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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

US prefers to keep SA on side amid Russia controversy

In recent interviews, Trump said if he was re-elected next year, he would end the Russian-Ukrainian war within 24 hours.

Much as the United States is agitated by South Africa’s close relationship with Russia and supplying arms to Moscow, it will not punish SA, but would rather have good relations with it, says Prof John Stremlau, an expert on US-Africa relations.

Stremlau, an honorary professor of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, said the US would rather have SA and its non-alignment on its side than lose it to Russia and China.

The regular and ongoing dialogue between Washington and Pretoria through President Cyril Ramaphosa and his senior officials recently is proof of US President Joe Biden’s aim.

Stremlau said an incorrect notion had been created that the US intended to punish SA for its ties with Moscow.

He said that, on the contrary, even SA’s US ambassador, Reuben Brigety, had acknowledged that SA was a sovereign state that should choose who its friends should be.

But his statement that SA had loaded ammunition on a Russian vessel at Simon’s Town in December last year was reported to have infuriated the Biden administration, which was “scrambling to salvage its relations” with Pretoria after the claim.

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The online Politico magazine reported: “It was a shocking assertion by an American official against a country that the US has been trying to court in the global effort to isolate Russia.

Brigety’s actions thrilled some observers who say the US needs to be more honest about a South African drift toward Moscow.”

It quoted “multiple US officials” as saying Brigety’s accusations were overstated and he may have damaged American interests in the long run.

Stremlau said the pressure for action to be taken against SA did not come from the Democrats in the US Congress, but from the Republicans, who wanted sanctions imposed as a punishment for the alleged weapon shipment.

Stremlau said it was the Republicans’ nature to want to squeeze or punish other nations that didn’t toe the US line.

However, he alluded to the fact that the last Republican president, Donald Trump, became “a friend of Russia in the White House”, which made a mockery of the Republicans’ hard-line approach to Russia.

In recent interviews, Trump said if he was re-elected next year, he would end the Russian-Ukrainian war within 24 hours.

He promised to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to the table to talk peace.

Stremlau stressed that Russia broke the rules by invading Ukraine. Although the US was accepting SA’s non-aligned position on this matter, Biden would not like to punish the country, he said.

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