For the first time since 2019, when South Africa, Russia and China held trilateral naval exercises under Exercise Mosi, the three militaries will again join efforts in the Indian Ocean off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal province between February 14 and 24, under the same Exercise Mosi name.
Vessel names and types were not disclosed; however, warships from the Russian Federation Navy (RFN), China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), South African Naval Defense Force (SANDF) maritime service ship crew, SA Air Force (SAAF) and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) are expected to be involved.
China, Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa collectively are members of the BRICS group of nations. BRIC is an acronym coined by economist Jim O’Neill in 2001 as a designator for emerging economies that hold the potential to become leading forces by 2050. South Africa was added in 2010.
While not demonstrated to be an anti-Western coalition by intent and refraining from presenting a proposition of an alternative world order, Zaki Laïdi, political scientist, notes BRIC’s focus on upholding state sovereignty over the Western regime liberal focus.
During the June 2002 14th BRICS summit, Chinese president Xi Jinping stated “Some countries attempt to expand military alliances to seek absolute security, stoke bloc-based confrontation by coercing other countries into picking sides and pursue unilateral dominance at the expense of other’s rights and interests.”
South Africa’s strategic location and standing as a military power have made an allied relationship attractive to China and Russia. South Africa’s geostrategic port location could present an alternative shipping route to the Suez Canal, according to Anton Kruger, Consultant.
The alliances are not without concern among political leaders. In June of 2022, NATO agreed to address “challenges” that China may pose. In December of 2022, Julianne Smith, US Ambassador to NATO, stated belief that Russia and China are “sharing a toolkit” of strategies in an attempt to undermine NATO members, saying, “There’s just no question that the [People’s Republic of China] and Russia are both working to divide the transatlantic partners. And we are now very aware, we all have a deeper appreciation of those efforts and are intent on addressing them.”
South Africa has seemingly made efforts to position itself as Africa’s regional leader, providing peacekeeping operations to Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as counter-piracy operations support to Mozambique.
However, South Africa’s military equipment and tactics are heavily reliant on NATO, with SA military forces conducting more exercises with NATO allies than with either China or Russia, including Operation Good Hope, a routine operation undertaken with Germany as well as a biennial operation with France under Exercise Oxide.
Exercise Mosi is expected to comprise of a joint military operation involving search and rescue, vessel in distress responses, officer of the watch maneuvers, gunnery, force protection and air defense exercises.