/ 15 August 2022

Defence minister Thandi Modise in Moscow for security conference

National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise.
National executive committee member Thandi Modise

The minister of defence and military veterans, Thandi Modise, landed in Russia on Monday, where she will join her peers from 35 countries to discuss global security matters at the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security. 

Modise is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with her Russian counterpart, General Kuzhugetovich Shoigu, “on the margins of the conference”.

“South Africa and the Russian Federation enjoy cordial relations. Both countries have signed a number of military-related bilateral agreements which are yielding significant benefits for both countries,” Cornelius Monama, media officer for the defence department, said in a statement on Monday morning. 

Last week, Russia’s deputy defence minister, Colonel General Alexander Fomin, told a briefing for foreign military attaches that “defence ministers of 35 countries confirmed their participation in the conference, 25 of them will attend in-person and another ten will participate via video link”.

Fominn noted that the conference will, for the first time, take place at the same time as the Army International Military Technical Forum and the International Army Games.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the opening of the events on Monday, the Kremlin announced in a statement on Sunday. 

The security conference will focus on “most pressing issues, including the security situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the phenomenon of colour revolutions, ways to combat international terrorism, the Syria issue and the fight against the Islamic State terror group,” according to a report from the Russian News Agency, TASS

Discussions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are absent from the official programme. 

Monama said that South Africa, “as one of the key players on peace and security on the African continent”, hoped that the conference would “help expose South Africa to practical and innovative

strategies to address defence and security challenges that confront Africa”.

“South Africa stands ready to work with all peace-loving nations of the world, through relevant multilateral bodies, to contribute meaningfully towards lasting peace in the world.” 

South Africa has been criticised for not taking a decisive position against the war in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion on 24 February. 

In mid-April, South Africa abstained from casting its vote on a United Nations general assembly vote to suspend Russia from its human rights council for committing atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. 

Last week Monday, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor acknowledged that she and United States secretary of state, Antony Blinken, were on opposite sides on several issues, including Russia’s war against Ukraine. 

The minister dismissed claims that South Africa’s government has effectively chosen to side with Russia in the war, describing Russia as a “very negligible economic partner for South Africa”.

“It is important that all of us accept our ability to hold different opinions,” said Pandor during a joint press briefing with Blinken, adding: “We are on a roll of sovereign nations that are regarded as equal in terms of the UN Charter.

“We might differ in terms of economic power and economic ability to influence development in different parts of the world but what will make the world work is if we respect each other,” said Pandor. 

Blinken said: “If we allow a big country to bully a smaller one, to simply invade it and take its territory, then it’s going to be open season, not just in Europe, but around the world,” he said. 

“We have to defend the proposition that sovereignty and independence matter. They matter to Ukrainians, and it matters to the world.”

Modise will address the Moscow conference on Tuesday.