has lower carbon emissions. In keeping with the socialist background of the global warming mob, their real enemy is any sign of progress, so they are opposed to any source of energy that enables industrial development. As a result, they’re opposed even to nuclear energy, which sits alongside hydropower as the greenest industrial-scale energy source available to man. Of course, hydropower is also off-limits to these lot, because building dams “destroys ecosystems of vulnerable species” – and similar leftisms.
The left’s influence in European energy policy has seen Europe’s economic engine, Germany, forced to shut down its coal and nuclear power plants. This has resulted in the German export machine being dependent on – horrors! – Putin’s natural gas, which is piped into Europe via pipelines that transit Ukraine and Belarus. As a result of their dependence on Russian gas, the Germans – and, therefore, the EU – were quite muted in their reaction to Putin’s military action. Germany weakly complained about Russian “hostilities”. When Kiev begged for military equipment, the Germans – who have one of the world’s most advanced defence equipment manufacturing industries – sent 5,000 helmets, nothing more.
The Europeans can afford to be complacent about their reaction. So can China, which is Russia’s most natural ally. The Chinese made some vague noises about the need for issues to be resolved peacefully, promised to peg back funding for Russian military manufacturers, and the retreated back into their customary studious silence, even as their trade with Russia kept increasing.
Africa, meanwhile, had nothing to say. That’s no surprise; such is Africa’s division and backwater nature. The cacophony of the African Union and its lack of ambition are, however, a dangerous status that needs addressing – not at Africa level, where nothing meaningful can ever get done, but at regional level.
The foreign policies of East Africa, for example, are virtually identical: non-existent. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo DRC and Somalia are all uniform in their lack of interest in geopolitical happenings around the globe, regardless of the effect those happenings have on the region. Congo, Somalia and South Sudan are busy tearing themselves apart in pointless civil wars. Kenya is preoccupied with an upcoming presidential election whose most defining factor is the sheer uselessness of the leading two presidential contenders. Uganda is waiting to see how Museveni engineers his son, Muhoozi, to take over the presidency, while Burundi likely does not even know what day of the week it is in the rest of East Africa – such is Bujumbura’s hopelessness. It is left to Rwanda to craft East Africa’s most coherent foreign policy, a role that should be expanded to cover the entire region, for Paul Kagame is the only serious leader around this region.
But the hike in oil prices will affect East Africa the most. This will invariably be followed by increased inflation as a result of both higher oil prices and the knock-on effect of imported American inflation, as the US Dollar continues to suffer the consequences of Joe Biden’s nonsensical economic policies. Fertiliser prices will also continue to shoot up, as will the costs of everything imported into the region – which is nearly everything these days. Food prices across the region will hit the ceiling, and the entire region will once again have to rely on Western food aid and budgetary support to avert wholesale starvation in northern Kenya, northern Uganda, and the refugee camps of north-western Tanzania.
It does not have to be that way, of course. A coherent approach to foreign policy, coordinated across the East African region and set up to anticipate – rather than react to – world events, would see East Africa act earlier, sooner, and faster, to set up reserves, negotiate as one unit, speak as one voice, and provide itself with the food and energy reserves that it needs to survive turbulent times such as these. (
— The author is based in New Zealand.