Disputes with Mali’s ruling military junta and their close relationship with Russian mercenaries over the past two years have caused France, Germany and their EU allies to wind down security operations in the West African country this year, signaling further security risks in the country. The government of Mali has denied using Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group and after a meeting with French President Emmanual Macron in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin also told a news conference that the Kremlin had nothing to do with Russian military contractors in the West African country. But West Africa expert Jonathan Guiffard, a senior fellow at the Institut Montaigne, a French think tank highlighted that the EU has begun addressing the issue of Mali’s military junta collaborating with Russia’s Wagner Group. “Europe understands Russia’s playbook in Africa. They know that other countries like Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad are also Russia’s next targets. So, countries like France have been having diplomatic dialogues in this region to prevent any new strategic aggression triggered by Russia, in West Africa,” he said.