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Interpreting Russia’s Official Response To The Nigerien Coup
The AU-ECOWAS duopoly is exploiting the UNSC joint statement as the pretext for invading Niger in order to secure their Western patrons’ interests there. None of this is surprising, however, which is why some might wonder why Russia agreed to the same statement that’s being taken advantage of to legitimize its rivals’ regional power play.
Last week’s patriotic military coup in Niger could be a game-changer in the New Cold War as was explained here, though this analysis here argues that it might be nipped in the bud if Nigeria ultimately does the West’s bidding by leading an ECOWAS invasion force aimed at reinstalling the ousted president. Those who aren’t already aware of the insight shared in those analyses should at least skim them in order to be brought up to speed and thus better understand Russia’s official response to this event.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on 27 July that “We believe the coup is an anti-constitutional act. We always occupy a clear position in such cases...We reaffirm our position that it is necessary to restore the constitutional order in Niger.” One day later on 28 July, his country joined its fellow permanent UNSC members in issuing a joint statement that “strongly condemned the efforts to unconstitutionally change the legitimate Government of the Republic of Niger on 26 July 2023.”
They also “expressed support for the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union...(and) underscored the urgent need for the restoration of constitutional order in Niger in accordance with the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and expressed their support for regional and continental mediation efforts.” Two days later on 30 July, the AU and ECOWAS gave the junta a two-week and one-week ultimatum respectively.
If President Mohamed Bazoum isn’t reinstalled by then, they warned of “punitive measures” that could include the “use of force”. This sequence of events shows that the AU-ECOWAS duopoly is exploiting the UNSC joint statement as the pretext for invading Niger in order to secure their Western patrons’ interests there. None of this is surprising, however, which is why some might wonder why Russia agreed to the same statement that’s being taken advantage of to legitimize its rivals’ regional power play.
For starters, Russia always officially condemns anti-constitutional seizures of power, with this being more symbolically important than ever after Ukraine’s Western-backed and fascist-driven “EuroMaidan” coup in spring 2014. That said, this stance and its associated support of peaceful means for restoring the constitutional order in countries that experience these sorts of regime changes don’t automatically equate to it endorsing Western-encouraged invasions to this end.
It's important to note that neither the AU nor its West African-Sahel ECOWAS enforcers put forth their ominous ultimatums by the time that Russia agreed to the UNSC joint statement on Niger. Even though it should have been foreseeable that these threats would follow, the fact that they hadn’t yet officially been made meant that there wasn’t any diplomatic pretext for Russia to break with precedent. For that reason, it supported the UNSC joint statement, which promoted mediation efforts.
The next point to make is that the West has been fearmongering that the Kremlin had a hidden hand in previous military coups in the West Africa-Sahel Region so it would have come off as very suspicious if Russia was reluctant to condemn this latest coup. That approach would have likely fueled an even more intense round of information warfare falsely alleging that Moscow was behind this regime change, thus justifying the planned Western-encouraged ECOWAS-led invasion on an urgent anti-Russian pretext.
And finally, since it can’t be taken for granted that the Nigerien junta will successfully repel this invasion in the likely scenario that it’s commenced sometime after the AU’s two-week ultimatum expires, it doesn’t make sense for Russia to signal support for what might very well be a doomed cause. Doing so would be detrimental to its soft power interests since the collapse of that junta could then be spun as a joint Western-African victory over Russia in the New Cold War.
None of this is to suggest that Russia is seriously opposed to the junta becoming an interim/transitional government, however, since precedent shows that it has no problem cultivating mutually beneficial relations with military rulers in the region like Mali’s and Burkina Faso’s. If the likely scenario of a French-backed ECOWAS-led invasion doesn’t materialize, yet without the coup leaders capitulating to pressure to reinstall Bazoum, then Niger will probably become Russia’s next strategic partner in the region.