Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has traveled to Niger, and met with the new military government. Widely regarded as a foreign policy hawk, Nuland spoke to her hosts of the risks of foreign interference, although she 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.”
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. She warned against enlisting the help of Russian private defense contractor Wagner Group.
According to Nuland, 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.
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.
Nigeria Could Send Thousands Of Troops To Invade Niger
Nigeria is willing to contribute more than half of the forces needed to restore constitutional order in neighboring Niger if needed, French radio broadcaster RFI reported on Tuesday, citing a government official.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gave Niger’s coup-imposed government a seven-day deadline to release detained President Mohamed Bazoum and restore the country’s dissolved institutions following the July 26 coup. It threatened to intervene militarily if Bazoum was not reinstated. However, the deadline passed with no military action taken.
The coup in Niger took place on July 26 when the presidential guard detained Bazoum and his family, sparking international condemnation, including from the U.S., France, the EU, and Russia. Bazoum has called for U.S. military intervention in his country. The military rulers warned on Sunday night that “a foreign superpower” was preparing to intervene in Niger. However, no further details were given by the new rulers.
Colonel Amadou Abdramane, a spokesperson of the group that took power, said the coup had sought to “put an end to the regime that you know due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance.”
The transitional government is now headed by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, who has been the chief of the presidential guard since 2011.
On Friday, West African defense chiefs finalized a plan for a possible military intervention in Niger, after a diplomatic delegation sent to Niamey for talks returned without meeting General Abdourahamane, the head of the transitional government.
ECOWAS officials stated last week that launching a military operation against Niger would be a last resort as they seek a comprehensive de-escalation strategy.
If the regional alliance opts for military action in Niger, a force of 25,000 troops would be committed, with Nigeria providing the largest number, RFI reported, citing the bloc’s intervention plan.
Nigerian Lawmakers Oppose Military Mission In Niger
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who has pledged zero tolerance for coups in the West African region, requested Senate approval for a troop deployment to Niger. However, lawmakers declined to endorse the military mission in Niger.
While the legislators condemned the coup, they urged Tinubu, who also chairs the ECOWAS authority of heads of state and government, to pursue diplomatic options.
Apart from Nigeria, three other countries – Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Benin – have volunteered to send troops to Niamey, capital of Niger.
Abdel-Fatau Musah, the ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security, stated on Friday that all elements of any future intervention had been finalized, but the bloc will not disclose the timing or location of any possible operation.
Niger’s New Leadership’s Warning
The new leadership in Niger has warned both the West and ECOWAS that any military intervention would be met with deadly force. Military government leaders in Burkina Faso and Mali have expressed solidarity with their counterparts in Niamey and declared that such an action in Niger would be interpreted as a declaration of war against their respective nations.
Poll By The Economist
According to a survey by The Economist, 78% of Nigeriens polled support the takeover, while 73% want the coup leaders to retain power “for an extended period” or “until new elections are held.”
West Africa Not Prepared For Intervention In Niger, Says Wall Street Journal
Citing sources, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday:
Members of the ECOWAS are not ready to stage a full-scale intervention in Niger.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, an unnamed senior commander from one of the ECOWAS countries signaled that the bloc was still unprepared for a full-scale operation. “For the moment, we need to build up the strength of our units before taking part in such a military action,” he said, adding that its success hinges on good preparation.
The delay also comes as Burkina Faso and Mali, two regional countries led by juntas, warned that any military intervention in Niger “would be tantamount to a declaration of war” against them.
Against this backdrop, the commander told the WSJ that ECOWAS would continue to squeeze the junta in Niger with economic sanctions while seeking to extend the trade embargo by asking other international bodies such as the African Union to get on board with the restrictions.
With regional tensions rising, the Nigerien military rulers vowed “to stand and fight” against any possible intervention while closing the country’s airspace “until further notice,” and vowing that any violation would be met with a “vigorous and instantaneous response.”
The coup leaders have vowed to rid Niger of colonial influence, reportedly turning to Russia’s Wagner private military company to achieve this.
The generals cut off mineral exports to France and have suspended military agreements with the country’s former colonial master, France.
The US and EU have imposed sanctions on Niger following the coup, and France has declared that it backs ECOWAS’ efforts to bring Bazoum – an ally of Paris – back into power. However, the French government has not explicitly stated whether it supports direct military intervention.
Algeria Opposes Military Intervention
Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has warned that a potential intervention to reverse the coup in Niger could have significant ramifications for regional stability.
“A military intervention could ignite the whole Sahel region and Algeria will not use force with its neighbors,” Tabboune said in a late Saturday interview with Ennahar TV, according to Reuters.
Algiers has confirmed via its Foreign Ministry in recent days its commitment to support “a return to constitutional order in Niger.” Algeria said it “gladly welcomes” diplomatic methods to end the crisis in Niger.
Chad, a country that borders Niger but is not one of the 15 members of ECOWAS, said on Friday that it will “never intervene by military means” amid concerns that military action could further destabilize the situation in one of the world’s poorest countries.