American and Russian soldiers fight at Niger airport

American and Russian soldiers fight at Niger airport

Russian soldiers have moved to a US air base near Niamey, the capital of Niger. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed this to international news agencies on Friday. It concerns sixty Russians who have been residing in the West African country for three weeks. There are also an unknown number of American soldiers at the airport.

It is noteworthy that these Russian soldiers are stationed at the American air base in Niamey. Both superpowers want influence in the Sahel, and are now almost literally on each other’s lips. Tensions are also increasing between the two countries due to American support for Ukraine. “The Russians are in another fold and cannot access American forces or access our equipment,” Secretary Austin said. He continues to monitor their presence.

For years, the US military from Niger has focused on the fight against jihadist groups, including Islamic State fighters. Since the junta staged a coup in July 2023, relations between Niamey and Washington have deteriorated significantly. In mid-March, the military junta decided to immediately stop US cooperation, because it was no longer in the interest of the Nigerian people. The United States is scheduled to soon close two military bases in the country.

Military rulers, like neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, are turning against Western allies such as the United States and former colonizer France. Instead, they are working to strengthen relations with Russia. The Kremlin said on Friday about the presence of Russians at the American base: “We are working to develop relations with African countries in all fields, including military.” At the beginning of this year, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali withdrew from the West African Partnership (ECOWAS).

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