Russian Influence Surges In Niger As US Presence Challenged

The U.S. and other nations are competing for influence in Africa’s developing countries, the United States’ standing in Niger is noticeably waning. Russian experts and equipment recently arrived in the nation following reports that visiting American officials offended their hosts.

It is widely anticipated that U.S. troops will depart from Niger although it remains unclear if they will be forced to leave. American influence in Niger Mali and Burkina Faso is clearly on the decline as Russia’s military strengthens its presence in all three Central African nations and China seeks to expand its foothold on the continent.

Russian forces arriving is yet another clear signal that Niger is breaking away from U.S. support for its anti-terrorism program. State television footage showed two Russian trainers exiting a plane loaded with military supplies wearing military uniforms face coverings and caps while addressing the audience in French.

One of the trainers announced “We are here to train the Nigerien army to use the military equipment that is here. We are here to develop military cooperation between Russia and Niger.”

Although Niger officials have not ordered U.S. military forces to leave the country many expect that action soon. With Moscow securing a foothold in the Central African nation it will be challenging for American personnel to remain.

This marks a reversal from the recent past when the U.S. enjoyed a partnership with Niger in the volatile region. Washington had invested millions in the construction of a military airbase in the desert that served as the hub for its peacekeeping efforts.

The situation changed dramatically last summer when elite forces trained by U.S. personnel carried out a coup against Niger’s elected leaders. The new regime did not maintain the previously close relationship with the United States.

This shift will undoubtedly impact the country’s efforts to restrain al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked groups operating in the region. Niger and its neighboring states have endured significant turmoil at the hands of these insurgents.

Last month the ruling junta strongly indicated its displeasure with the U.S. presence in the country announcing that flights from the desert base were banned and that the U.S. military was no longer recognized. State officials were also upset by Washington’s warning against cooperation with Russia or Iran claiming that the U.S. was attempting to coerce the country into choosing between allies.