President Vladimir V. Putin casts himself as the leader of a global movement rising up against domination by the United States and its allies. On Sunday, his top diplomat was bringing that message directly to Africa, hoping to turn the hunger and social strife across the continent to Russia’s advantage.
Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has made it clear that he will use the trip to try to pin the blame on the West for food shortages in African countries and to paint Russia as the continent’s faithful ally.
“We know that the African colleagues do not approve of the undisguised attempts of the U.S. and their European satellites to gain the upper hand, and to impose a unipolar world order to the international community,” Mr. Lavrov wrote in an article published in newspapers in the four countries he will visit: Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo.
Governments in Africa and in the Middle East have been caught in between Russia and the West since the Ukraine war began, facing Western pressure to express disapproval of the invasion while seeking to maintain access to Russian grain and other exports.
Western allies have made a concerted effort to keep them from getting too close to Russia, applying diplomatic pressure to persuade several Arab countries, including Egypt, to vote in favor of a United Nations resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine in March. (While the Republic of Congo voted for it, Uganda abstained and Ethiopia did not participate.)
Ahead of Mr. Lavrov’s visit, Western diplomats in Cairo lobbied Egypt behind the scenes not to give the Russian minister too warm a reception.
The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, is also set to visit the region on Sunday, traveling to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia for talks.
But Western attempts at counterprogramming, including editorials and social media posts, have done little to attract more public support in the Middle East. Russian disinformation and propaganda have found fertile ground in a region where many Arabs have long harbored anti-American and anti-Western sentiment stemming from the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Western support for Israel.
For months, the United States, Britain and the European Union have roundly condemned Russia for shutting down the flow of Ukrainian grain to the world through the Black Sea, laying the responsibility for global food shortages squarely at Mr. Putin’s feet.
On Friday, Russia agreed to a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey that would allow Ukraine to export its grain, underscoring Mr. Putin’s apparent concern for public opinion in the developing world. The next morning, however, Russian missiles hit the port of Odesa, raising questions about Moscow’s intention to stick to the agreement.
Public opinion in African countries has appeared to waver between support for Ukraine and sympathy with Russia’s justification for its invasion.
While few African leaders have publicly…