The relationship between the United States and South Africa has taken a turn for the worse in recent months, with South Africa adopting increasingly adversarial stances towards the United States.
The most recent development in this regard has been South Africa’s decision to allow a cargo plane targeted by U.S. sanctions for supporting Russia’s military efforts to land at an air force base near the capital, Pretoria.
This move is the latest in a series of actions taken by South Africa that have put it at odds with the United States and its Western allies.
South Africa – United States faceoff intensifies
Not too long ago, South Africa’s decision to hold joint military drills with Russia and China off its coast in February of this year had alarmed the US. The drills, which were held in the port cities of Durban and Richards Bay, was bound to antagonize the US, who view Russia and China as strategic rivals.
The fact that South Africa chose to align itself with these two countries can be seen as a direct challenge to the U.S. especially because of its timing. The military drills came at a time when AFRICOM was set to hold a series of engagements and training with its African partners.
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Following the joint military drills, South Africa was added to the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey list” of countries under special scrutiny to implement standards to prevent money laundering and terror financing.
This move was nothing but a form of punishment and an arm-twisting tactic by the US for South Africa’s anti-Western stance. The West’s frustration with South Africa had already reached an all-time high, however, South Africa continued to lean more towards Russia, the US’ arch-nemesis.
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Now on top of all this, South Africa allowing a cargo plane targeted by U.S. sanctions to land at an air force base near Pretoria is likely to further strain relations between the two countries. This move is a direct challenge to the US-led global order as it tries to isolate Russia internationally after the Ukraine war.
South Africa’s action has once again reminded the US of its failure in its endeavour to isolate Russia. Moreover, this also shows that US’ arm-twisting tactics against South Africa are clearly falling flat on its face.
The plane in question was likely carrying military equipment and supplies to support Russia’s military efforts in Ukraine, a move that is likely to be viewed as highly provocative by the United States and its allies.
The United States warned South Africa that it could face repercussions if it is found to have provided material support for Russia’s war. During a trip to South Africa in January, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the United States would respond “quickly and harshly” to governments that violate U.S. sanctions.
However, the fact that South Africa chose to allow the plane to land on its soil despite the potential consequences is seen as a clear signal of its determination to stand up to the West.
Further, the landing has come at a time when the United States was already expressing concern about whether the government in Pretoria has been aiding Moscow during the war in Ukraine.
South African officials have declined to say precisely what was loaded on to and taken off the plane. As per the report, the plane is owned by Aviacon Zitotrans, a Russian company, and it was one of the aircraft from the company hit by sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department.
The company has shipped military equipment around the world, including warheads and rockets, the Treasury Department has said.
For the United States, the deteriorating relationship with South Africa is a major setback in its efforts to maintain its dominant position in the world. South Africa’s decision to align itself with Russia is seen as part of a broader trend of countries seeking to challenge the U.S.-led global order, and it is likely to embolden other countries to follow suit.
This could have significant implications for U.S. foreign policy in the coming years, as it struggles to maintain its dominance in an increasingly multipolar world.
South Africa’s hostile acts is surely going to be a major heartburn for US President Biden and it remains to be seen how the US will handle the situation going forward.
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