South Africa has prepared to go ahead with naval exercises off its east coast with Russian and Chinese warships next month.
According to the country’s media reports, the decision could further strain its relationship with some of its biggest trading partners in the West.
According to Times Live, the exercise tagged Operation Mosi, which means “smoke” will take place from February 17 to 26.
The report said South Africa’s reluctance to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its decision to allow sanctioned Russian vessels to dock at its ports have already increased tensions with the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union who are backing Ukraine in the conflict.
South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (DA), the government’s main opposition has questioned the wisdom of going ahead with the exercises.
“This gives the impression of not being neutral but being biased to one side. Clearly, it can alienate us from important trade partners, the West,” said DA shadow Defence Minister Kobus Marais.
“This is in the best interests of Russia,” Marais said, calling it “another bad judgment, an embarrassment.”
The exercise has been questioned as it will commence a year after Russia invaded despite the fact that there was a similar event in 2019.
It was an event that brought cemented open South Africa’s close ties with Russia due to historical support for the country’s liberation struggle and its membership in the BRICS group of nations.
The US, the UK, Germany and Japan are South Africa’s leading trading partners while Russia is not in the top 15.
Times Live said spokespersons from South Africa’s defence ministry and navy did not answer calls or immediately reply to emails.
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