Bolton warns Russia, China threaten US in Africa

White House national security adviser John Bolton rolled out the Trump administration’s Africa strategy on Thursday, casting Chinese and Russian influence in the region as a national security threat and pledging to overhaul U.S. investment and aid in the region.

In an address at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation in Washington, Bolton accused China and Russia of engaging in “predatory practices” by investing in African countries. The Trump administration will work to counter this activity going forward, he said, in addition to fighting “radical Islamic terrorism” and violence in the region and taking concrete steps to ensure U.S. aid is used “efficiently and effectively.”

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“Great power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa. They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States,” Bolton said.

“The predatory practices pursued by China and Russia stunt economic growth in Africa, threaten financial independence of African nations, inhibit opportunities for U.S. investment, interfere with U.S. military operations and pose a significant threat to U.S. national security interests,” Bolton continued.

Bolton described past U.S. approaches to Africa as deeply flawed. He asserted that the U.S. has provided billions of dollars in humanitarian, development and security aid to African nations in recent years but that it had “not achieved the desired effects.”

Bolton said the administration would no longer provide “indiscriminate” foreign aid across the continent and instead target U.S. funding toward specific countries and strategic objectives.

“From now on, the United States will not tolerate this longstanding pattern of aid without effect, assistance without accountability, and relief without reform,” Bolton said. “Instead, we are pursuing a new path, one that we hope finally gets results."

Bolton’s address largely focused on the themes of the administration’s new strategy, which he said is reflective of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhat the Mueller report tells us about Putin, Russia and Trump's election Fox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel Anti-US trade war song going viral in China MORE’s campaign pledge to “put the interests of the American people first, both at home and abroad.”

Bolton said the U.S. would establish a new initiative to support U.S. investment across the continent focused on bolstering Africa’s middle class and business climate. He also said the  administration intends to negotiate “modern, comprehensive” bilateral trade pacts with African nations in the coming months and years.

Bolton also said the Trump administration plans to “reevaluate its support” for United Nations peacekeeping missions, which would include terminating missions it deems ineffective or inefficient. The administration is also engaged in a broader effort to overhaul its foreign assistance strategy based on the tenets of the Marshall Plan, he said, referring to the decades old U.S. program that provided assistance to Western Europe after World War II.

Top White House officials have until now have made few public pronouncements on Africa in the first two years of the Trump administration, choosing instead to focus on other foreign policy priorities such as North Korean denuclearization and the withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran.

Still, Trump has been no stranger to controversy over his views on African nations. The president spurred a firestorm of criticism early this year after it was reported that he referred to African nations, among others, as “shithole countries” during a closed-door meeting with senators about immigration at the White House. Trump has disputed that he used that derogatory language in the meeting.

Bolton made a point to note Thursday that Trump released his Africa strategy two years earlier than President Obama did. The previous administration unveiled an Africa strategy in 2012.

“Under our new approach, every decision we make, every policy we pursue, and every dollar of aid we spend will further U.S. priorities in the region,” Bolton said. 

Updated at 10:24 a.m.