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CommentaryThe shifting dynamics of multipolar politics: Examining USSR's legacy and relationship with...

The shifting dynamics of multipolar politics: Examining USSR’s legacy and relationship with Africa

The balance of power in international politics has undergone significant shifts in recent history because of many factors. Global power dynamics have evolved over time. During the Cold War, a bipolar order dominated with the US and Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union helped develop multipolarity. During the Cold War, it countered the US, supporting nations seeking alternative development. Through alliances with socialists and non-aligned countries, the USSR aimed to challenge US hegemony and create a balanced order.

Similarly fearing Soviet expansion, the US aided governments confronting revolution, giving war-ravaged Europe billions to reconstruct.

The USSR’s transition to Russia and dissolution of multipolarity must be analyzed. Russia became independent in 1991, inheriting the USSR’s influence, though diminished. This occurred despite Russia’s size. During Russia’s market economy and democracy transition discarding socialism, Russia faced challenges. However, over time Russia regained its footing and reclaimed its global role, though altered.

Russia’s Africa engagement isn’t just ideological; it counters colonial powers. Russia never participated in the Berlin Balkanization of Africa in 1884. Russia-Africa ties have deep roots in Soviet economic, military and political support. Russia has tried recently to revitalize relations with several African countries.

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The rekindled engagement stems from strategic, economic and geopolitical considerations. Russia aims to expand its Africa presence by fostering cooperation in areas like trade, investment, energy and defense.

Unipolarity and geopolitics are imperative in 21st century international politics. “Unipolar politics” refers to a global system dominated by one state – the US. After the Cold War’s end, America possessed unprecedented power and sought to shape the world according to its interests.

However, the rise of other powers like China and Russia has challenged this unipolar dynamic over the last decade, creating a more multipolar world. China and Russia’s consolidation of power formed the BRICS group of five nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – the world’s five largest emerging economies widely seen as able to impact international politics and the global economy significantly.

Brazil, the largest economy in South America, has strengths in agriculture, industry and services. Income inequality, political instability and corruption plague the nation. Brazil is pursuing economic reforms and foreign investment to expand.

South Africa is the sole African member of BRICS and has the most developed economy. It has vast resources, a robust financial sector and mixed economy. South Africa’s socioeconomic concerns include high unemployment, inequality, corruption and governance issues.

Russia possesses vast natural resources, especially energy. It has been impacted by geopolitical tensions, sanctions and energy prices. Despite this, Russia has shown resilience by addressing these challenges. Russia’s technological advances, defense industry and potential in agriculture and manufacturing contribute to its clout.

India, the second most populous nation, has seen rapid economic expansion. Information technology, outsourcing and a growing middle class are its strengths. Economic reforms, industrial improvements and foreign investment are goals.

China is the world’s second largest economy and manufacturing powerhouse. It has experienced rapid growth over past decades, lifting millions from poverty. China has become a major trade and investment player with initiatives like Belt and Road. The current multipolar dynamic is exemplified by BRICS and China’s economic impact.

The world is experiencing a power rebalancing and emergence of multiple influencers. China’s economic might, Russia’s geopolitical maneuvers and the EU’s regional impact all contribute to multipolarity. This transition has implications for regions like Africa where nations now have more say in partnerships and alliances.

The USSR’s assistance to African liberation movements: A legacy of support

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union played a key role in aiding various anti-colonial forces seeking African liberation. The USSR’s support was ideologically and geopolitically motivated but also stemmed from its anti-colonial views and desire to aid decolonization struggles in Africa.

The Soviet Union’s proletariat ideology and belief in self-determination, anti-imperialism and socialist revolution intellectually motivated supporting African liberation movements. The USSR saw itself as defending the disadvantaged and actively identified with groups battling colonialism, racism and exploitation.

Recent history shows many African liberation movements received significant military and financial aid from the USSR. This assistance included logistical support, financing liberation fighters’ activities, training and equipping liberation forces. Additionally, the Soviet Union provided scholarships to African students, cultivating intellectual and ideological ties shaping future leaders of independent African states.

In similar vein, African liberation movements benefited from political and diplomatic backing. The Soviet Union provided the support, recognizing movements’ legitimacy and offering them an international stage. The USSR used its UN and international organization power/influence to highlight African plights and campaign for self-determination rights.

Assessing the USSR’s impact on African liberation movements requires in-depth analysis. Soviet support substantially enhanced capabilities, enabling armed resistance against colonial powers. USSR military training and equipment were essential for military victories and international recognition. Soviet assistance also mobilized global solidarity and pressured colonial powers to concede to independence demands.

The legacy of USSR assistance to Africa is enduring. After independence, many African leaders from these movements maintained close USSR ties. This relationship shaped their policies as they embraced socialism and sought USSR economic, political and military support.

