South Africa Hosts Russian Foreign Minister

    South Africa Hosts Russian Foreign Minister
    Last updated Jan 24, 2023
    Image credit: Russian Foreign Ministry/AP [via DW]


    • On his second Africa trip within six months, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday visited South Africa for bilateral talks with his counterpart, Naledi Pandor.[1]
    • While Lavrov welcomed South Africa's neutral stance since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, Pandor reiterated that Pretoria favors a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Pandor asserted that South Africa will not let the West determine which countries it maintains bilateral relations with.[2]
    • Pandor stated that given recent developments, including "the massive transfer of arms" to Ukraine, it would be "simplistic and infantile" to renew Pretoria's original demand that Moscow unilaterally withdraws its forces from Ukraine.[3]
    • At a press conference, Dr. Pandor also defended the South Africa-hosted 10-day naval drills with Russia and China in February, calling them an expression of collaboration between "friends worldwide."[4]
    • Both diplomats agreed on the growing importance of the BRICS group of nations, which South Africa currently chairs, with Pandor stating that the bloc of emerging economies should play a greater role in reshaping the global order in light of global geopolitical dynamics.[5]
    • Since the African National Congress (ANC) was still a liberation movement against white minority rule in the country, South Africa's ruling party has maintained close ties with Moscow and has abstained from voting against Russia on UN resolutions relating to the Ukraine war.[6]


    Establishment-critical narrative

    The fact that South Africa maintains and expands its relations with international pariahs such as Russia for nostalgic and ideological reasons could cost the country dearly since it cannot be assumed that the West will continue to stand idly by. The stakes are high — much of South Africa's investment and trade are with the West and its military equipment is sourced from there. If South Africa does not change its course and continues to try to play both sides, it risks ending up as a pariah itself.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    In criticizing South Africa for its ties with Moscow, the West is once again applying double standards. This is also true of the naval drills with Russia and China, which in no way mean that Pretoria is abandoning its neutral stance amid the Ukraine war. Moreover, it is hypocritical to criticize the drills but remain silent when Washington demonstrates military power at will. As a sovereign country, South Africa is no longer willing to bow to Western definitions of right and wrong.

    Establishment split