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Niger Coup Leaders Still in Power, Despite Pressure from Victoria Nuland, Joe Biden & ECOWAS
The situation in Niger is tense, as the military government there refuses to step down, Russia warns the West against intervention, and the military presence of the U.S. and France remains in limbo.
The West African nation has been dominating headlines ever since President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown on July 26th. The Biden Administration has been scrambling to figure out how to respond, as the U.S. has around 1,100 troops stationed in the country. It’s part of what AFRICOM calls its “light footprint,” which consists of at least 29 military bases across Africa.
If you’re wondering why the U.S. doesn’t just move those troops to another base in a country with a more “friendly” government… well, that’s because Washington has invested heavily in Niger, including the construction of a more than $100 MILLION drone base that costs the Pentagon around $30 MILLION to operate each year.
All that money spent, and yet the drone base is virtually useless right now, because the new military government in Niger has closed the country’s airspace. And they’re not going anywhere—even after the Biden Administration sent in the closest replica it has to the Grim Reaper, Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, for talks last week.
Nuland is perhaps best known for her work in Ukraine, where she helped orchestrate and oversee the Maidan Coup of 2014. But she was also heavily involved in the Clinton and Bush Administrations. For the latter, she worked closely with Dick Cheney, with a focus on gaining support for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and NATO expansion.
See, Nuland’s favorite target has always been Russia. According to her State Department bio, she’s actually fluent in Russian, which is ironic, given that the neo-Nazi extremists she supported in Ukraine outlawed the language altogether.
Fast forward to 2023, where Western influence in West Africa is waning, while the region’s partnerships with Moscow are increasing, and protesters in the streets are waving Russian flags.
It’s no coincidence that Nuland was the one the Biden Administration sent to Niger, while her boss, Tony Blinken, stayed home. Yes, that’s the same Tony Blinken who called Niger “a model of resilience, a model of democracy, a model of cooperation,” when he visited the country back in March.
Another visit from Blinken wouldn’t have sent quite the same message—not to Africa, and certainly, not to Russia. But someone like Nuland, with her track record, sends a very clear message. She described the talks with the military leaders in Niger as “quite difficult,” admitting that they wouldn’t give her access to the ousted president or even the new leader of the country.
Granted, that leader is already well known to the U.S. as Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani is one of at least FIVE military officials involved in the coup who were trained BY the U.S. The only problem is that he’s no longer following Washington’s orders.
Speaking of orders, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, is also scrambling right now, as their ultimatum for the military government in Niger to step down, expired… over a week ago. The Western-supported alliance has now ordered the activation and deployment of a reserve force to “restore constitutional order.”
A reminder that the U.S. establishment and its allies only care about a rules-based order when it suits them. And for many years, military involvement in Africa has suited them just fine.
They claimed it was necessary to fight back against groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Those missions weren’t largely publicized—especially when compared to what the U.S. Military was doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In fact, when four U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed in an ambush attack in Niger back in 2017, even top senators were admitting they had no idea that the U.S. had troops on the ground in the country to begin with.
The lesson learned was apparently that U.S. involvement in Niger needed to increase even more, with that fancy $100 MILLION drone base opening in 2019.
Of course, Washington’s NATO allies were in full support of more Western involvement, especially in Niger, which is one of the world’s largest producers of uranium and was the EU’s top supplier in 2021.
Now that Europe is trying to cut off its reliance on natural resources from Russia, it NEEDS control over the resource-rich regions in Africa. But that is becoming less and less easy to maintain, as there have been various coups in Mali, Chad, Guinea and Burkina Faso in just the last three years.
This trend is actually nothing new, as the Intercept reported earlier this year that since 2008, “U.S.-trained officers have attempted at least nine coups (and succeeded in at least eight) across five West African countries.”
That makes the coup in Niger all the more humiliating for the Biden Administration because it was the country they touted as the beacon of Democracy. At least, until a U.S.-trained military general locked up the president he was supposed to be guarding in the presidential palace, and then went on state TV and declared himself the new president.
But this isn’t a daytime soap opera… this is just the fallout of reckless U.S. foreign policy. Instead of questioning why their trained officers keep revolting, or why the people in West Africa don’t want to continue being controlled in exchange for Western aid… the U.S. is blaming everyone else. Especially Russia. Because unlike the West and their threats to do what we say or else, Russia is offering a mutually beneficial relationship on Africa’s terms, and Africa is listening.
Notably, when it comes to Niger, Russia hasn’t backed the coup. But it has warned against military intervention, and the consequences that come with it. And in the eyes of the Biden Administration… that’s more than enough.
So, where does that leave us? Well, the Chair of ECOWAS, who is also the President of Nigeria, who also apparently has a sketchy past as a drug trafficker in Chicago, is now using Washington’s favorite phrase and warning that “all options are on the table.”
But so far, the threats of military action, the withholding of foreign aid, and the sanctions haven’t worked. With the military governments in the neighboring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso warning that they would step in to defend Niger—it’s become clear that any attempts by Nigeria to take military action would lead to a full-on civil war within the ECOWAS alliance.
As a result, analysts are telling the Associated Press that the West may have no choice but to give in an recognize the military government in Niger—especially the U.S., which has 1,100 troops and France, which has 1,500 troops stationed in the country.
But if there’s anything we’ve learned in the last two decades of U.S. foreign policy, it’s that whether the road is filled with direct military intervention or years of sanctions and starvation, the goal will always be to return to a Washington-approved government, and the civilians who are impacted along the way are just seen as collateral damage—and that’s something everyone should be talking about.