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Why is Eritrea firmly “pro-Russian and anti-American”

  After the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the African country Eritrea (referred to as “Eritrea”) voted against in the United Nations General Assembly’s “request for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine” and “suspend the membership of the Russian Human Rights Council”. The forefront of refusing to condemn Russia and oppose the indiscriminate sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the West. What kind of country is Eritrea, and why is it so determined to be “pro-Russian and anti-American”?
Years of war and “ruling the country with an iron fist”

  Eritrea is located in the northernmost part of the “Horn of Africa”, guarding the southern part of the Red Sea. It is adjacent to Ethiopia (referred to as “Ethiopia”) to the south, Sudan to the west, Djibouti to the southeast, and Yemen and Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea to the northeast, with a population of about 6.7 million. Since the third century AD, the region where Etre was located was successively occupied by the Kingdom of Axum (located roughly in present-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia), the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. In 1869, Etter was colonized by Italian colonists. In 1890, Italy merged the occupied areas into a unified colony, named “Eritrea”.
  After the outbreak of World War II, the British began to attack the Italian forces in East Africa to weaken the Italian forces in Africa. In April 1941, the Italian army was defeated and Etter became a British Mandate. After the end of World War II, Eritrea intended to obtain independence through a referendum, but Ethiopia received preferential treatment from the United Kingdom and the United States for resisting Italy in the war, and the United Kingdom and the United States intended to win Ethiopia against the Soviet Union, so they supported Ethiopia’s political appeal to Eritrean. Driven by the United States and Western countries, the United Nations passed a resolution in December 1950 to merge Ethiopia and Eritrea into a federal state. After that, the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I continued to weaken the autonomy of Eritrea, and finally forcibly designated it as a province of Ethiopia in 1962. Since then, the Eritrean people have not given up their struggle for national independence. In 1970, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front was established and led the war of independence. In 1977, after the Essemenguestu military government came to power, it continued its tough policy of suppressing Eritrea. In the end, in 1991, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front joined forces with the Ethiopian rebels to overthrow the Mengistu regime. In April 1993, Eritrea held a referendum and passed the decision to separate from Ethiopia with an absolute majority of 99.8%. On May 24 of the same year, Eritrea officially declared its independence.
  After independence, Eritrea once ushered in a “golden period” of development, and became a logistics hub in the Red Sea region with the help of excellent ports such as Assab and Massawa. However, due to the legacy of colonialism and the intricate ethnic conflicts in the region, Eritrea has been in constant conflict with neighboring countries. In 1995, Eritrea and Yemen clashed over the Hanish Islands south of the Red Sea. In 1998, due to border demarcation disputes, Eritrea and Ethiopia (the “Tigray People’s Liberation Front” actually held the Ethiopian regime at that time) turned against each other, and a war broke out between the two countries, resulting in 80,000 deaths. In 2000, the two countries signed a peace agreement in Algiers, temporarily ending the conflict. In 2018, Eritrea and the new Ethiopian government signed the “Comprehensive Agreement on Peace and Friendship”, which normalized the relationship between the two parties. Support the Ethiopian government army. Frequent external conflicts led to international condemnation and sanctions, which interrupted the development momentum of Eritrea, and the port of Eritrea lost its original advantages.
  The history of Eritrea in modern times has been ill-fated, and since the establishment of independence, there have been many crises, which made the leadership of Eritrea adopt the strategy of “ruling the country with an iron fist”. Isaias, chairman of the ruling party, the Eritrean People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, has been president since the country’s independence. In view of the internal and external situation, President Isaias will consolidate the regime and maintain national independence and security as the top priority, strengthen the local party, government and military forces, and strictly control the opposition forces at home and abroad. Due to the long-term status of “war not a war” with neighboring countries, Eritrea cannot relax its preparations for war. All citizens, both men and women, must serve a certain period of military service or work for the country. Based on this, Western media often attack Eritrea with the issues of “democracy” and “human rights”. However, even though the international and surrounding situations are turbulent and complicated, the Isaias government has never been afraid of pressure and has adhered to its unique domestic and foreign policies.
The anti-hegemony and anti-imperialist consciousness is integrated into the national character

