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Ramaphosa's White House adventure

Biden set to talk Ukraine, Russia with South Africa’s Ramaphosa

Biden set to talk Ukraine, Russia with South Africa’s Ramaphosa
A U.S. Capitol police officer walks along the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. Congressional Democrats are at odds over both the tax and spending sides of a bill to enact the bulk of the White House's economic agenda, putting in question the goal of party leaders to strike a deal.

President Joe Biden will discuss efforts to end the war in Ukraine with South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, who has avoided condemning Russia, when the two leaders meet at the White House on Friday, according to a US official.

By Trevor Hunnicutt

“The goal is to have a conversation about the conflict in Ukraine: how we got there, and how we get out of it, and in hearing from President Ramaphosa about his thoughts on the best way forward, sharing ours on how to manage the conflict and to reach a conclusion,” said the senior Biden administration official.

Biden, who has led an international coalition to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the near-seven month war in Ukraine, wants South Africa’s help in efforts that include forcing Moscow to sell its oil at below-market rates. Read full story

The two leaders are also expected to discuss trade, climate and energy as Biden ramps up engagements with African countries and casts a wary eye on investments and diplomacy by rivals Russia and China on the continent. Read full storyRead full story

Ramaphosa has resisted calls to directly condemn Russia for the war, instead opposing the use of force generically. In March, he blamed NATO’s eastward expansion for regional instability and said the conflict should be solved through United Nations-mediated negotiations rather than Western-led sanctions that hurt “bystander countries.”Read full storyRead full story

South Africa was one of 17 African countries to abstain from the UN vote condemning Russia’s assault.

Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) party, which has governed South Africa since white minority rule ended in 1994, had strong ties to the former Soviet Union, which trained and supported anti-apartheid activists during the Cold War.

However, South Africa still enjoys a high level of diplomatic clout among Russia’s rivals in the West relative to its economic size since its peaceful transition to democracy.

Last month, during his visit to South Africa, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States would not dictate Africa’s choices, following an earlier pledge to “do things differently,” after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s insulting remarks about African countries. Read full story

Africans often resent being a theater for competition between China, Russia and the Western order. The Ukraine crisis has exacerbated the longstanding rivalry over Africa’s natural resources, trade and security ties.

The war and global inflation have put pressure on South Africa, where half of the population lived below the poverty line even before the crisis limited grain and fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine.

Declining natural gas and oil exports from those warring countries has also boosted South African coal, a top domestic resource, and set back decarbonization goals for one of the world’s most carbon-intensive economies. Read full story

Biden is due to host more leaders from the continent in December, when ANC members will also chose whether to keep Ramaphosa as their party leader. Read full story

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Johannesburg; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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  • T Mac says:

    The ANC clings to its Soviet ideology “Comrades”, but it was more the Western sanctions, led by the US, which resulted in the National Party-led SA government eventually giving in and agreeing to a one-man-one vote democracy (which the US backed, but doesn’t even have itself) and to SA’s decline under ANC rule. Ramaphosa and his party might do well to remember that.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The notion that a global super power is going to have a meeting of equals with Ramaphosa on Ukraine is a total fallacy. The US position on Ukraine is a bipartisan position with an overall support by the population. The South African position is an ANC position along with the SACP with no support from the general population except the EFF leadership on an ill – informed basis of the expansion of NATO. The SABC is talking of a compromise by the US to a President whose economy size is very small and of no importance to the US.
    People confuse the era of punching above our weight because of the liberation premium that has been squandered by the ANC through industrial scale looting. The other issue that people fail to consider, on the importance that has been attached to the country, is the trilogy of our heritage with a huge population of European descent, the Asian descent and the indigenous Africans which makes the country unique. Its democratic experiment was watched because of these factors and demographic uniqueness. It is a point understood by Mbeki and it is at night for Ramaphosa on this issue. To many abroad it has become clear that the ANC that was hoped to build a non – racial (a term borrowed from the PAC of Sobukwe) society is fast becoming a mirage and its ranks there is a rise of tribalists and racists. Beyond the 1994 edifice and its demography, South Africa is a small fry in global matters. The US is firm and clear on Ukraine while Ramaphosa is confused.

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