Russian military trainers arrive in Niger as ties deteriorate with the United States

Niger’s state media released pictures of Russian military trainers coming in the country aboard a plane loaded with military gear to strengthen its air defenses, as relations between Niger and the United States deteriorate.

Two Russian trainers were filmed in front of the plane dressed in military clothes, hats, and face masks. According to the story, the plane arrived Wednesday night with military equipment to help Niger enhance its air defenses.

“We are here to train the Nigerian army to use the military equipment that is here,” one of the Russian trainers stated in French during Thursday’s show. “We are here to develop military cooperation between Russia and Niger.”

Until recently, Washington saw Niger as a critical partner and friend in a region plagued by coup attempts.

A US airbase was created as the focal point of Niger’s counterinsurgency operations in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2012, the region has been besieged by a deepening conflict waged by Al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates.

The United States invested extensively in training Niger’s soldiers to combat the insurgency that has decimated the country and its neighbors. However, last summer, some of those elite U.S.-trained military participated in a coup that deposed the elected president.

US relations with Niger deteriorated further last month when the junta proclaimed on state television that flights from its airfield were unlawful and that it no longer acknowledged the American military presence in the nation. The junta chastised the United States for attempting to force it to pick between partners, and warned against partnering with Russia and Iran.

According to US authorities, Niamey has not yet ordered American troops to leave.

According to the program, Russian trainers arrived following a call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country’s military officials in March. According to the broadcast, Niger’s military officials want to diversify their ties and attain greater sovereignty.

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