Staunton, October 27 – At the recent Russian-African summit in Sochi, the president f the Central African Republic said that his government was studying the possibility f having a Russian military base established there, but Russian officials said that they were not engaged in any talks about such a project.
Nonetheless, the report has touched off a debate in Moscow on whether such a base would be a good idea. Andrey Riskin, a former naval officer who is deputy chief editor of Nezavisimaya gazeta says it is entirely understandable why the CAR would want a base but not clear why Russia should (ng.ru/columnist/2019-10-25/100_car25102019.html).
There is a civil war in the CAR and the government has been under siege, he ntes; and the regime certainly feels it would benefit both domestically and in terms of its international status if Moscow were to expand its military aid program by establishing a permanent military base there (cf. windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/11/kremlin-rapidly-losing-control-of.html).
But Moscow has no real interest given that the CAR is landlocked. In Soviet times, the USSR did have bases in Africa along the coast of that continent to support its naval activities. But it did not create them in the interior. Today, the Russian fleet, much reduced, doesn’t need such bases; and Moscow has no compelling need for ones in the interior, Riskin says.
Setting up temporary training centers is one thing -- Russia has already done that in the CAR – but establishing a base is another matter. The first costs millions f rubles; the second, “billions.” And Moscow should not be taking such a step unless it serves Russia’s interests and not just the country where such a base would be located.
Anther Russian commentator, Aleksandr Zapolskis of the Rex news agency, despite being generally more supportive of the projection of Russian military power more generally raises the same points and argues that Moscow should not be drawn into places without a clear vision of its own strategic interests and goals (iarex.ru/articles/71861.html).
Without such a concept, he suggests, Russia could be drawn int another Afghanistan, spending a great deal in lives and treasure but suffering a serious disaster as a result.