Why is the South African navy participating in drills with China and Russia

Admiral Gorshkov-led Russian fleet at sea

The opposition claims that South Africa's participation in a joint military exercise with Russia and China amounts to support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The 10-day naval exercises, which will go on during the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, have drawn criticism from the US as well.

The South African government, however, insists that it is still neutral in the conflict and that it frequently hosts similar exercises with other nations, such as France and the US.

Off the coast of South Africa, in the Indian Ocean, are the Mosi II naval drills.

350 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) are expected to participate.

The Admiral Gorshkov warship, which is equipped with Zircon hypersonic missiles, will be sent, according to a Russian announcement. These have a 1,000 km (620 mile) range and travel at nine times the speed of sound. .

According to Denys Reva of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, Moscow "will be trying to show that despite its setbacks in the war in Ukraine, its armed forces are still very powerful.".

The SANDF hasn't said much about the upcoming exercise, but a joint drill between the three nations in 2019 involved seven ships, including a survey ship and a fueling ship from each nation.

They practiced fighting off floods and fires along the coast as well as retaking ships from pirates.

The White House has concerns about any nation, a spokesperson said in January. Russian military exercises alongside its bloody conflict with Ukraine. ".

Previously, South Africa voted against the invasion in a UN vote. It also declined to sanction Russia alongside the US and Europe.

The Nord superyacht docked in Hong Kong waters with the city skyline in the background
Superyacht Nord seen in Hong Kong.

The sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov's superyacht, the Nord, was permitted to dock in Cape Town.

Additionally, a South African naval base permitted the Lady R, a Russian cargo ship that had been sanctioned, to discharge supplies. According to the government, it included an incomplete order for ammunition.

In addition to drills with France and Germany, South Africa notes that since 2011, it has participated in four joint exercises with the US.

During a January visit by her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, foreign minister Naledi Pandor stated, "All countries conduct military exercises with friends throughout the world.".

Trying to prevent South Africa from holding joint military drills with the nations of its choosing, she claimed, amounted to "an abuse of international practice.".

According to Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, director of the South African Institute of International Affairs, South Africa is also participating because its armed forces are underfunded and overworked.

The protection of local fisheries and the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean are the navy's top priorities.

To be able to deal with issues off its coast, like piracy, she says, "it needs to team up with other nations.".

Dr Pandor and Lavrov
In January, Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, paid a visit to Nalida Pandor, the foreign minister of South Africa.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa has a protracted relationship with Russia.

According to Dr. Alex Vines of the Chatham House think tank in London, these originate from the years of white minority rule prior to 1994.

Moscow continues to hold an emotional significance for the older ANC leaders because Moscow consistently supported their struggle, according to him. "As a result, it is very challenging for South Africa to reject Russia over Ukraine. ".

Due to their membership in the Brics alliance, South Africa, Russia, and China all have connections in the modern era.

Some of the top emerging economies in the world are represented by the group, which also includes Brazil and India.

According to Ms. Sidiropoulos, Russia stands to benefit from this year's exercise the most.

"It demonstrates that Russia still has allies all over the world and that it is still able to project power far into the distance.

"It enables them to claim that not the entire world is hostile toward Russia. Russia is only being opposed by the West. " .

According to Dr. Vines, China is interested in maintaining open shipping lanes for commercial ships departing from its ports for destinations in Africa.

Additionally, it wants to build up its naval strength in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.

"Getting its navy into international waters is the goal.

"China already uses the East African nation of Djibouti as a naval base to fight piracy, and it may be hoping to gain access to additional bases.

. "

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