Russia strikes African military cooperation agreement
Russia and Niger have agreed to develop military cooperation and work together to stabilize the security situation in the West African Sahel region, which has been plagued by jihadist violence for more than a decade.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced the decision on Tuesday, following talks in Moscow between Nigerien defense chief Salifou Modi and his Russian counterparts, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Alexander Fomin.
“Positive trends in the growth of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation were observed during the discussions, and potential areas of cooperation were underlined,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“…Emphasis was placed on the Russian Ministry of Defense’s willingness to maintain positive communication with its allies in Niger in order to improve combat readiness of the Republic of Niger's Armed Forces,” it added.
Niger’s new government, which has been in power since the ouster of pro-western President Mohamed Bazoum in July, has taken a number of steps to cut ties with Niamey's former military partners. The coup leaders have cited the Bazoum government’s alleged failure to combat Islamist terrorists in the Sahel, despite the presence of foreign forces, including French troops, as the reason for the military takeover.
Just days after the coup, the new rulers terminated all military treaties with Paris, accusing the former colonial power of internal interference and aggression. They also expelled the French ambassador Sylvain Itte, from Niamey and recently revoked two military partnership missions with the EU.
Western influence has also dwindled in Mali and Burkina Faso, which are both ruled by the military. The former French colonies' military regimes have kicked out French forces who had previously intervened in the fight against jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel region. Last month, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso endorsed plans to form a federation to unite their countries, following the signing of a charter to create the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) to defend each other against external and internal security threats.
Talks on defense cooperation have become part of Nigerien Prime Minister Lamine Zeine’s tour who has also arrived in Moscow, and then will go to Serbia, Turkey, and Iran. The mission is reportedly aimed at diversifying the country's partner base, exploring collaboration opportunities, along defense, in agriculture, energy, healthcare, and crude oil trading.