Maidan ‘midwife’ warns Niger against courting Wagner
Acting US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has traveled to Niger where she met with the new military government and warned against enlisting the help of Russian defense contractor Wagner Group. Nuland, who spoke to her hosts of the risks of foreign interference, herself played an instrumental role in the Western-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014.
Speaking to reporters during a special briefing on Monday, Nuland revealed that she met with the military government’s defense chief Moussa Barmou and three other senior commanders. She described the negotiations as “extremely frank and at times quite difficult.”
Last month, the presidential guard detained Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum and his family, sparking international condemnation. The coup also triggered pushback from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which threatened military action against Niger’s plotters unless they reinstate Bazoum. The new government has refused to back down.
Nuland also said that she urged the coup leaders to “hear our offer to try to work with them to solve this diplomatically and return to constitutional order.”
She also addressed recent media reports that the new Nigerien military government had sought the assistance of Wagner Group PMC to solidify their position.
According to the US official, she “raised the [issue of] Wagner and its threat to those countries where it is present.” Although her counterparts did not make any firm commitments, she said she believed they understood her message.
“I got the sense in my meetings today that the people who have taken this action here understand very well the risks to their sovereignty when Wagner is invited in,” Nuland added.
Widely regarded as a foreign policy hawk, Nuland famously traveled to Kiev prior to the Maidan coup in 2014, handing out pastries to Ukrainian protesters demanding that their country embrace a pro-Western course.
Nuland was also caught in the spotlight during the coup after a phone call was leaked in which she discussed possible successors for then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich and insisted “F**k the EU” on the same issue. Yanukovich was later ousted from power, which led to Crimea rejoining Russia and violent clashes in the Donbass.
Last week, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov warned that any interference in Niger by powers outside the region would be unlikely to change the situation for the better. He also reiterated hope that the turbulent country will return to “constitutional normality.”