Mali and Niger Strengthen Military Ties Amid Regional Instability

Mali and Niger strengthen military ties, distance from ECOWAS, as EU faces dilemma over presence in Sahel amid Russia's expanding influence and calls for renewed European commitment.

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Mali and Niger Strengthen Military Ties Amid Regional Instability

Mali and Niger Strengthen Military Ties Amid Regional Instability

Mali and Niger have finalized a partnership agreement for the sale of 150 million liters of diesel from Niger to Mali, as the two countries seek to strengthen their military cooperation in the face of growing instability in the Sahel region. The agreement, signed by the military juntas of both nations, aims to supply Mali's power plants and contribute to the country's energy security.

The signing of the agreement is seen as an important step in strengthening bilateral relations between Mali and Niger, and is part of the dynamics of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), which includes both countries along with Burkina Faso. The AES was initially formed as a defense pact to fight rebel and jihadist groups, but the three countries now intend to develop it into a true economic and political union as a counterbalance to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The progressive distancing of the Sahel countries from the Western orbit has led to concerns within ECOWAS, which has partially revoked trade sanctions imposed on Mali, Niger, and Guinea after their respective coups d'état. The prospects of the three Sahel countries rejoining ECOWAS are considered unlikely in the medium term, as they have created the alternative 'Sahel States Alliance.'

Why this matters: The strengthening of military ties between Mali and Niger, along with their withdrawal from ECOWAS, highlights the shifting geopolitical dynamics in the Sahel region. As these countries distance themselves from Western influence and seek new alliances, it raises questions about the future stability and security of the region, particularly in the face of ongoing jihadist violence and political instability.

The European Union is facing a dilemma over its remaining presence in Mali and the wider West African Sahel region, as it does not want to cooperate with Russia's expanding military forces in the region. The EU has until May 24 to decide whether to stay in Mali, where it has a training mission (EUTM Mali) and a civilian crisis management mission (EUCAP Sahel Mali). The EU has already halted part of its training of Mali's armed forces due to the risk of Russian interference.

General Lecointre, the former Chief of Staff of the French Army, believes that Europe is abandoning its responsibility to the Sahel region and must re-engage militarily to defend its interests. He emphasizes the need for a unified European approach to chart a course through a turbulent world, especially with potential shifts in US foreign policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Mali and Niger finalized a diesel sale agreement to strengthen military ties.
  • The Sahel countries are forming an alliance to counter ECOWAS influence.
  • The EU faces a dilemma over its presence in Mali due to Russian interference.
  • Former French general calls for renewed European military engagement in the Sahel.
  • Shifting geopolitical dynamics in the Sahel raise concerns about regional stability.