The pursuit of unipolar politics: US’s drive for hegemonic power

The US has been a prominent global power for a long time, substantially impacting other countries’ affairs. This article briefly examines USs efforts to impose its unipolar international vision and quest for hegemony. It considers US techniques, unipolarity’s consequences and other countries’ reactions.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the unipolar drive began. The US emerged as Earth’s sole superpower. Seeing an opportunity, US politicians aimed to create and maintain unipolarity with unmatched political, economic and military clout.

The motivation behind unipolarity was to shape world events aligning with US interests and ideals. Institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), have systematically supported US economic hegemony, a hegemony pillar.

Through these institutions, America has sought to promote free trade, market economies and influence global economics in its favor. This economic leverage has given America substantial power and influence over other nations.

The US maintained its position as preeminent world power due to “military dominance.” It had a strong military presence globally during and after the Cold War, with bases in many areas, notably Africa. This military superiority served not just to preserve American interests but also project power and influence worldwide. The US engaged in many military interventions and wars, often justifying involvement by emphasizing the need to ‘maintain peace and democracy.’

US military dominance is supported by political and cultural clout, which it leverage to spread its values and norms globally. It sought to shape the political landscape and advance its vision of democracy, human rights, and liberal values through diplomacy, alliances and soft power initiatives like cultural exchanges, media and technology.

The 21st century’s unipolarity presents political and economic issues. Maintaining a unipolar political system faces opposition from many directions. The US still dominates economically and geopolitically, but rising nations like China and Russia counter US influence. Regional alliances and multilateral organizations have arisen for nations to articulate interests and provide policy alternatives centered around the US.

BRICS emergence fosters optimism that the unipolar world is diminishing. Generally, BRICS countries represent diverse economies with enormous potential. They intend to accomplish this by bolstering collective international clout, promoting economic cooperation and addressing collective challenges. Russia’s BRICS position is essential for reinforcing member states’ constraints by allowing diverse paths within its framework.

Russia’s role in strengthening Africa’s peace and security

Russia’s role in boosting Africa’s peace and security has evolved in recent years. Russia has maintained diplomatic, economic and military ties with almost all African nations historically. Recently, though, Russia’s engagement in Africa’s security landscape has intensified due to Russia’s role in strengthening Africa’s peace and security.

Diplomatic engagement between Russia and African nations has reached an impasse. Russia has been actively interacting with African nations through diplomatic channels. It has endeavored to develop strategic alliances, strengthen political ties with African countries. High-level visits, diplomatic exchanges and establishing embassies in African capitals demonstrate Russia’s diplomatic commitment to Africa.

Russia’s peacekeeping and counterterrorism efforts have increased its participation in African peacekeeping operations. Under the UN and regional organizations, it has deployed forces to nations like Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali. Additionally, Russia has participated in counterterrorism efforts by providing training, intelligence support and military aid to African nations combating terrorist groups.

Regional and international partnerships between African nations and Russia have become pillars of peace and development in the region. Russia has sought to establish partnerships with regional African organizations like the African Union (AU) and other regional economic communities. It has engaged in collaborative initiatives and supported regional efforts addressing security issues like internal conflict, terrorism and piracy.  

In general, Russia’s role in boosting Africa’s peace and security is multidimensional, spanning diplomatic, military, economic and geopolitical realms. The long-term consequences of its efforts will depend on the nature of Russia’s participation and reactions from African governments and regional entities. Its actions can have a positive stabilizing effect on Africa.

In conclusion, the USSR’s assistance to African liberation movements during the Cold War played a critical role in advancing decolonization and self-determination in Africa, creating an enduring legacy. The Soviet Union provided military, financial, political and diplomatic support in the struggle against colonial powers. Many newly independent African nations developed close USSR ties due to this aid, influencing their political, economic and ideological trajectories. Soviet support for African liberation movements remains a pivotal chapter in both Soviet and African history, highlighting Cold War dynamics and independence quests.         

America’s pursuit of unipolar politics and hegemonic power has largely shaped the post-Cold War global order. Its economic clout, military might and cultural influence have granted unmatched authority. Emerging powers and regional alliances seeking a more multipolar, balanced world order have resisted and challenged unipolarity. Global politics’ future will likely result from America’s hegemony pursuit interacting with other nations’ efforts to assert individual and collective interests and worldviews.

While the US still exerts significant global influence, shifting power dynamics suggest a future multipolar world order will likely emerge in which the US shares power with other nations.

Russia’s deepening Africa partnerships will impact geopolitics. While Russia aims to expand soft power and compete with the US and China for influence, its participation nature and African reactions will determine long-term consequences. Russia’s efforts can positively stabilize Africa through peacekeeping operations, counterterrorism efforts, and partnerships with African organizations.

Overall, Russia appears determined to play a bigger role in resolving African security challenges. Its deepening security partnership with Africa will likely continue reshaping the geopolitical landscape in the coming years.

Seife Tadelle Kidane (PhD) is a director for Africa Speaks-Centre for Governance and Intra Africa Trade Studies, a senior research fellow at the IPATC, University of Johannesburg, and a member of the AISSS Executive Board Director and the head of strategic research.

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