U.S. "concerned" as South Africa to hold war games with Russia, China on Ukraine invasion anniversary (2023)


By Sarah Carter

/ CBS News

Johannesburg — Next month, on the one-year anniversary of the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, South Africa will be hosting Russian and Chinese forces for a joint naval exercise. The timing of the drills — which were apparently planned during Russian President Vladimir Putin's unprovoked assault on Ukraine — have the U.S. "concerned," and will at the very least present South Africa with a diplomatic challenge as the world marks a year of brutal warfare with no end in sight.

The South African National Defense Force has said "Exercise Mosi II" will be held between February 17 and 27 off the country's Indian Ocean coast, to share "operational skills and knowledge."

South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor deflected criticism this week of the looming military drills, saying it was merely "an exercise with friends."

U.S. "concerned" as South Africa to hold war games with Russia, China on Ukraine invasion anniversary (1)

Meeting with Pandor on Monday, Russia's own veteran foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said the military drills were "transparent and that the three countries had provided all relevant information."

Russia's state-run TASS news agency said a Russian warship armed with new-generation hypersonic cruise weapons would take part in the exercise.

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The drills have been planned for several months, so it's "not a last-minute decision," notes Pauline Bax, the Deputy Director for Africa at the International Crisis Group. But she adds that on the anniversary of the Ukraine invasion, "diplomatically, it's quite awkward, and something that South Africa could have pushed to another date."

"We are concerned about South Africa's plan to hold joint naval exercises with Russia and the PRC in February, even as Moscow continues its brutal and unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine," David Feldmann, spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, told CBS News in response to the remarks by the senior South African and Russian diplomats.

U.S. "concerned" as South Africa to hold war games with Russia, China on Ukraine invasion anniversary (2)

The three countries taking part in the exercises are all members of the BRICS mechanism, a partnership of the world's five fastest-growing developing economies, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. According to the group's own description, it aims to promote peace, security, development and cooperation.

It is not a military alliance like NATO, but there has been talk of a possible BRICS naval exercise for years. A similar exercise between the same three nations was held in October 2019 in Cape Town.

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In a statement, the Ministry of Defense and Military Veterans said 350 South African National Defense Force personnel would participate in the drills, noting that in recent Months the SANDF has held military exercises with many other countries, including the United Kingdom, China and Nigeria, as well as last year with the U.S.

"South Africa sees Exercise Mosi II as an opportunity to contribute towards further strengthening the strong bonds that exist between South Africa, Russia and China," the statement said.

U.S. "concerned" as South Africa to hold war games with Russia, China on Ukraine invasion anniversary (3)

The South African Air Force and Military Health Service, along with the Joint Operations, Defence Intelligence, Defence Foreign Relations and Military Police will join the South African National Defence Force Maritime service for the drills. An official told CBS News that a number of naval activities were planned, with a sea phase set to run for two days from February 25, which will include search and rescue, vessel in distress, gunnery, force protection and air defense exercises.

South Africa has notably abstained from previous United Nations votes on resolutions condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, opting to portray itself as a neutral party on the war despite significant pressure from Ukraine and its Western partners to take a stand.

Bax, of the International Crisis Group, said the military exercise itself appeared to be relatively unremarkable, as South Africa is a BRICS member and the three nations have held similar war games before as they explore ways to collaborate. But, she said hosting Lavrov this week, diplomatically, was "a little trickier than the navy exercises."

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"South Africa has set a different course for itself, and while it's not choosing sides, they are showing Russia it still has friends in the world," said Bax.

The country's largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has called the exercises "silly," with parliamentarian Kobus Marais adding: "While our government has claimed its neutral, this is just another of many incidents where the ANC [the political party in power] has clearly exposed their favouritism towards Russia."

An opinion piece in the Daily Maverick newspaper said the exercise "highlights just how far the country has strayed from its relationships with Western allies."

So, why would South Africa's leaders continue courting strategic alliances with other major powers at the risk of "straying" from long-standing partners? They may simply need all the help they can get.

