Russo/Nigerian Relations in the Context of Counterinsurgency Operation in Nigeria

Date01 June 2019
Published date01 June 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun,
Corresponding author:
Sunday Omotuyi, Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University,
Ile-Ife, Osun 220282, Nigeria.
Russo/Nigerian Rela-
tions in the Context
of Counterinsurgency
Operation in Nigeria
Sunday Omotuyi1
The effectiveness of Nigeria’s counterinsurgency operation has once
again underscored the strategic importance of Russo-Nigerian relations.
Having played a pivotal role in safeguarding the territorial unity of the
country during its grueling civil war 1967–1970, Moscow’s importance
in Nigeria’s national security in the post-Cold War period cannot be
overemphasized. This article explores the dynamics of Russo-Nigerian
relations in the context of current insurgency in the country. Drawing
on extant literature and interview data from military chiefs, personnel
of Nigeria’s Ministry of External Affairs, the study makes three argu-
ments on why Russia agreed to Abuja’s request for arms for coun-
terinsurgency operation in the face of Western disappointments. First,
the convergence of interests between the two powers on the fight
against terrorism. Second, Russia’s geopolitical calculation especially its
quest for a new world multipolar order, and third, Russia’s economic
doldrums occasioned by dwindling oil prices and Western economic
sanctions in the wake of Crimean debacle. These overlapping factors
are central to Russia’s strategic engagement with Nigeria. While the
article notes that Moscow has cast itself as a Nigerian most dependable
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
23(1) 48–68, 2019
2019 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0973598418803526
Omotuyi 49
partner in security sector over the years, it concludes by urging Nigeria
to strengthen relations with the country in all areas.
Boko Haram, geopolitics, national security, world order, insurgency,
The relations between Nigeria and predecessor, the defunct Soviet
Union, tended to highlight the dilemmas of Nigeria in relating with
Moscow and wider communist Eastern European states in the immediate
years of Nigerian independence in 1960. Despite the establishment of
diplomatic relations, however, the tense international climate of Cold
War at the time ensured that relations with USSR were constrained. Even
though Nigeria had subscribed to the Bandung framework of nonalign-
ment, impartial relations with the East and West were never realized as
the professed nonaligned position was largely superficial. This is because
Nigerian successive leaders with a few exceptions displayed a strong
proclivity toward Western world (Ogunbadejo 1978). Thus, the formal
diplomatic exchange between the Soviet Union and Nigeria failed to
translate into cordial and effective relations. A combination of Western
ideological orientation of the national leaders, colonial legacy, and the
nature of Nigerian political and economic systems ensured that the
Soviet Union will not be welcomed in Nigeria with open arms. Therefore,
Soviet Union and Nigerian relations could be described as ranging from
cold to lukewarm (Onafowokan 2010).
As it is often said in diplomatic circle, ‘no permanent friend or enemy
in international relations, but permanent interests,’ this maxim was to
later shape Nigeria’s relations with Moscow. At different times when
faced with existential threats, Moscow has proved more reliable than the
USA and Britain in resolving internal crises in the country. As it hap-
pened during Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970), almost the same scenario
has played out in Nigeria’s counterinsurgency operation. Like the Civil
War’s incident, the West hinged its reluctance to sell arms to Nigeria on
human rights abuses in the country. The voids created by Washington in
the two scenarios were filled by Moscow. Its prompt interventions not

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