Coming of Afro-Eurasian destabilization

The US appears poised to exploit destabilization across Europe, Asia, and Africa once again

| Updated: 19 August, 2023 5:52 pm IST
Niger new ruler Mohamed Toumba (2nd from right) greeting supporters after the coup.

It is debatable at this point if the recent developments around a few strategically important geographies are a precursor to something big and disruptive or they are just knee-jerk responses to incidents that preceded them.

The coup in Niger is still fresh and the new government is yet to settle down. There are open calls among the Nigerien population for establishing relations with Russia. To some extent, the scenario is similar to Mali, which underwent a similar regime change in response to France’s neo-colonial grip on the country. France had placed boots on the ground in Mali in the name of fighting terrorism, but was encouraging the mining mafia and secessionist radicals like MNLA Tuareg rebels, other than paying scant attention to the arrival of the ISIS terrorists after Libya or the consolidation of Al Qaeda. Like Niger has Uranium, Mali has gold – something that France used to treat as their private property, till the coup.

Mali – in its new avatar, has managed to sustain so far. However, things look a little different for Niger. France, and other Western countries are nudging the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) to invade Niger and it has activated a West African regional army. Nigerien people are volunteering to join their army to fight the ECOWAS-led intervention, if it comes to reality. French President Emmanuel Macron – who clearly seems to be out of his depth on the issue of Niger – has ceded ground to the USA, and White House has wasted no time in dispatching Victoria ‘regime changer’ Nuland to Niger. However, General Abdourahamane Tiani, Niger’s new ruler, refused to meet her, or grant her access to deposed president Mohamed Bazoum last Monday. A day later, the Niger Army faced a jihadi attack that killed more than a dozen soldiers. And on Wednesday, the USA announced the dispatch of a new ambassador to Niger – Kathleen FItzGibbon.

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Though the White House says that the appointment of the new envoy does not reflect a change in the US policy towards the situation in Niger, there is no saying which way it might move. Washington is sure to make one, or a series of attempts to cut Russia out of the Sahel region and/or compel Moscow to open a new front in the global conflict, and Niger might be considered as a launching pad. Mali was not followed through by the West’ usual tactics like a colour revolution perhaps because Russia was not considered powerful enough during those days. With Wagner’s reputation on the rise across the Sahel region, Niger coup has come at a time that is quite different from Mali.

Closer home, the recent appointment of the interim Pakistani government is quite intriguing. The caretaker PM, Anwar Kakar is a known Pakistan Army appeaser. Interim Interior Minister Shoaib Suddle was once accused of murdering Murtaza Bhutto, the son of former PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Those looking for signs of the reestablishment of the Army’s grip on Islamabad do not need to look further. With Imran Khan looking safely knocked out, the 2024 election in Pakistan, and the return of Pakistan Army as the puppeteer is suggestive of USA’s renewed interest in the subcontinent. An army-driven Pakistan has always served as a useful disruptive tool to keep India in check. PM Modi – despite his West-accommodative initiatives – perhaps still ranks low on Washington’s trust meter. The restoration of US control of Pakistan could also hit China economically and strategically.

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In Southeast Asia, Thailand could be looking at trouble in the near future. Pita Limjaroenrat, a Harvard educated, West backed ‘reformist’ candidate, who won the election but failed to win the approval of the Thai Parliament could be the next agent of chaos. Though an upcoming vote in about a week’s time would decide a new PM for Thailand, problems for the region could be well under way.

Readers are well aware of the Taiwan theatre and the way things are shaping up. Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and Pakistan can be used as tools to complete the destabilization circle around Indo-China; with chip sanctions on China and non-state subversion in India already in progress.

Back in the Ukraine theatre, the speculation is that Joe Biden is trying to cut losses and find a way out of the mess. However, that does not mean a cessation of existing hostilities, or upcoming efforts to resuscitate the European economy and industry. Trials to keep Russia engaged and stretched thin remain unchanged, as prevails the general indifference to the plight of Western Europe.

It looks like the USA is once again about to reap rewards of being physically isolated and far away as Europe, Asia, and Africa fare through another round of protracted, low-key chaos, destabilization, and sporadic hostilities that have the potential to turn into full-scale wars. As mentioned in the beginning, the events and the manner they span out could be purely reactive and unplanned. But past experiences – especially when it comes to institutions that push for regime change and colour revolutions – hint that a lot of this could have been planned in advance.

(Arindam Mukherjee is a geopolitical analyst and the author of JourneyDog Tales, The Puppeteer, and A Matter of Greed.)

Disclaimer: Views expressed are the author’s own. 

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