The United States Senate is set to pass an Act that will punish African governments and nationals working with Russia amid the war in Ukraine, documents show.
The “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act”, which is being prepared in the U.S. Senate, will “direct the Secretary of State to develop and submit to Congress a strategy and implementation plan outlining the United States efforts to counter the malign influence and activities of the Russian Federation and its proxies in Africa.”
The Act will direct the United States government to “regularly assess the scale and scope of the Russian Federations’s influence and activities in Africa that undermine United States objectives and interests;” and “determine how to address and counter such influence and activities effectively, including through appropriate United States foreign assistance programs”, and “hold accountable the Russian Federation and African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding such malign influence and activities.”
It also directs the Secretary of State to “develop and submit to the appropriate congressional committees a strategy and implementation plan outlining United States efforts to counter the malign influence and activities of the Russian Federation and its proxies in Africa” not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of the Act.
When the bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the government will be mandated through the State Department and other agencies to “monitor and report on Russian political influence and disinformation operations and the activities of the Russian, Russia-connected, or Russia-funded private military contractors in Africa.”
The U.S. government will specially focus on activities and programs designed to “strengthen democratic institutions, improve government transparency and accountability, improve standards related to human rights, labor, anti-corruption initiatives, fiscal transparency, monitor natural resources and extractive industries, and other tenets of good governance.”
It says “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter for 5 years, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the heads of other relevant Federal departments and agencies as appropriate, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the strategy and implementation plan required by subsection (a) and related efforts to counter malign influence and activities of the Russian Federation and its proxies in Africa.”
At a press briefing on Tuesday, June 21, White House Correspondent for Angolan National Television TPA Hariana Veras asked White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communication John Kirby about deliberations in the U.S. Senate and the move by the United States government to sanction African nations that maintain strong ties with Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
Ms. Veras asked Mr. Kirby to explain why the Biden administration is “forcing” African nations to choose between the United States and Russia when they have enjoyed strong ties with both super powers for many centuries.
“Yeah, I can’t speak for what the discussions that are going on in the Senate about this. But you kind of answered the question yourself when you went back to what the President has long said about his foreign policy objectives and goals,” Mr. Kirby said.
He added, “Look, he respects and understands that sovereign nations make sovereign decisions. Sovereign nations get to decide who they’re going to associate with or who they’re not going to associate with. He understands that. He also understands and, I think, has been very clear with leaders around the world that there needs to be consequences for what Mr. Putin is doing in Ukraine. There needs to be costs. He needs to be held accountable for this unprovoked war of aggression. And so, it’s difficult for him to look at countries around the world who might be willing not to impose those consequences, who might be looking for ways to reward Mr. Putin for what he is doing in Ukraine. So is it principled —
“And why is he forcing countries not to work with Russia?” Ms Veras countered. “No, ma’am. This is not about forcing. And again, I — I won’t — I can’t speak to the language you’re talking about from the Senate,” Mr. Kirby said. “This isn’t about forcing anybody. It’s about — it’s about standing up for a principle. And, look, the principle here is the principle of sovereignty. So — so it cuts both ways. You know, obviously, sovereign nations need to be able to make their own decisions. The President understands that. That’s why, you know, when we were talking about whether Ukraine would or wouldn’t join NATO, it’s not up to Mr. Putin to get a veto on that. Sovereign nations have to make that decision and so does the NATO Alliance. He understands the sovereign decisions that nations in Africa have to make. But he also believes and stands strongly on the principle that Mr. Putin needs to suffer consequences for this war of aggression — consequences around the world as well. And so, he doesn’t believe that it’s in the interests of what’s going on in Ukraine — or European security, for that matter — for Mr. Putin to be able to get off scot-free here.”
The new Act may not be well received in Africa as it will direct the U.S. government to identify African governments and government officials, Russian government officials and other individuals and entities that have facilitated payments and other prohibited activities that benefit United States-sanctioned individuals and entities tied to Russia, including in violation of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the Executive Order 14024 relating to blocking property with respect to specified harmful foreign activities of the Government of the Russian Federation, and the Executive Order 13848 relating to imposing certain sanctions in the event of foreign interference in a United States election, and a detailed overview of United States efforts to hold such governments, officials, and other individuals and entities complicit in violating or facilitating the evasion of United States sanctions against Russia and its proxies accountable through sanctions and other restrictions.
The Act will also direct the U.S. government to identify foreign companies and persons that have provided transportation, logistical, administrative, border crossing, or money transfer services to Russian mercenaries or armed forces operating on behalf of the Russian government in Libya.
The State Department will also be directed to provide an analysis of whether such entities meet the criteria for imposition of sanctions under section 1 (a) of Executive Order 13726 relating to blocking property and suspending entry into the United States of persons contributing to the situation in Libya.
The law will be so broad that it will effectively make African nations and individuals to choose between doing business with the United States or Russia.