The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has accused the Russian Private Military Company (PMC) known as Wagner Group of taking advantage of the instability in Niger. While Washington does not believe that Russia or Wagner Group were involved in the recent military coup in Niger, Blinken expressed concern that the African nation could come under Russian influence.
In an interview with the BBC, Blinken admitted that the US is particularly worried about Wagner Group potentially expanding its presence in the Sahel region. He emphasized that although Russia or Wagner did not instigate the events in Niger, they tried to exploit the situation for their benefit. Blinken further criticized the Wagner Group for bringing only trouble wherever it goes, claiming that insecurity has increased in countries it has visited.
These statements from Blinken come as media reports suggest that Niger’s new military government has been considering inviting the Wagner Group to assist in maintaining power and deterring foreign interventions. The coup leaders are facing a deadline to either return ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to power or risk possible military intervention by neighboring states.
To deter Niger’s new government from cooperating with Wagner, acting US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who has been previously involved in regime changes, has personally traveled to meet with representatives of the military junta.
Niger’s ousted pro-US president, Bazoum, has also expressed concern about the potential influence of Russia through the Wagner Group in the Sahel region of western Africa.
Meanwhile, Evgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Wagner Group, insists that his group only fights on the side of justice and in defense of sovereignty and the rights of people. He expressed joy over Washington’s anxiety about encountering his group and invited Niger’s new government to contact them.
The exact role of Russia and the Wagner Group in the situation in Niger is unclear. However, Moscow has emphasized its strong opposition to foreign intervention in Niger and hopes that the country can restore constitutional normality.
In conclusion, while the United States does not believe that Russia or the Wagner Group played a role in the military coup in Niger, it remains concerned about the potential expansion of Russian influence in the region. The Wagner Group has been accused of taking advantage of instability in Niger, and the US government has actively discouraged Niger’s new military government from cooperating with them. The situation in Niger continues to evolve, with the possibility of military intervention if the coup leaders fail to restore the previous president to power.