A senior British parliamentarian on Monday sensationally alleged that Russia is planning to establish a military base in Zimbabwe, amid growing bilateral ties between the two nations.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in Moscow a fortnight ago where he held a one on one meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, ostensibly to forge closer diplomatic and economic ties.
The Zimbabwean leader was also reportedly requesting for a financial bailout package to quell a growing economic crisis in the southern African state.
Russia already has nine foreign military bases mainly in Eurasia stretching to parts of the Middle East as well as in Syria.
In Africa, Russia has a military logistics centre in Eritrea.
Setting up a military base in Zimbabwe will put the Russian military at the doorstep of a US military base in Botswana, southwest of Zimbabwe.
Botswana hosts the US military under the banner of Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Parliamentarian Michael Andrew Foster Jude Kerr (The Marquess of Lothian) asked during a House of Lords question and answer session whether the British establishment had made any assessment of reports that Russia’s plans to establish a strategic military base in Zimbabwe
“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that the government of Russia plans to establish a strategic military base in Zimbabwe; and what estimate they have made of which African countries (1) have Russian military bases, and (2) have made agreements with the government of Russia to establish such bases, on their soil,” asked The Marquess of Lothian.
Responding to the question Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Tariq Mahmood Ahmad the Baron Ahmad of Wimbledon said individual states have a right to decide their security policies.
“The UK believes it is right that sovereign states have the right to decide their own security policy. We monitor Russia’s developing international defence relationships, including in Africa.”
Military cooperation between Russia and Zimbabwe was forged decades ago when Russia funded, through the provision of military hardware, to Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) the armed wing of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) military during the guerrilla war of the late 1970s.
Zimbabwe’s military also competed at Russia’s International Army Games in August last year where Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was sent as a special envoy by then President-elect Mnangagwa.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) was among the 189 teams from 32 countries that participated at the event.
Speaking during National Defence Forces Day commemorations last year Mnangagwa said: “Furthermore, the ZDF currently has a contingent of officers and men participating in the Russian International Military Games which are being hosted by the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, China
“International interactions of this nature are critical in improving the operational capabilities of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces as well as its image at the world stage.
“Most importantly, participation of our forces at that level helps to sharpen their skills, while at the same time improving their professional conduct and preparedness to defend Zimbabwe. This over and above the obvious benefit of improving bilateral diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and other participating countries,” said Mnangagwa.