What could the military coup in Niger mean for Europe and the West?

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Niger is the leading supplier of uranium to Europe and a key Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in the region. Euronews asks Jean-Hervé Jezequel from the International Crisis Group what regime change could mean for the West.

A military coup in Niger last week has raised fears that the West African nation, a key Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in the region, could pivot towards Russia.

The ousting of democratically-elected president Mohammed Bazoum has been widely condemned by the European Union, the United States, and from within Africa.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the power grab, describing the move as “deplorable”.

Jean-Hervé Jezequel, Director for the Sahel Project at the International Crisis Group told Euronews that while Niger is central to Western security efforts in the region, it is too early to say if it might turn to Russia or the Wagner Group.

“We know that Wagner is interested in developing its capacity in West Africa. We anticipate also that within the new military regime – if they were to stay in power – they will look for different allies and might be tempted to establish relations with Russia. 

“It’s a possibility that there is a change in alliance and that Russia might develop its capacity for Wagner in the region. But right now it’s a sort of red flag that is very convenient to use in order to be in a stronger position when you negotiate,” he said. 

There are also concerns about the coup’s potential impact on the import of uranium to power Europe’s nuclear plants.

As the world’s seventh largest producer of the chemical element, it supplies the EU with almost 25 per cent of its reserves, and France about 10 per cent. But Jezequel says the impact is not critical.

“France used to be much more dependent on Nigerian uranium in the past than it is today,” he explained. 

“There has been a diversification of access to uranium in the world, including Canada, and Khazakstan. So it’s a different market than it was 20 or 30 years ago. It’s still an important interest, but it’s not central, vital to France as it used to be.”

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