From The Cape of Good Hope to Crimea
Reports have emerged suggesting that Russia’s Crimean peninsula is now being considered as a preferred location for white South African farmers to set up their trade amid Pretoria’s recently adopted changes to the South African Constitution which will allow white owned farmland to be seized for re-distribution without compensation. The new move to forcibly re-distribute farmland in South Africa has become an internationally galvanising issue for many who have otherwise ignored South Africa’s internal development since the mid 1990s when the former Apartheid system collapsed.
Russia having second thoughts?
With many white South African farmers now looking to relocate and begin farming elsewhere, Russia has become a point of attraction because of a pre-existing initiative whereby the Russian government promises free land to those who can cultivate it for a profit irrespective of whether such people are Russian or not. The possibility of Russia welcoming South African farmers with a proven track record of creating a profitable farming industry to a country with a great deal of land ripe for development could be a potential win-win situation but there are several potential pitfalls.
Geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko wrote the following about some of these potential pitfalls:
“Russia could gain a lot from this inflow of investment into such a strategic sector as agriculture, especially since it would be driven by people who have decades’ worth of experience putting their skills to use with proven results. Furthermore, Russia’s soft power would skyrocket in the Western countries where Boer awareness campaigns are concentrated, as would the appeal of its immigration-land reform policy that would have been responsible for delivering these farmers from danger. The country would be fulfilling its humanitarian responsibilities and also bringing development to its own people as a result, making this a mutually beneficial approach that couldn’t seemingly be any more perfect.
Nevertheless, Russia can’t control how other countries, especially its BRICS strategic partner South Africa, view its actions, and Moscow’s assistance to the same Boers whom many Africans loathe might undermine its soft power as it quietly returns to the continent given the perception that millions of people have of them as “racist pigs”. In addition, South Africa would almost surely object to Russia de-facto legitimizing the Boers’ narrative of racist victimization, which could complicate their bilateral relationship even further after last year’s unexpected nuclear deal setback and possibly even provoke Pretoria to take the lead in opposing the recent expansion of Moscow’s influence in Africa depending on how offended it becomes”.
The Trump card
Inversely, by dangling a proverbial golden carrot in front of white South Africa farmers, Russia is now under pressure to make good on its promise and expedite the migration of the farmers to Russian lands ripe for cultivation. If Russia backtracks on its position of indicating that it will offer land to white South Africans on a fair and comparatively red tape free basis, many on the increasingly pro-Russian American right will develop a negative view on Russia, while many in the wider world, including millions of Russian refugees will be led to believe that promises of amending Russia’s notoriously backward immigration system were ultimately without substance.
While it could be easily surmised that Russia does not care what Americans think of Russia, the prolonged so-called “Russiagate” scandal in the US has inadvertently made Russia part of the fabric of America’s Trump era culture wars. While many Trump supporters, especially those on the cultural right, libertarian right and geopolitical neo-realist right have come to embrace the prospects of peace with Russia, for the American liberal left, Russia stands for everything they detest – not so much because Russian society is actually detestable for such people, but because they perceive Russian society to be detestable according to their own flawed interpretations of contemporary Russian culture.
Against this background, it is important to note that the issues facing white South Africans are becoming an increasingly important cause among many of Trump’s supporters who believe that developed nations such as the US itself ought to welcome the farmers with open arms. As it stands, the pro-Trump conservative American talk-show host Michael Savage has already praised Russia because of the possibility that Moscow might assist the white South Africans that Savage and his millions of listeners tend to support.
Because of this, Russia would be seen as “failing” in the eyes of many Trump supporters who have come to support Russia for a number of reasons (both real and perceived), not least because of the possibility of Russia giving land to the white South Africans that most Trump supporters either consciously or subliminally identify with. At a time when the US political debate is so dominated by Russia, if Donald Trump is to gain a popular mandate for his desire to pursue 21st century style detente with Russia, he will need his supporters to rally behind the cause.
In giving white South Africans Russian land, Trump supporters will come to be more vocal in their support for a US-Russia detente while at the same time, it will help to bring Crimea to the forefront of the attention of Trump supporters where at present the only people in America who tend to mention Crimea are Trump’s adversaries who continue to deny the legitimacy of the Crimean people’s right to self determination. In this sense, by facilitating the passage of white South Africans to Crimea and other parts of Russia, Moscow will have secured an important soft power victory in the eyes of many Americans who have the potential to rally behind a Trump-Putin rapprochement at a time when the American left is almost uniformly against it. Russia cannot underestimate this overarching phenomenon in any sense.
China and Russia – good cop/bad cop
Of course, in winning an important soft power battle among pro-Trump Americans, Russia does not want to alienate South Africa’s government by passively facilitating the narrative that whites are in danger by remaining in South Africa as the section of Andrew Korybko’s analysis from a previous section clearly indicates. The key here is for Russia to support the migration of white South African farmers to Russian soil while simultaneous to this, China can offer assistance to Pretoria in helping black South Africans to cultivate the redistributed land formerly owned by white South Africans.
This could allow Russia to play the role of “hero” in the eyes of the American right, while allowing China (a country largely disliked by the pro-Trump American right), a fellow BRICS partner of both Russia and South Africa to play the role of economic saviour in helping South Africa to develop its agricultural economy in a new era. This itself fits in with China’s goal of expanding BRICS connectivity initiatives throughout Africa. As a permanent member of the BRICS, South Africa is as good a place to initiate such an agricultural development scheme as any.
If Russia expedites its assistance to white South Africans seeking to migrate to Russia while China works to help South Africa’s new class of black farmers to develop a profitable industry, both Russia, China, South Africa and the white South African migrants can secure a major win-win and in so doing, turn a potentially disastrous soft power quagmire into a major victory from multiple ideological and geopolitical perspectives.