Western Reluctance in the Sahel Opens Doors for Russia

Dec 16, 2019 | 10:30 GMT

"Camp Castor" in Gao, Mali, is part of the U.N. mission in the country.

Western efforts in the Sahel, like the U.N. mission in Mali, are unlikely to wane anytime soon, but neither are they likely to expand in the face of growing militancy. This will open opportunities for Russia to expand its footprint in the Sahel.

(MARKUS HEINE/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Western reluctance to increase its commitment to security in the militancy-plagued Sahel creates opportunities for Russia there. As part of its broader diplomatic offensive in Africa, Moscow already has been working to upgrade its military relationship with the traditionally French-aligned states of the Sahel, former colonies of France. For Russia, a greater security role in the Sahel, a region of West Africa at the southern end of the Sahara, could mean supplying military equipment and services -- such as the deployment of private military forces or training by the Russian military proper -- in exchange for minerals extracted locally. But while Moscow can offer local governments supplementary capabilities in the form of arms, training and direct military support, Russia is unlikely to supplant the role played by the larger, more deeply rooted French-led Western efforts in the region. And depending on how far any new Russian involvement extends, its new activities...