Racing to the rescue

South Africans have been suffering through the worst-ever scheduled power outages as their nation grapples with severe energy shortages. When televisions can be switched on, many people tune in to see a parade of visiting world leaders, and hope that one of them will offer some assistance in addressing their country's power crisis.

One person called into a local talk show recently and told the host: "I don't care who comes to visit, as long as they figure out how to keep our lights on."

On Tuesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrived in South Africa, where she's set to discuss the power crisis among other topics during a four-day working visit to different parts of the country.

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"We continue to expand and deepen our relationship with South Africa, working on areas of greatest concern to our citizens — expanding trade, securing a just energy transition, and cooperating on global health to save lives," Feldmann, at the U.S. Embassy, told CBS News about Yellen's visit.

The U.S. Treasury chief arrived in South Africa hot on the heels of Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, who met Monday with his South African counterpart during his second African tour since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russian reporters travelling with Lavrov were overheard by local journalists saying the top Russian diplomat would return in February for another tour, this time of northern African countries, meaning that in six months, he will have visited a dozen African nations.

Last week, China's new Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited five African nations, and the visits this week to the continent by both Yellen and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield have been seen widely as an effort to counter years of heavy investment and outreach to African nations by Beijing and Moscow.

At a news conference in Moscow on January 18, Lavrov confirmed that his nation would host a second Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg from July 23. Lavrov has hinted that Russia may use the summit to sign agreements with African leaders that enable them to work around U.S. sanctions imposed over the Ukraine war, including trade conducted in non-U.S. currency.

"We are drafting documents to reset cooperation mechanisms in this environment of sanctions and threats you mentioned in the context of this U.S. bill," he said. "There will be new trade and investment cooperation tools, logistics chains and payment arrangements. The change to transactions in national currencies is under way."

  • War
  • Ukraine
  • South Africa
  • Russia
  • United Nations
  • China

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How did the US respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine? ›

Prior to 2022, the United States had imposed sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow's 2014 invasion of Ukraine and other malign activities.

What has the UN said about the invasion of Ukraine? ›

… Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law. It has created a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe, traumatized a generation of children, and accelerated the global food and energy crises.

Why is Ukraine important to the United States? ›

The United States reaffirms its unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters. The U.S.-Ukraine relationship serves as a cornerstone for security, democracy, and human rights in Ukraine and the broader region.

What was the UN response regarding Russia Ukraine situation? ›

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution that agreed to establish a commission to investigate violations committed during Russia's military attack on Ukraine. Thirty-two countries voted in favor of the resolution, which was presented by Ukraine.

What would happen if US and Russia went to nuclear war? ›

A full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would see global food systems obliterated and over 5 billion people die of hunger.

How has the United States responded to the war in Ukraine? ›

In response to Russia's war against Ukraine, the United States has increased military deployments to Europe and led a broader NATO effort to deter further Russian aggression and to defend NATO allies, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe.

Can United Nations send troops to Ukraine? ›

While Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they are believed to carry political weight as they express the will of the wider UN membership. So, in reality, the UNSC also cannot send troops to Ukraine.

Can the UN end the war in Ukraine? ›

While the UN Secretary-General has repeatedly urged the Security Council to end the war and recently traveled to Russia and Ukraine, the harsh reality is the Council is unlikely to do so, due to the longstanding veto power of the five permanent members – the U.S., Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom.

How many countries are supporting Ukraine? ›

More than 70 countries and institutions have pledged over 1 billion euros to help Ukrainians through the winter amid the Kremlin's ongoing military attacks on civilian infrastructure, including the electricity grid.

What does the US rely on from Ukraine? ›

Exports increased by 64.9% to $1.6 billion, imports increased by 8.6% to $3.3 billion. The top goods of Ukrainian exports to the USA in 2021 were: ferrous metals (56.2%) and articles (8.7%); ore, slag and ash (4.6%); fats and oils of animal origin (3.8%); electrical machinery (3.7%).

Why was Ukraine not in NATO? ›

Plans for NATO membership were shelved by Ukraine following the 2010 presidential election in which Viktor Yanukovych, who preferred to keep the country non-aligned, was elected President. Amid the unrest caused by the Euromaidan protests, Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014.

