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Russian president’s assurances fail to mask resource ambition

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua (AFP)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua (AFP)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attempted to allay global fears that Moscow is trying to amass access to natural resources this week during a trip through Egypt, Nigeria, Namibia and Angola as he signed billion dollar energy deals providing Russia a greater foothold in Africa .

  • In Angola, Medvedev emphasized that these resource contracts were important to coordinate “action in the context of the world crisis.”
  • In Nigeria, he boasted to his hosts about the economic benefits of the investment stating “the prospects are very good” that Russian investment within the country could be worth “billions of dollars”
  • In Namibia, during prepared remarks he stated “we must do everything possible to promote trade and economic ties” between the two countries, while mentioning energy only as one of the fields where Russia would invest. The list also included tourism and agriculture, hardly strategic imperatives.
  • Despite Medvedev’s touting of cooperation and economic benefits, it’s hard to see Mededev’s actions other than a resource grab.

    His investment tactics emulate China and its recent foray into Africa. China has invested billions on the continent to lock up commodities to feed its domestic companies. Unlike China, Russia has abundant domestic natural resources to meet its domestic needs. Russia’s investment strategy is more about amassing influence over the global economy.

    Boris Ivanov, Chief of Gazprom International, spoke more candidly about Russian ambitions. Referring to the building of an eventual Trans-Saharan gas pipeline linking Nigeria to Europe, he stated, “whoever is located on the valves is the king.” Such sentiment sounds like “the guys with the guns make the rules.” He didn’t mince words about acquisitions in Nambia either, commenting that Namibian assets hold “strategic interest” for Russia.

    Such comments make many nervous. As Ivanov noted, “Europe not only knows, it is ‘worried’ about this [Trans Saharan pipeline] plan.” In Russian foreign policy, access to resources outweighs customer satisfaction. Europe learned that the cold way last winter when gas supplies sent via Ukraine were cut due to a dispute between the two nations.



    David Abraham

    David S Abraham has expertise in the analysis of geopolitical and economic risk as well in energy issues. At the White House Office of Management and Budget, his work included overseeing natural resource and foreign assistance programs, and serving on the interagency trade policy committee. In his previous role as a sovereign risk analyst with Lehman Brothers, subsequently, Barclays Capital, he advised the firm on geopolitical and economic risks in developing countries. He has also consulted for a variety of organizations including the United Nations Support Facility for Indonesian Recovery, RBS Sempra Commodities, ClearWater Initiative and a small German consultancy. David earned degrees from Boston College and The Fletcher School at Tufts University and proudly served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His written work has appeared in a variety of publications, most recently in The New York Times, The Providence Journal, and He speaks Lithuanian and is a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    Area of Focus
    Geopolitics; Economic Risk; Energy Issues