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South Africa’s response to the Ukrainian crisis

Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, 23 June 2014

South Africa did not join in the chorus of condemnation against Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, instead adopting a position that in part mirrored language used by Russia to explain its actions, but in other ways reflected key principles of South African foreign policy. Together with its fellow BRICS members, South Africa opposed the imposition of sanctions and was critical of suggestions that Russia might be excluded from the G-20 Summit in Australia later in the year. Non-interference in the internal affairs of states and the inviolability of borders have been central organising principles of African affairs since decolonisation. South Africa’s approach must be understood in the context of a desire to see the balance of forces change to reflect the rise of emerging powers. The West’s unilateral actions since the end of the cold war have not sat well with the South African government. Civil society elements aligned to the ruling tripartite alliance have condemned what they perceive as Western propaganda against Russia and the West’s involvement in stirring unrest in Maidan Square, Kiev. Furthermore, from a realpolitik perspective, South Africa accords its alliance with the BRICS states high priority. Yet, as a relatively small country, it is in South Africa’s interests to encourage adherence to a set of global rules that are respected by all. 

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