Niger’s Coup Is Bad News For America, Good News For Russia

What’s happening? Niger's government fell to a takeover by its military last week, marking the fall of what was seen as the last democratic country in the Sahel region. Hundreds of protesters have been out supporting the coup leaders and calling to oust French influence in the country.

  • Why did it happen? The coup in Niger had similar causes as other coups in the region: poverty, natural resource constraints, ineffective governments, and radical Islamic terrorism, which democratic regimes have struggled to control.

  • Terror threats: Groups such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda are working to establish strongholds, making this a global security concern.

Implications

Losses for America: Washington has invested heavily in Niger because of legal constraints that prohibit it from working with other military regimes in the region. The U.S. built a drone base, deployed troops, and funneled millions of dollars, viewing Niger as a strategic hub for influence and counterterrorism action in the region.

For Europe: Africa supplies one-fifth of the European Union’s uranium needs, with Niger alone providing 15 percent of France's. This relationship has led France to strengthen its counterterrorism presence and troops in Niger to try to preserve stability.

Russia: The Wagner paramilitary group has entrenched itself in the Sahel, edging out Washington with each coup. The group's leader sees Niger as an opportunity to finally displace America in the region. It helps that a notable faction in Niger supports Russia, views the West skeptically, and criticizes France for exploiting Niger's uranium.

  • Zoom in: Wagner mercenaries have been active in conflicts across Africa, aligning with military leaders, running digital propaganda campaigns, and influencing coup after coup. This makes Russia a significant power in Africa, along with China, which has been increasing its influence with its global infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

What’s next? If Washington is keen on maintaining its regional presence, the U.S. and France may face an indirect confrontation with the Kremlin through Wagner, creating a proxy battleground in Africa.

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