french troops africa

Where is Danish foreign policy headed? Everything now revolves around the war in Ukraine and rearmament against Russia, which is quite openly called our enemy, and where sanctions are being extended and trade and contacts are being cut off in all areas. NATO now also talks about China in its new strategy papers. But what about Africa, which has for decades received Danish development aid? What does the government say about Africa, which belongs to the Global South, today a widely used term?

Denmark is a member of NATO, and has increasingly become an active participant in wars outside Europe. Danish governments have sent military forces into hotspots where Denmark is not exactly remembered for any positive role. Except in their own self-glorification, strongly supported by uncritical media. The so-called activist foreign policy has broad support in Parliament, and the military has been trained to be able to send missions to distant targets to defend what? Yes, that is the good question, which is most often answered with the fact that it is about defending our values. Values ​​that are called liberal, although it can be difficult to see when it comes to the choice of business partners. These are usually corrupt governments that line their own pockets and are hated by large sections of the population. We can only mention Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. And most recently Mali in West Africa, where a new government has thrown Denmark and the old colonial power France at the door.

The government’s security policy analysis group

The analysis was published by the Mette Frederiksen government in October 2022 and was carried out under the leadership of Michael Zilmer-Johns and a number of experts and researchers. Mention is made of analyzes carried out by e.g. Center for Military Studies, DIIS, the Defense Academy and Foreign Economic Analysis Unit. The analysis was therefore made after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The fact that Denmark is a small state does not exactly characterize the analysis. Denmark wants to eat cherries with the big ones, and aligns itself closely with the US’s foreign policy, as has been the tradition since joining NATO in 1949. It’s like the mouse saying to the elephant when they cross the bridge: Hear where we rock.

China has gained a growing role as a great power, which challenges the United States, which understands itself as the leading great power. This also permeates the latest strategic scenarios from Washington. The analysis believes that the US will be more focused on China and therefore “Europe will have to provide a much larger part of both NATO’s defense against Russia and the efforts against terror and irregular migration from the Middle East and Africa” ​​(quote) towards 2035. In short, Africa will move more into the center, also militarily.

There is talk of the “southern agenda”, which has not diminished since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The activist foreign policy, where Denmark was a willing actor in the US and NATO wars during the changing government, has not been cancelled. There are threats in both the east and the south, and in the south it is “international terrorism, geopolitical and societal instability, irregular migration etc.” In short – you must be prepared for evacuation on all front sections.

The challenge from the Global South

The analysis also resumes the old scare picture from the Cold War. That the non-aligned movement, which then had its heyday, is being revived. That there are countries that do not choose a side, i.e. above all, it does not support the so-called “free Western world”, but goes its own way and chooses its partners based on its own interests. Imperialism is based on capital exports and access to raw materials, and a development where Western groups are exposed to increased competition is therefore a threat. The analysis formulates it as follows: “A value-based division of the world risks standing in the way of handling one of the most important global axes in the long-term great power competition – namely the relations with the group of countries that during the Cold War belonged to the “non-aligned” grouping. The West i.e. needs to cooperate with many of these countries on replacing Russian energy and on raw materials for the green transition”.

As I said, this group of countries has its own interests, and there are countries that want to break the neo-colonial ties with the West, and maintain and expand ties with China and Russia. The analysis indicates that there is considerable skepticism towards the West’s intentions.

“In many countries, the West is suspected of double standards, and neither leaders nor populations see the big difference between Russia’s actions and US-led interventions in Iraq or the bombing of Serbia and the recognition of Kosovo’s independence”.

“In the African countries, Russia and China have gradually gained greater influence, while the EU has had difficulty converting its large development aid and importance as an export market into political influence”.

The West’s heavy emphasis on having an agenda of values ​​has run into major problems when it comes to demonstrating those values ​​in practice. That this value agenda creates more distance than it promotes the West’s interests. Internally, too, the West is weakened by internal problems with e.g. populism and increased polarization. A large number of large nations in the Global South do not immediately buy this value agenda. The analysis indicates that the EU is far less ready than the US to face these challenges. But that there is untapped potential in the EU, which Denmark can also contribute to. The TEAM Europe mechanism is mentioned as a plan that can ensure greater decision-making power. TEAM Europe (2021) is an initiative that seeks to create a good narrative about the EU vis-à-vis the EU’s partners and global competitors. An initiative which must portray the EU as a global and visible leader and as a “soft power” in order to gain influence, not least in the Global South. But which also covers the fact that EU member states have been particularly active in exercising hard military power through actions with the USA and/or NATO.

