The French government has accused the United States of prioritizing its own interests over its allies after Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland visited Niger. According to Le Figaro, a source within the French Foreign Ministry stated that the US “did the exact opposite of what we thought they would do.” The source added, “with allies like these, we do not need enemies.”
France has been advocating for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum ever since a new military government took power in Niger through a coup in late July. The French government was prepared to support the use of force by West African nations, as endorsed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to achieve this goal. However, the US decision to send Nuland to Niger indicated a willingness to engage with the coup leaders instead.
The French diplomat quoted by Le Figaro emphasized that the US is primarily concerned with maintaining its military bases in the region, even at the expense of “constitutional legality.” There is now concern in Paris that Washington could reach an agreement with Niger’s military government without involving France.
The US currently has a significant military presence in Niger, with approximately 1,300 soldiers stationed there. This is almost on par with the French troop deployment of around 1,500 servicemen. American forces are based in Niamey and Agadez, the latter being particularly important for the US due to its role as a hub for drone operations and surveillance throughout the region.
Le Figaro also noted that while both France and the US have troops deployed in Niger, it is the French presence that tends to provoke resentment among locals. The French diplomat described the US and other allies as having a habit of “letting us take the hits.”
The military coup in Niger occurred on July 26, when the presidential guard led by Tchiani detained President Bazoum and his family, citing security concerns and allegations of mismanagement. The coup received international condemnation, and ECOWAS imposed strict sanctions on Niger while issuing an ultimatum for the release of Bazoum or else face military intervention.
In a recent development, Niger’s military government has agreed to hold talks with ECOWAS in an attempt to deescalate tensions in the region. Nuland’s visit to Niger included a warning to the new military government against entering into any agreements with the Russian private military company Wagner and an urging to restore the previous pro-Washington status quo.
The French accusation that the US is prioritizing its own interests over its allies underscores the complexities and competing priorities at play in international relations. The situation in Niger highlights the challenges of balancing stability, democracy, and strategic interests in a region of significant geopolitical importance.