US vs. Russia: Why Biden’s Africa Strategy Falls Short

The Biden administration has pursued a diplomatic strategy in Africa centered around engagement with coup governments, aiming to negotiate roadmaps and timetables for democratic elections. However, this approach has encountered significant resistance from African leaders, who are reluctant to fully embrace democratic reforms dictated by external powers.

African Leaders’ Defiance Against External Influence

African leaders have historically bristled at Western intervention in their governance processes. Despite maintaining diplomatic ties with Washington, they have rebuffed suggestions of democratic reforms, viewing them as unwarranted interference in their internal affairs. This sentiment is rooted in a long-standing distrust of Western motives and a desire for autonomy in decision-making.

Russian Intervention: A Controversial Alternative

Some African leaders have welcomed Russian intervention as an alternative to Western influence. They perceive Moscow as a reliable partner capable of providing swift security assistance, contrasting with perceived hesitations from the U.S. This shift in alliances poses a challenge to U.S. efforts to maintain its geopolitical foothold on the continent.

Challenges to U.S. Demands and Criticism of Double Standards

The rejection of U.S. demands for democratic reforms is often accompanied by accusations of hypocrisy. African leaders argue that the West overlooks similar governance issues in its dealings with allies in other regions. This narrative undermines the credibility of U.S. calls for democratization in Africa and complicates diplomatic relations.

Testing the Resolve of American Officials

American officials find themselves in a delicate position as they navigate these challenges. The imperative to uphold democratic values clashes with the pragmatism of retaining strategic partnerships, particularly in resource-rich countries. Behind closed doors, there is a growing recognition of the risks of complete disengagement, given the potential for opportunistic rivals to exploit power vacuums.

Fear of Rival Influence and Strategic Dilemmas

The prospect of Russian or Chinese expansion in Africa looms large in U.S. strategic calculations. The fear of ceding ground to competitors drives a reluctance to withdraw completely from countries grappling with democratic deficits. This dilemma underscores the complex interplay between geopolitical interests and democratic principles in U.S. foreign policy.

Adapting to Limited Options: The Current U.S. Strategy

Despite these challenges, the U.S. is adapting its approach to make the most of limited options. Recognizing the constraints of its influence, it seeks to balance strategic interests with diplomatic engagement. This entails a nuanced understanding of African geopolitics and a willingness to explore alternative avenues for cooperation.


The Biden administration’s strategy in Africa reflects a delicate balancing act between promoting democratic values and safeguarding strategic interests. The resistance of African leaders to external pressure, coupled with the specter of rival influence, presents formidable challenges. Yet, the imperative to remain engaged persists, driven by concerns over stability and geopolitical competition.

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