Military Coup Spreads Russian Influence

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The nation of Niger, located in Western Africa, has just undergone a military coup, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The coup was organized by General Tchiani, commander of the presidential guard, who removed the elected president Mohamed Bazoum. The Niger coup is particularly important because it was the last pro-Western government in the Sahel Region, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

Some pro-coup citizens were critical of France and American influence in the region, showing support for Russia in the Ukraine War. It is unclear how popular or unpopular the coup is with the people of Niger:

The coup is largely seen as a Russian win in the region, where military strongmen have aligned themselves with Putin. The Wagner group, which has recently faced intense pressure from the Russian government following the failed mutiny, is largely credited with assisting those leaders stay in power.

“What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonizers,” he said in a voice-mail message posted in a Telegram account. Following the unsuccessful mutiny at home, Prigozhin has said he wanted to focus on Wagner’s operations in Africa.

Wagner fighters have gained a foothold in four nations on the continent, including Mali, and are trying to enter Burkina Faso and Chad, three of Niger’s neighbors. Western officials have said there is no evidence Russia—who has condemned the plotters—or Wagner were involved in the coup.

Not only has Russia benefitted from the coups, but the coup leaders themselves have been trained by US Special Forces. The Intercept reported that:

U.S.-trained officers have conducted in at least six coups in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali since 2012. They have also been involved in recent takeovers in Gambia (2014), Guinea (2021), Mauritania (2008), and Niger (2023).

Russia’s involvement in Africa is reminiscent of the 1980s, where NATO and Communist states conducted proxy wars all across the continent. While Communism is no longer present on the continent, outside powers have continued to leverage political and ethnic divisions to lay claim to resources and military bases.


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