  Eritrea has become an African “anti-American fighter” for both historical and practical reasons.
  Failing to establish an independent state after World War II is a regret for Eritrea, who regards the United States as the “mastermind behind the incident”. At that time, in order to prevent the influence of the Soviet Union from expanding to the “Horn of Africa” ​​region and ensure the safety of oil transportation channels, the United States decided to support Ethiopia’s annexation of Eritrea. U.S. Secretary of State Dulles said unabashedly at the UN Security Council in 1952: “From the perspective of justice, Eritrea’s (independence) will should be considered. However, the United States, out of the strategic interests of the Red Sea and world peace, Eritrea needs to merge with our ally, Ethiopia.” After Ethiopia further abolished Eritrean’s autonomy, the Eritreans rose up to resist, and the United States supported Ethiopia’s suppression of Eritrean diplomatically and materially.
  After the independence of Eritrea, the relationship with the United States turned for a while. President Isaias visited the United States six times, but his domestic and foreign policies quickly caused the United States to be unhappy. The United States’ request to establish a military base in Eritrea was rejected, and Isaias, who has been in power for a long time, has become a “dictator” in the eyes of the United States. Isaias had close ties with the anti-American former Sudanese President Bashir and Libyan ex-President Muammar Gaddafi, maintained contact with the Houthis in Yemen, and allowed Iranian warships to dock in the waters of Eritrea to carry out operations against Israel. This makes Eritre a “thorn in the eyes” of the United States. In 2018, after the reconciliation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the United States once lifted the sanctions against Eritrea. However, after the outbreak of the Ethiopian civil war in 2020, Eritrea sent troops across the border to Tigray to fight, and rejected the Biden administration’s peace initiative. The United States once again imposed unilateral sanctions on Eritrea. Eritrea’s experience of becoming a “pawn” in the struggle for hegemony among major powers before independence made its people miserable. After independence, the long-term sanctions and blockade imposed by the United States on it have seriously hurt the country’s economic development. The Eritrean people attribute these unfortunate encounters to the United States, and anti-hegemony and anti-imperialism have become part of the Eritrean national character.
  Ett once regarded the Soviet Union as an anti-imperialist strategic ally for a long time. After the end of the Cold War, it maintained close exchanges and cooperation with Russia. Eritrea has a pro-Russian stance on many issues. Due to the long-standing arms embargo, Eritrea cooperates closely with Russia in the military and security fields. After former Sudanese President Bashir stepped down in a coup in 2019, Russia’s attempt to establish a naval base in Port Sudan was blocked, so it turned to Eritrea for cooperation in related fields. In Utter’s view, the secession of the two eastern states of Ukraine is similar to Utter’s historical struggle for secession from Ethiopia, which reinforces Utter’s “pro-Russian” stance. In April this year, Eritrean Foreign Minister Saleh visited Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed his appreciation for Eritrea’s “objective and responsible position on the situation in Ukraine”, saying that it will expand economic cooperation with Eritrea.
Impression

  The author went to Eritrea for research in 2019, and saw that there were no heavily guarded police and military, nor luxury hotels or commercial buildings on the roads of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, but there were quaint churches, neatly repaired buildings, and roadsides everywhere. The visible gardens are very pleasant and the public spaces are in good order. Through the exchanges with Eritrean scholars and officials, the author also has a better understanding of the internal logic of Eritrea’s domestic and foreign policy choices.
  As the international situation changes, major powers turn their attention to the “Horn of Africa” ​​region, and Eritrea’s role in the regional and international arena is being re-evaluated. After reconciling with Ethiopia, Eritrea is expected to play a unique role in regional affairs. China recognized Eritrea and established diplomatic relations in 1993, and Sino-Eritrea relations have developed smoothly since then. At the beginning of 2022, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi continued the tradition of visiting Africa for the first time in the new year, and the first stop is Eritrea, which shows that China attaches great importance to the traditional friendship between the two countries and the role of Eritrea on the international stage. Under the major changes, the coordination and cooperation between China and Ecuador on the international stage will be closer, and the cooperation between the two countries is expected to reach a new level.

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