• Saturday, April 20, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Niger’s junta embraces Russia, leaving Nigeria watching nervously

Russia and Niger, who are newly under military rule after a July 2023 coup, announced plans to deepen their military cooperation.

This comes amidst Niger’s growing rift with traditional Western partners like France and the EU, raising concerns about a potential Russian foothold in the strategically crucial Sahel region.

The announcement followed a Tuesday meeting between Russian Deputy Defense Ministers Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Alexander Fomin with Niger’s junta-appointed Defense Minister Salifu Modi. Both sides “agreed to intensify joint actions to stabilize the situation in the region” and boost Niger’s military capabilities, leaving the details shrouded in diplomatic fog.

For Nigeria, Niger’s immediate neighbour and fellow regional heavyweight, the news holds both strategic anxieties and potential opportunities.

The anxious neighbor

Security spillover: Nigeria already grapples with its Islamist insurgency in the north, and a Russia-backed Niger could complicate the fight, potentially creating a haven for militants across the border.

Western backlash: Nigeria, unlike Niger, maintains close ties with the West, and a strengthened Russia-Niger axis could strain those relationships, impacting military and economic cooperation.

The potential:

New partner: If the security alliance with Russia proves effective, it could open doors for Nigeria to explore similar partnerships, diversify its options, and potentially increase its bargaining power with traditional allies.

Economic opportunities: As Russia seeks footholds in Africa, Nigeria could position itself as a key economic partner, leveraging its regional influence and resource wealth.

The full impact of Niger’s military turn and its burgeoning ties with Russia on Nigeria remains unclear. Much will depend on the extent of the military collaboration,  the West’s response, and whether Niger’s junta manages to stabilize the country. For now, Nigeria watches with cautious skepticism, balancing potential concerns with a flicker of opportunistic hope.