Russian and American soldiers are temporarily housed under the same roof

Niamey demanded the withdrawal of American forces from the country. But while they were packing their bags, Russian soldiers came to put theirs in the same base, the American Minister of Defense said on Thursday.



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Military base 101 in Niamey, Niger on July 15, 2022. (BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

Russian soldiers have just moved into one of the buildings of base 101, near Niamey international airport. This was indicated on Thursday May 2 by American Defense Minister Lloyd Austin. In Niger, after asking French forces to leave the territory, the ruling military junta considered that the presence of American soldiers was “illegal”. Since mid-April, nearly a thousand soldiers have been preparing their bags. But they will have to coexist for a time with the new ally of Nigerien power: the Russian army.

Base 101 is the planned former air base of the French army, which the American military recovered at the end of December 2023. They store there, in particular, the intelligence equipment used as part of their mission to fight jihadism. So there are Russians and Americans under the same roof. The first settle in, the others move out. An unreal situation, at a time when Washington and Moscow are in head-on opposition on the issue of the war in Ukraine.

No major risk, according to Washington

Beyond the humiliating symbol for the Americans, driven out of Niger and forced to make room for new arrivals from Russia, the risk of incident is minimal. Lloyd Austin didn’t seem worried about it Thursday when he confirmed the news. “The Russians are in a separate building and have no access to American troops or our equipment”he said, adding, “I am very committed to the safety and protection of our soldiers. We will continue to monitor this situation closely, but for the moment, I do not see any major risk in the protection of our troops”.

The schedule for the exit of American forces in Niger has not yet been completely finalized. The United States must repatriate around 1,000 soldiers and a lot of equipment. But above all, the American army will leave behind a large drone base, a recent infrastructure which cost nearly 100 million euros. We don’t know if the Americans will abandon it to the Russians or burn it down before leaving Niger.

Africa Corps, the heir to the Wagner security company

No country in the Sahel therefore seems to oppose the Russian presence today. Their presence is even strongly encouraged by the Nigerien, Burkinabé and Malian soldiers. Under this pressure from local forces, France and the United States appear totally resigned. They are also under pressure from public opinion methodically worked by disinformation campaigns in favor of Russia. Anti-French and anti-American feelings are visible on the demonstrators’ signs at each mobilization in the streets of Niamey. The strategy of the paramilitary organization Africa Corps is working: cleansing the Sahel of Western presence and “help all countries seeking to finally get rid of neocolonial dependence”.

Africa Corps is the heir of the private security company Wagner. From now on the Kremlin no longer hides as it could with Wagner. It is today with Moscow that we must negotiate to anticipate the growth of the Russian Africa Corps in the region. This is what Algeria, for example, has just set up a diplomatic and military structure with Russia. A dedicated channel to protect its interests and limit the scope of action of Moscow’s troops. The option chosen by Niger, Mali and Burkina does not really interest Algiers, which sees itself more as a sovereign partner of Russian forces in North Africa.

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