Following the (as yet not completely understood) conflict between the Russian government and Wagner Group, a private military company nominally subject to that state, there's real uncertainty about what will happen to Wagner's worldwide operations. It helps to understand just how widespread and subversive they are.
In a very detailed 44-page report titled "WAGNER GROUP: The Evolution of a Private Army", the Soufan Center summarizes the situation in these key findings.
- Following the mutiny of the Wagner Group and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin against the Russian state, which developed at lightning speed and ended just as quickly through negotiations mediated by Belarus, the situation remains questionable as to the future of the Wagner Group, both in Ukraine and abroad.
- Wagner functions like a Swiss army knife: Wagner has demonstrated effective expeditionary skills and logistical capabilities that many PMCs could not marshal, continuously diversifying its portfolio. Beyond the military training that Wagner provides, which includes conducting offensive combat operations and, in some cases, serving as regime security, the group also advises government leadership on political issues and conducts information campaigns.
- Wagner poses a catch-22 in many ways: while its forces are invited to stabilize fragile states, its actions actively invite further instability, creating more opportunities and a greater demand signal for its services.
- Russia’s use of Wagner proved at one point to be highly effective for the Kremlin. Wagner generates profits, operating through a series of shell companies. It has invested in extractive industries across Africa, reportedly receiving access and rights to commodities in exchange for its security services. Wagner’s opaque structure allows it to carry out Russian foreign policy objectives while insulating Moscow from significant blowback.
- Wagner is involved in a range of illicit activities beyond security services, from commercial and extractive industries that reportedly support sanctions evasions to facilitating the trafficking and destruction of cultural property.
- Wagner is more than just a PMC. Throughout Africa, it has appeared as an extension of Moscow’s foreign policy and influence, enhancing the Kremlin’s objectives on the continent and displacing Western influence. Wagner has been associated with disinformation campaigns discrediting Western and multilateral counterterrorism partners, as well as the United Nations and its peacekeeping missions, posing challenges to conflict prevention and mitigation efforts.
- Wagner’s brutality against civilians and its support for predatory governments could further exacerbate the very conditions and grievances that can be exploited by violent extremist groups to drum up recruits and support. By perpetuating violence and uncertainty, they prolong and even expand the instability and insecurity that led governments to seek their assistance.
- The final chapter of Wagner’s saga is yet to be written, but the legacy of PMC use by Russia is deeply entrenched and has proved successful in many ways. Russia has already expanded the use of PMCs, and will likely continue to do so in the future, given Wagner's ability to raise funds, deploy effectively as cannon fodder combat forces, displace Western influence and presence, and otherwise evade sanctions through dozens of front companies.
There's more at the link.
To make matters more interesting, President Putin of Russia has just admitted openly that Wagner Group is an arm of the Russian government, despite denying that for years. That's going to open a whole new can of worms, as Peter Zeihan reports.
As if to confirm that admission, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Wagner will continue its operations in Africa.
The Wagner mercenary group will continue operations in Mali and the Central African Republic despite its leader's aborted insurrection over the weekend, Russia's foreign minister said on Monday.
Wagner members "are working there as instructors. This work, of course, will continue", Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the RT outlet.
Lavrov said Europe and France in particular had "abandoned" the two African countries, which had in turn asked Russia and Wagner to provide military instructors and "to ensure the security of their leaders".
Western powers believe the Wagner group is used to promote Russia's influence abroad and have accused the group of torture and exploiting natural resources.
Again, more at the link.
Finally, please note that Wagner Group and its boss are far from the only Russian warlords. There are plenty more. For details, see the article "Russia's Descent into Warlordism". It's interesting stuff - and makes one wonder who the next Prigozhin will be, and what he might do.
This is likely to turn into a very interesting - and potentially explosive - can of worms. Pass the popcorn.