Russia and The Gambia have entered a defense agreement on military cooperation, four months after the West African nation opened it’s embassy in Moscow.
Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Colonel General Vasily Tonkoshkurov and the Chief of Defense Staff of the Gambian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Ousman Bardji signed the agreement.
Russia has been trying to get a foot-hole in the Atlantic. In November 2014, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia will maintain military presence in western Atlantic and in July 2015, President Vladimir Putin approved a measure to give his country a strong presence in the Atlantic in response to a NATO troops expansion following the invasion of Ukraine and threats to neighboring nations.
The military cooperation between Russia and The Gambia will include training and technical aid. The Gambia traditionally gets training and aid from the U.S., British and Turkish Army but since rights abuses became evident, the U.S. and Britain withheld their support leaving only Turkey, which often gives only technical aid. The death of Libya’s Mommar Ghadaffi also affected training support for The Gambia’s military, where many of its officers received commando lessons.
The Gambia’s neighbor Senegal signed a military and intelligence sharing agreement with the U.S. to reinforce cooperation and deal with threats to their common interests, especially terrorism.
“We stand for the strengthening of the political dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation including the military and technical one with the Islamic Republic of Gambia,” said Russia’s Deputy Defense Chief Vasily Tonkoshkurov.
The Gambia is facing economic challenges with withholding of budgetary support from the European Union, ending its checkbook diplomacy with Taiwan, suspension from the Millennium Challenge Fund and AGOA preferential trade deal by the U.S., severing of ties with Iran and the death of Mommar Ghadaffi ending its financial support from Libya.
The Gambia cooperating with Russia may mean some financial support to help address its growing economic and budgetary crisis, especially if Moscow is allowed to use Banjul to access the Atlantic.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu this spring said his country planned for Russian long-range bombers to “patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.”
Ousman Bardji, The Gambia’s military chief said the agreement will allow them to consolidate their points of view on various topical issues and will intensify the development of the relationship between the two defense forces.
Signals of Russia’s military interest in The Gambia were not necessarily a secret. In the summer of 2014, President Yahya Jammeh sent his Chief of Staff to Moscow. Shortly after, Victor Ivanov, Russia’s anti-drug chief did not only visit Banjul but Moscow made The Gambia host of its global anti-drug dialogue.