A double agenda for Denmark

The analysis says that towards 2035 the period will be characterized by a “double agenda with threats and challenges from both the east and the south”. The previous strategy, where one wanted to change from territorial defense to international operations, is now being revised. They have their eyes fixed on the East, and the USA and NATO throw in immeasurable sums of money for arms aid and rearmament with the stated aim of Ukraine winning the war against Russia. One imagines that “an amputated Ukraine will have great difficulty in restoring a sustainable economy and its physical and human infrastructure. There will be a need for very extensive international aid, which will be difficult to finance for Western donors who are already under pressure from higher energy prices and lower growth as a result of the war”.

When peace hopefully comes before long, it will cost enormous sums to rebuild Ukraine. Not to mention the huge profits that can be made from this. The Western powers are determined that Russia should not be “rewarded” for its invasion, and in this game everyone is the loser, but the poor countries also pay a heavy price. The analysis then also points out that “a large part of the aid to Ukraine will be given at the expense of support for weak and fragile countries in Africa, thus increasing the security challenges from there”. In short, development aid will be reduced, at the same time as poverty and crises grow in Africa. A development which can only support the forces in Africa who say we must find African solutions to African problems. And not to attach unilaterally to the West.

The EU’s military arm is growing

The EU would like to appear as a “soft superpower” that provides humanitarian support and opens doors to its huge trading area. But the EU is also closely linked to NATO and the USA, and EU countries participate in both multilateral and bilateral actions globally. So you can’t exactly call the EU a continent of peace, even though the EU has a colossal ideological superstructure with lots of positive words about development and peace. With the massive rearmament and the growth of the military-industrial complex, the course is set towards becoming a great power, a “force for good” (CEPA, 2023). The discussions between France, the UK and Germany about where the emphasis should be placed have been going on for years. Whether it was a more independent military power, or whether one should continue to lean completely on NATO/USA. With the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, it became clearer that the EU had set a course for more militarization, and in 2011 a unit was established for the EU’s Foreign Service and external actions: the European External Action Service (EEAS). With the Ukraine war, even more momentum has been set in the development of what Jürgen Wegner (2022) has called a TURBO MILITARISATION.

The southern flank and Europe’s backyard

Military presence in Africa is constantly wrapped in beautiful declarations of intent about missions that are about stabilization, but of what? The EU’s foreign affairs chief, the Social Democrat Josep Borrell, caused a diplomatic storm when he spoke in October 2022 about “Europe with a well-functioning “garden” which is surrounded by a somewhat dangerous and uncertain “jungle.”. “Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle can invade the garden”, he stated in a speech” (DR, 2022). He also stated that “the gardeners must go into the jungle. The Europeans will have to be much more engaged with the rest of the world. Otherwise, the rest of the world will invade us in different ways and by different means”. He was heavily criticized by several countries for being racist; and a Russian spokesman took the opportunity to say: “This “garden” was built by Europe as a result of their barbaric approach to plundering the “jungle.” “Borrell could not have said it better: The most prosperous system that has been created in Europe has been nurtured by its colonial roots”. Then the lines were drawn up. The colonial and Eurocentric mindset is alive and well.

But just as it was during the cold war the fight against communism spreading to Africa through the freedom movements, a new cold war is now underway, where, with increased great power competition, it is important to keep China and Russia out. The ongoing crisis in Africa, which has lasted for decades, is producing flows of migrants seeking Europe. There is a lack of offers from the EU for social and economic solutions, and therefore the military dimension has grown in importance. In a Danish analysis by Mathiesen & Tetzlaff (2022) called ‘Sydflanken’, it is pointed out that the EU is “the obvious supplier” of solutions to “the strategic problem in the South”. Fort Europe has become a reality, they say, and with the EU’s Strategic Compass as a basis, one must learn to “speak the language of power”. Appropriations for a new instrument, the European Peace Facility (EPF), allow arms to be sent to states in the South. Through a combination of soft and hard power, the EU will signal its support for operations reminiscent of the deployment of colonial troops in the old days. Money is taken from the development aid and plans are made for the civil and military to be more coordinated.