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A World Tour of the States not recognized by the UN
  • Kosovo.
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  • New Russia or the Union of People's Republics.
  • The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
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  • Taiwan or the Republic of China.

Why NATO support Ukraine? ›

Since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of eastern Ukraine in 2014, NATO has adopted a firm position in full support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

Which US cities would be targeted in a nuclear war? ›

A nuclear attack on US soil would most likely target one of six cities: New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington, DC.

How long would it take for a nuclear bomb from Russia to hit the US? ›

Can Russian missiles reach the US? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Russian land-based missiles could reach the U.S. in as little as 30 minutes, with submarine-based missiles striking 10 or 15 minutes after they are launched.

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Some estimates name Maine, Oregon, Northern California, and Western Texas as some of the safest locales in the case of nuclear war, due to their lack of large urban centers and nuclear power plants.

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The invasion received widespread public condemnation internationally. Protests and demonstrations were held worldwide including in many post-Soviet countries and some in Russia itself. Russian monuments across Europe were subject of vandalism with some even demolished.

In what ways is the US helping Ukraine? ›

This support includes billions of dollars in emergency military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. We have a large body of work analyzing how the U.S. generally provides democracy assistance and humanitarian aid, as well as military technology and military presence.

What is the US doing to protect Ukraine? ›

The United States has committed more than $4.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $3.8 billion since the beginning of Russia's unprovoked invasion on February 24.

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Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council can take enforcement measures to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such measures range from economic sanctions to international military action.

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Can UN troops fight? ›

Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate. UN peacekeeping operations are not an enforcement tool. However, they may use force at the tactical level, with the authorization of the Security Council, if acting in self-defence and defence of the mandate.

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Article 6. A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

Can the UN send troops? ›

The UN can only deploy military personnel when there is a UN Security Council resolution authorizing them to do so. The Security Council will say how many military personnel are required, and UN Headquarters will liaise with the Member States to identify personnel and deploy them.

Who is helping Ukraine the most? ›

In total aid (military, financial and humanitarian combined), the European Union and its countries have provided the most to Ukraine, whereas the United States has by far provided the most in military aid.

Who is helping Ukraine countries? ›

Data from the Ukraine Support Tracker shows that, as a single country, the U.S. has provided by far the most aid to Ukraine, followed by EU institutions ($37.2 billion), the UK ($7.5 billion), Germany ($5.8 billion) and Canada ($5.1 billion).

Who in the world is helping Ukraine? ›

In total, the US has made available about 47.8 billion euros ($50.3bn) of military, financial and humanitarian aid to Kyiv, with almost half coming in the form of military assistance, while EU institutions such as the European Investment Bank, the EU Commission and Council, and the European Peace Facility provided 35 ...

How did NATO respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine? ›

NATO stands united in its support for Ukraine and strengthening the alliance's collective defense in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today at NATO headquarters.

How many countries are helping Ukraine? ›

More than 70 countries and institutions have pledged over 1 billion euros to help Ukrainians through the winter amid the Kremlin's ongoing military attacks on civilian infrastructure, including the electricity grid.

Who has sent the most aid to Ukraine? ›

In total aid (military, financial and humanitarian combined), the European Union and its countries have provided the most to Ukraine, whereas the United States has by far provided the most in military aid.

Who pays for weapons to Ukraine? ›

The U.S. has been by far the largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia, providing $15.2 billion in weapons packages to date since Moscow invaded its neighbor in late February.

Why can t NATO send troops to Ukraine? ›

Why are Nato countries not sending troops? Article 5 of Nato's charter obliges countries to come to the defence of a fellow Nato member if attacked, but since Ukraine is not part of Nato, its member countries have stopped short of sending troops on to its territory.

Can NATO defend Ukraine? ›

More broadly, NATO's Article 5 security guarantee and its ironclad promise of collective defence provides Allies with the confidence that they can send weapons to Ukraine without diminishing their own security.

Is China a part of NATO? ›

For the first time, NATO members included China in the Strategic Concept as posing a “systemic challenge” to Euro-Atlantic security. NATO 2022 Strategic Concept, NATO, June 29, 2022.


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