WASHINGTON, January 24. /TASS/. The United States has concerns about a decision by South Africa to join Russia and China in their military drills, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday.
"The United States has concerns about any country, as we've said before, exercising with Russia, while Russia wages a brutal war against Ukraine. <...> We've been consistent on this. Of course, every participating country will make their own decision. But again, we've said this before, we do have concerns," the White House press secretary said.
She refused to say whether Washington had made this position clear to Pretoria, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited on Monday. "I don't have any conversations to read out, but we've been very-very consistent [on this issue]," Jean-Pierre said.
She did not say what consequences African governments that work with Russia’s Wagner private military company may face in the wake of Washington’s decision to designate it as a transnational criminal organization. Nor did Jean-Pierre comment on whether US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen might be talking about this during her African tour. "I will leave any conversation that Secretary Yellen has had with leaders to her and to her office to speak to," the White House press secretary said.
The joint drills that Russia, China and South Africa will hold in the Indian Ocean on February 17-27 don’t run counter to international law, Lavrov assured on Monday. Speaking at a press conference following talks with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, Lavrov expressed confusion about the negative reaction that the upcoming exercise had caused in the West.
"Three sovereign countries will hold drills without violating international law and I don’t understand with whom this can cause a mixed reaction," Russia's top diplomat noted. "Probably our American colleagues, who believe that only they can conduct exercises around the world, and not only at their more than 200 military bases around the globe, but anywhere," he added.
Washington’s decision to designate the Wagner private military company as a transnational criminal organization is unlikely to affect the company or Russia, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.