Unlikely Roommates: US and Russia Share Niger Base After Coup

US and Russia share a military base in Niger after a coup d'etat forced the US to partially withdraw troops.

Must Read

Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

Russian military personnel have entered Airbase 101 in Niamey, Niger, where American troops are stationed, a senior US Department of Defense official told Reuters. Following the state coup in Niger, the Pentagon announced that the US would relocate some of its troops and military equipment from Airbase 101 in Niamey to Airbase 201 in Agadez. The number of personnel and the specific equipment remaining at Base 101 is unknown. In total, there were about 1,000 American troops stationed in Niger.

It should be noted that Russian military personnel arrived in Niger as instructors to train their Nigerian counterparts. The presence of Russian and US military personnel on the same base, albeit in different locations, poses no immediate threat. Each has its own goals and objectives. 

But why is it happening?

Unable to act against the junta now in power in Niamey to preserve their military interests in Niger, the United States is facing the same fate as France had a few months earlier. In March, the coup leaders denounced the military cooperation agreements previously concluded with Washington. This happened after they had forged closer ties with Moscow.

One month later, the United States ultimately decided to withdraw its military forces from Niger, consisting of around one thousand personnel. As a result, they ceased operations at both the strategic base in Agadez and Niamey. However, the specifics of this disengagement remain unclear, as CNN states that the Nigerien junta is reportedly reticent to authorize American military flights at this time.  

The United States will dispatch an additional delegation to Niger to discuss the withdrawal of American troops in greater depth, according to a Pentagon spokesperson on May 1 (Sabrina Singh at a press briefing). The timeframe for this disengagement has not been established yet.

Nevertheless, an Ilyushin Il-76 carrying the initial Russian military “instructors,” whose association with the Africa Corps [formerly Wagner Group] or conventional forces remains undisclosed, has arrived in Niamey. Nigerien public television announced on April 11 that an “anti-aircraft defense system” will be deployed with the capacity to ensure complete control over its airspace.  

“We are here to train the Nigerien army and help them use the military equipment that has just arrived. It includes equipment from various military specialties. We are here to develop military cooperation between Russia and Niger,” explained one of these Russian instructors on the same broadcast.

CNN and Reuters have been informed by a Pentagon official and another “close to the matter” source that the Russian contingent has established itself at Airbase 101 in Niamey, where American forces continue to be stationed.

Despite the current tense relations between the United States and Russia, most notably as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is not unduly concerned by this proximity.  

“The Russians are in a separate compound and do not have access to US forces or our equipment,” he declared during a press conference in Honolulu. “The safety of our troops is essential to me… But for now, I don’t see any major issues here,” he added.

Nevertheless, one of CNN’s sources emphasized that although the Russian contingent does not operate “in the same space” as the Americans, the “area” is not “very large.”  

As mentioned, in September 2023, the Pentagon announced it would reposition some of its personnel and assets from Airbase 101 in Niamey to Airbase 201 in Agadez “as a precaution.”

The military personnel of the United States and Russia have coexisted amicably with one another in Syria and Yugoslavia. About timing, the question that has to be answered is when the Americans will leave the nation in response to the request made by the authorities. An even more important question is, will they leave at all?  


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


More Articles Like This