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What’s the Strategy Behind South Africa’s Joint Naval Exercises With China and Russia?

The Russian frigate "Admiral Gorshkov" docked at the port in Richards Bay on February 22, 2023. Guillem SARTORIO / AFP

South Africa’s joint naval exercises with China and Russia are drawing sharp criticism domestically and from Western allies. Beyond questions about the symbolism of its timing – overlapping with the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine invasion – many are baffled as to why SA is participating at all.

The ten days of exercises, dubbed Operation Mosi II, will include anti-piracy exercises and simulated aerial attacks on ships. A Russian frigate and supply ship, and a Chinese frigate, destroyer and supply vessel will be joined by a single South African frigate.

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