In an advocacy effort to restore U.S.-South Africa relations

Top U.S. and South African leaders have engaged in behind-the-scenes talks to restore ties damaged by South Africa's aid to Russia following the Ukraine war.

South Africa has enjoyed a special relationship with Moscow since Soviet support for South Africa's anti-apartheid movement collapsed in the early 1990s. But South Africa has been under Western pressure to go to war with Russia since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Relations between the United States and South Africa have been strained and calls for Washington to restore ties.

Biden's chief of staff, also a U.S. lawmaker, plans to travel to South Africa in the coming weeks to find a way to resolve the relationship and pressure South Africa to review its relationship with Moscow, according to four current and former sources and congressional aides familiar with the situation. One of the top State Department officials, Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Newland, is expected to travel to South Africa in the coming weeks while the Democratic House of Representatives. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a prominent member of the Black House, plans to visit South Africa next month, officials and aides said. Officials and aides cautioned that travel details are not set in stone, and Meeks' office and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment confirming or denying the travel plans.

The planned tour showcases the diplomatic war being waged between Russia and the West in support of their competing agendas in the so-called global south. While Washington and its pro-Ukrainian allies advocate for Russian President Vladimir Putin's isolation from the world, top Putin aides, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have also sought to stem the West's isolation campaign with diplomatic visits to Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Russia is planning a two-day summit with African leaders in St. Petersburg later this month.

The conflict in Ukraine has sparked an economic crisis that has crippled fragile economies across Africa, as Russia and Ukraine are the world's largest consumers of food, fertilizer, fuel and other commodities. A group of African leaders led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Ukraine and Russia last month in hopes of laying the groundwork for peace talks, but efforts failed after Putin abandoned key parts of the peace plan and Ukraine vowed to continue efforts to free its borders from Russian control.

After Putin signed a UN agreement this week allowing Ukrainian products to enter world markets through the Black Sea, Kenya's head of government, Korir Sing'Oei, criticized the move as "lagging behind world food prices" and "affecting countries in the Horn of Africa in particular".

But while many African countries oppose Russia at the UN, they don't want to do anything like sever economic or diplomatic ties with Russia, or participate in Western sanctions against Moscow.

"For Africa, it's a European war for reasons that are far from theirs. They also have problems, not because of their wars, but because they are victims of wars," said Rama Yade, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council think tank.

But in Washington, U.S. leaders are furious over South Africa's support for Russia, and the U.S. will stand up to the Ukrainian people because of the death toll in the Ukrainian war and the evidence of Russia's atrocities against the Ukrainian people near South Rayshow. and National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan, demanded that the U.S. preserve key trade projects in South Africa and oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine and violation of U.S. sanctions," he wrote in the letter obtained by Foreign Policy.

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