“Russia’s economic dependency on natural resources will return the region to the top of the list of its foreign policy priorities. Finding new allies in various regions is important to Russia. Weak governments and the blurred future of the region generate risks and opportunities. Russia, a country with no colonial presence in Africa, has a major advantage”.
The Horn of Africa includes Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. But geopolitics enlarges the definition: “the Greater Horn” attaches Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan. Also, the Horn of Africa controls the Bab el Mandeb Strait, one of the important global shipping routes, and part of the Gulf of Aden, the gateway from the Mediterranean, through Suez, to the Indian Ocean. Russia, always a great power, and Africa have had relations for a century. The religious centric approach started with Christian Ethiopia in Tsarist times. It continued in the Cold War years, the Soviet Union being ideological role model, ally and supporter of self-determination against Western colonialism. Then, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia experienced economic chaos and political uncertainty. Once a superpower, it began to doubt its place in the world. The collapse of the Soviet Union disrupted the ties with Africa. Then, in the early 2000’s, itd reemerged as a global force. Since the end of the Cold War, Africa’s status in the geopolitical order has risen noticeably. And the Horn of Africa remains one of the world’s most conflicted regions, mired by hunger, poverty and conflict, even though it has a young population and plenty of natural resources. Still, Russia does not regard it as strategic, demonstrating minimal high-level interest. But this will change. There has been a rise in Russian investment in several countries in the Horn of Africa: arms sales, natural resources, minerals and nuclear energy. But trade is insufficient. Russia has strengthened its position, with the Syrian conflict, in the Middle East, and, with the Ukrainian crisis, in Europe, with a double aim: establish a multi-polar order and being a superpower again. Africa, and the Horn Africa, is as a scramble area of the great powers to protect their long-term energy security. To play the great power game in a grand chessboard, Moscow should not think of the Horn of Africa as a pawn.