The Danish abolition of the defense reservation opens up increased engagement in the South, and makes it easier to deploy military forces. With the Ukraine war, the focus has shifted sharply to the East, but NATO’s strategic concept also includes the South. However, the analysis honestly writes that there is “a declining political appetite” and quotes Pia Olsen Dyhr for having spoken of “meaningless desert wars”. But Africa’s importance as a raw material supplier and intervention arena for the multinational groups and the great powers remains high on the agenda. The growing cooperation of some African countries with China and the international pariah Russia is getting big headlines. The living conditions of the African population do not trigger great missions, but are often met with a resigned shrug. The growing awareness in Africa of securing more sovereignty and control over its own resources is a positive development, but it is difficult to break with the neo-colonial structures which have been built up over many years and which have the support of the ruling classes.

New missions in Africa

12 Dec. 2022, the Council of Europe decided on military cooperation with the state of Niger in the Sahel belt. It is considered a military mission, where Denmark also has the option of sending soldiers. It has caused panic in the EU that France, but also Denmark, have been forced out of Mali. Where Denmark has been militarily present together with France for a number of years in the so-called Operation Barkhane. The Malian government does not believe that they have been effective in the fight against Islamist groups, and has therefore turned to Russia and made an agreement with a Russian militia group, Wagner. The same development has occurred in Burkina Faso. In order to maintain its footing after what observers (JP, 26 Dec. 2022) have described as a failed Western effort, an agreement has been made with Niger. A country which also has strategically important uranium mines, not least of importance for France’s many nuclear power plants. But also in Niger there are “very anti-Western tendencies, where people also have protested against France, which has a complicated past as a colonial power (JyllandsPosten, 26 Dec. 2022).

A recent decision in the Danish Parliament on joining PESCO, which is the EU’s enhanced military cooperation, showed that we have a government and a majority that are ready for interventions in Africa when called upon (Arbejderen, 2 March 2023). The proposal states: “With the proposal, the government requests the consent of the Parliament of Denmark to participate in the European Defense Agency and the permanent, structured cooperation in the field of defense (PESCO), both of which are central parts of the EU’s defense cooperation.

The background for the resolution proposal is the abolition of the EU defense reservation in June 2022, which meant that Denmark fully entered into European cooperation on security and defense on 1 July 2022. According to the government, participation in the two collaborations will mean that Denmark will be able to help set the strategic direction for the EU’s security and defense policy, including with a view to ensuring that the collaboration aligns to an even greater degree with Danish security interests”.

Africa says no to new cold war

The Africans have historically bad experiences with great power rivalry on their continent, and have great skepticism about the West’s attempts to involve them in a new intensified cold war, not least after the start of the Ukraine war. At the UN General Assembly, the Chairperson of the African Union, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, stated: ‘Africa has suffered enough from the burden of history and does not want to be the breeding ground for a new Cold War, but rather a center of stability and opportunity, open to all its partners on a mutually beneficial basis’ (Tricontinental, Nov.2022).

The US works systematically to maintain and expand its influence, both politically and militarily, and here uses AFRICOM as a tool. Morocco is a key country here, which has closely linked itself to the USA (US Embassy. Oct. 2022). Annual military exercises are held, called African Lion, and in 2022 they held their largest exercise to date with observers from Israel and NATO. Just as the United States has begun to speak more directly about its plans to fight Africa’s choice of other partners.

The US military command for Africa, called AFRICOM, has for many years applied for a headquarters in Africa, but has so far been rejected. AFRICOM Says About Itself: AFRICOM, with partners, counters transnational threats and malign actors, strengthens security forces, and responds to crises to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity. AFRICOM was formed in 2007 to secure US interests in Africa and, according to Nick Turse (2020), has established at least 29 military bases on the continent.

Africa is seen by the US and its allies as a battleground in the new Cold War against China and Russia. This is also reflected in the US’s strategic plans (US Strategy, 2022) for Africa. The US claims that it does not want to dictate anything to the Africans, but has begun to put increased pressure after the war in Ukraine.

What Africa has in store for the US was exemplified in the disastrous military intervention in Libya by the US and NATO (here also Denmark), which smashed a country that had ranked highest on the UN’s index of human development in Africa.

