Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Russia's Wagner Group: tentacles everywhere...


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.



Anonymous said...

There was some political thinker, quite some time ago, who had some pointed things about using mercenaries. I think his name started with the letter 'M'. /snark

Mind your own business said...

So essentially Wagner is to Russia what Blackwater was to the US government. OR whatever it calls itself now. Along with dozens if not hundreds of similar private merc groups.

KevinM said...

The field of GeoPolitics is so muddied up ATTM it's hard to separate the agenda that's being laid before us.I will have to say again when Soros,Macron,Trudeau,Biden,WEF and NWO all wish the death of Putin then "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".God has been known to use bad characters to advance a moment in time for the good.

Anonymous said...

Machiavelli said never use mercenaries

AJ said...

would be delighted if history proves me wrong, but think this whole ëvent" is staged by Russia to reposition Wagner (their only really effective force) into Belarus for a strike against Kiev while most UKR forces are in the East. Too many things working for Wagner which would need Kremlin approval...

MNW said...

This is true.

I would alsonadd that any 3rd party aiding a governement or faction is destablizing, regarless of if it is the US, Russia, or China

froginblender said...

Good point MYOB. I'm sure there are differences (e.g., Wagner hires lifers straight from Russian prisons and promises them pardons if they survive for six months ... which most don't, and Blackwater operatives are well-paid and managed, or so I'm told), but ultimately it's about "plausible deniability", right? Outsourcing the dirty deeds that the government does not want to be seen doing.

Ray - SoCal said...

Article by Cepa on Russian Warlordism is very anti Russian.

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen of the deal so far, Wagner appears to be pulling out of Russia but otherwise unchanged... It makes me wonder if their new deal lets them operate elsewhere as long as they stay out of Russia.

Anonymous said...

I’d say they are somewhat similar but not equivalent. Blackwater is more security focused. While they certainly end up in armed conflict, it’s more in response to security ops. Wagner on the other hand, operates as an actual military unit, including bringing the engagement to the adversary.

STxAR said...

Col. Macgregor looks at them more like the Russian French Foreign Legion. If they are an arm of the Russian government, that seems a much more likely picture than mercs.

To me, that view makes more sense of how they are used internationally.

Interesting times.

Gerry said...

Maybe the Ukraine should use some of that 5 billion US dollars that ended up there to hire Executive Outcome. I think the would stack up pretty well against The Wagner Group.