A bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers are calling for the U.S. to punish South Africa for its continuing to support Russia despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a letter dated June 9 that was first revealed Monday by the New York Times, the lawmakers call on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top U.S. trade envoy Katherine Tai to move this year’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum from South Africa to “other possible locations.”
The AGOA grants duty-free access to the U.S. market to goods from certain sub-Saharan African nations, including South Africa. As a requirement, nations must not engage in activities that undermine the United States’ national security or foreign policy objectives.
The letter is signed by Senate Appropriations Chair Chris Coons (D-CT), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee James Risch (R-ID), House Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) and that committee’s Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-NY).
They say their call is motivated by “South Africa’s government [having] formally taken a neutral stance on Russia’s unlawful invasion, but has deepened it military relationship with Russia over the past year.”
The lawmakers further note that South Africa is scheduled in August to host this year’s BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit where President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government “aims to strengthen its ties with China and Russia and he is working to facilitate the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite the outstanding arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC)” for war crimes in Ukraine.
The letter is the first official call for open retaliation for what many in Washington see as South Africa’s moving toward a closer alignment with Russia to the detriment of the U.S.
Ramaphosa announced recently that an African leaders’ Peace Mission would travel to both Ukraine and Russia in June, and he’s expected to lead the AGOA delegation as soon as this week.
Both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have said they’ll meet with the African leaders involved in the peace mission.