Africa is seen as NATO’s southern flank or our southern neighborhood, and this is a point of view we find again in the Danish and European security analyzes of Africa. It is strongly reminiscent of the Americans’ Monroe Doctrine, where they designated Latin America as their backyard. There is an almost paternalistic view of Africa, which is warned against seeking increased cooperation with others, here especially Russia after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Here, the US and the West seek to create a united front, but the Africans have a natural skepticism towards the West’s intentions. The aggressive policy of the USA towards Africa was shown in a decision in the House of Representatives in the USA, where in April 2022 a law was passed by an overwhelming majority: “Countering Malign Russian Influence Activities in Africa Act”. The threats are obvious and the USA/NATO is ready to intervene to secure the interests of their monopolies, regardless of what the Africans think.

Defense of sovereignty

There are many examples of Africa not passively putting up with this big brother mentality. The US is trying to compensate for its economic decline with military means. The USA has, so to speak, lost on the basis of rules for world trade that they themselves have been behind. Developing countries, and especially China, have made tremendous progress and have increasingly represented economic alternatives. This changed political strategy is also found in the strategies of the EU and NATO, which here show their vassal status in relation to the USA.

Examples of political analyzes that will strengthen Africa’s sovereignty can be found in a document prepared by Tricontinental and The Socialist Movement of Ghana’s Research Group: “Defending Our Sovereignty: US Military Bases in Africa and the Future of African Unity” (Tricontinental, 2021). It is pointed out here that there are 2 important principles in a Pan-African movement, namely political unity and territorial sovereignty. Here, foreign military bases are an expression of a lack of unity and sovereignty, and it reinforces the division and subjugation of the continent’s peoples and governments.

Instead of supporting and cooperating with an Africa that suffers from poverty, the climate crisis and the consequences of the Ukraine war, they want to send military. It cannot be seen as anything other than continued colonialism.

John Graversgaard is a political activist from Aarhus, Denmark

Notes

Danish Government Analysis:  Regeringens sikkerhedspolitiske analysegruppe (fmn.dk)

Team Europe: The rise of the Team Europe approach in EU development cooperation: assessing a moving target.

Keijzer, Niels / Aline Burni / Benedikt Erforth / Ina Friesen, 2021, Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

The rise of the Team Europe approach in EU development cooperation: assessing a moving target (idos-research.de)

The European Union’s Evolving Military Capability – CEPA, jan-2023

EU’s udenrigschef bliver beskyldt for racisme, efter han har sammenlignet verden udenfor EU med ‘en jungle’ | Udland | DR, oktober 2022.

Jens Vesterlund Mathisen & Alexander Høgsberg Tetzlaff: Sydflanken. Sikkerhedspolitiske udfordringer og Europas sydlige grænsearbejde, Institut for militære studier, 2022.

Arbejderen, 2. marts 2023. Regeringspartier klar til at sende danske soldater til militære EU-operationer i Afrika (arbejderen.dk)

EU vil oprette militær mission midt i sprængfarlig konflikt med Putins lejesoldater og terrorister. JyllandsPosten, 26. dec. 2022.

Niger: EU launches its military partnership mission – Consilium (europa.eu)

About EU Military Partnership Mission in Niger | EEAS Website (europa.eu)

Tricontinental. Vijay Prashad: Africa Does Not Want to Be a Breeding Ground for the New Cold War: The Forty-Fourth Newsletter, nov 2022. Africa Does Not Want to Be a Breeding Ground for the New Cold War: The Forty-Fourth Newsletter (2022) (thetricontinental.org)

U.S. AFRICOM Commander Makes First Visit to Morocco, Praises U.S.-Morocco Security Partnership – U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Morocco (usembassy.gov)

AFRICOM: United States Africa Command (africom.mil)

Nick Turse: Pentagon Map Shows Network of 29 U.S. Bases in Africa (theintercept.com)

US Strategi for Afrika Syd for Sahara. 2022. U.S.-Strategy-Toward-Sub-Saharan-Africa-FINAL.pdf (whitehouse.gov)

Tricontinental, juli, 2021:Defending Our Sovereignty: US Military Bases in Africa and the Future of African Unity (thetricontinental.org)

 


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