OMEN™ Reveals Russian Influence in Niger
Destabilizing forces in the Sahel signal a shift in the balance of power. Civil unrest emerged in Niger, as French counterinsurgency operations ended in November 2022. Following these events, 3GIMBALS’ OMEN™ investigated Russian expansion in Niger—a key ally in the Sahel—through diplomatic activity, scientific cooperation, military exchanges, and infrastructure investments aligned to economic and geopolitical influence.
In 2022, media sources categorized civil protests in Niger as both anti-France and pro-Russia. The perceptions of Sahel countries about the failure in operations to counter violent extremism further fractured Francophone Africa and created openings for Russia to expand its influence. These geopolitical rifts limit the ability of the US and its allies to promote democracy in the region.
With significant uranium reserves, Figure 1, Niger offers an appealing target for soft power exploitation. The 2021 reduction in historically French, Niger-based uranium operations provided business opportunities for Russian, Chinese, and other foreign organizations. The pursuit of greater economic sovereignty by African nations, through alternatives to Western support in economic cooperation, weakens the ability of European nations to transition to nuclear power, away from Russian fossil fuels.
Figure 1. Gazprombank (GPB) Global Resources (GR) uranium mining permit areas for Toulouk-2 and Toulouk-4 near Agadez, Niger with core samples for structure and volume estimates of uranium reserves. [Source: GPB GR, Republic of Niger, 21 FEB 2023, https://gpb-gr.com/]
Scientific exchanges and joint military activities from 2019-2022 also fostered collaboration between Niger and Russia in the areas of strategic mineral exploration, technical cooperation, and military assets, as well as training. Infrastructure and social investments accompanied Russia’s uranium permits in Niger. These activities and investments expanded reliance on Russia over time, particularly in the sectors of energy, finance, agriculture, education, health, and groundwater infrastructure.
3GIMBALS’ OMEN employs human-machine teaming for information fusion and analysis to persistently monitor indicators of activity and develop unclassified, releasable insights. We explore patterns of life by applying advanced tradecraft with data science methodologies to spatiotemporal commercial datasets.