On his third trip to Africa since July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived Tuesday in Mali for talks with military ruler Assimi Goïta and his counterpart Abdoulaye Diop amid the West African country's decades-long battle against an Islamist insurgency.
Speaking in Mali's capital Bamako, Lavrov stated that Moscow remains committed to assisting the Malian government — which seized power in a 2021 military coup —to bolster military capabilities.
Lavrov's visit to Mali is yet another sign of Russia's soft power approach to portraying itself as an alternative to the West when Moscow is primarily interested in exploiting mineral resources and arms sales. While Moscow stokes anti-French sentiment to achieve its objective, the criminal Wagner mercenaries do the dirty work on the ground, further destabilizing the entire region. The time has come for Washington to label Wagner a "terrorist organization" and for the West to take more decisive action against Russia in the Sahel as part of the "great power competition."
France and the entire West are crying foul, accusing Moscow of fomenting anti-Western sentiments in order to expand in Mali and the Sahel. In truth, they themselves are responsible for the anti-colonial sentiment that is spreading on the ground and from which Moscow benefits. Yes, the Wagner soldiers are in Mali, but the rift between Paris and Bamako does not stem from Moscow. The loss of trust everywhere in Africa originates from endless Western hypocrisy and exploitation of Africa's natural wealth. It's perfectly legitimate for Bamako to seek other partners to finally overcome poverty and violence.