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17 Jun, 2020 14:28

UK to redirect aid from Africa to Ukraine and others ‘vulnerable to Russian meddling.’ But that’s NOT British ‘interference’?

UK to redirect aid from Africa to Ukraine and others ‘vulnerable to Russian meddling.’ But that’s NOT British ‘interference’?

The UK government’s decision to merge its Department for International Development with the neocon-run Foreign Office is bad news for hungry children in Africa, but good news for Russophobes.

Black Lives Matter? Well, not if they’re in Africa, it seems. Having assured of us of its “anti-racist" credentials, the UK government is set to cut aid to the world’s poorest nations in order to boost spending in states near Russia in pursuit of Cold War 2.0 objectives.

In a statement explaining the decision to scrap the DfID as a separate department, PM Boris Johnson said: “We give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, though the latter is vital to European security. We give 10 times as much aid to Tanzania as we do the countries of the Western Balkans who are acutely vulnerable to Russian meddling.”

Where to start with this hogwash?

For a start, aid is supposed to be about helping those who need it most. All of the world’s 10 poorest countries are in Africa. Now we can argue about the level of foreign aid, but if we accept that it is morally right for the world’s richer nations to help the poorer ones, then by any objective assessment, it’s Africa where the focus should be.

Especially when one considers historical context, and the fact that many of the world’s richer nations greatly increased their wealth because of previous extraction of resources from (some would say exploitation of) the “Dark Continent.”

If we look at Britain specifically, then there’s a very good reason why aid to Zambia and Tanzania should be greater than any aid to Ukraine and countries of the Western Balkans. Both Zambia and Tanzania are members of the Commonwealth, and former British territories. Zambia was a British colony called Northern Rhodesia from the late 19th century until 1964, and the UK ran Tanganyika (as it was called) from 1922 until independence in 1961.

In other words, the UK has strong historical links with both countries. And those links bring obligations, too. That is not the case with Ukraine and the other countries where the UK government wants to funnel taxpayers’ money to confront the phantom of Russian “aggression.”

Ukraine’s economy may have been adversely affected by the political changes of 2014, but its per capita GDP is still around three times higher than Zambia’s. Yesterday, the chief executive of Oxfam UK, Danny Sriskandarajah, noted that more than half of Zambians live on less than $1.90 a day, while extreme poverty in Ukraine is near zero.

Yet the British prime minister, who earlier this week wrote that “there is much more that we need to do” to counter racism, thinks it’s wrong that Zambia receives as much aid as Ukraine.

It’s true that foreign aid has long been seen as a way of projecting UK influence, as well as alleviating poverty. Tony Blair admitted as much in a tweet yesterday when he said his government had created the Department of International Development to “play a strong, important role in projecting British soft power.”

Yet even Blair has condemned Johnson’s move as “wrong and regressive,” and criticism has also come from two other former prime ministers, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

What we are seeing here is a shift from those who take a broader global view on Britain’s place in the world, to those who have a very narrow and indeed obsessive focus on Russia. Blair, for all his many faults, has never been a Russophobe. I’ve been one of his strongest critics, yet I have acknowledged it when he has said something sensible. He was right, for instance, in 2018 when he said that Britain should ally with Russia to counter terrorism.

Blair also, I believe, has a genuine interest in Africa – even if one doesn’t agree with all the positions he has taken on African issues. Sadly, I don’t think we can say the same about Boris Johnson. Or Dominic Raab, the UK’s ultra-hawkish foreign secretary.

Bashing Russia seems to be Raab’s main interest. On March 18, 2020, as most people were focused on Covid-19, the Raabster tweeted belligerently and provocatively:

“The UK will never accept Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea 6 years ago. We call on Russia to end its unlawful control of the peninsula – now a human rights black hole where fundamental freedoms & opposition to Russia’s regime are suppressed. We’re clear that #CrimeaisUkraine”.

Aiding Ukraine and other nations in Eastern Europe “vulnerable to Russian meddling” is a neocon obsession, but who is really doing the interfering?

Crimea only broke away from Ukraine in 2014 following the Western-sponsored “color coded” revolution in Kiev. Whether or not firm promises were made to Gorbachev, NATO’s Drang nach Osten following the end of the old Cold War was clearly against the spirit of the early 1990s, which saw the Warsaw Pact disbanded.

Just imagine if Russia announced it was to funnel “aid” money to countries bordering the US to counter “US meddling.” How would this be portrayed by the mainstream media?

The newly merged UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Development Department gives us the acronym UKFCD. How terribly appropriate, given where we are at present.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.