The World Today for July 11, 2023


Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop


The Wagner Group, the Russian military contractor, arrived in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2018 to help President Faustin-Archange Touadéra fight off a rebellion. Since then, the group has deployed thousands of soldiers to Libya, Mali, Sudan, and elsewhere in Africa.

After Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin recently launched a failed coup against Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, a cloud has hung over the organization’s forces on the continent, reported Al Jazeera.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said that Wagner troops would remain at their posts. He claimed they were private contractors who have signed contracts with foreign governments, the Moscow Times wrote – but the fact that Lavrov was discussing the group proved to many that Wagner fighters are not private contractors but extensions of Russia’s foreign and defense policies.

Of course, because folks like Lavrov insist that Wagner is a private company, Putin and other Kremlin leaders can claim plausible deniability for Wagner’s actions abroad, added the New York Times.

Nathalia Dukhan, an investigator for the Sentry, a non-governmental organization that recently published a report about Wagner entitled “Architects of Terror”, foresaw more Wagner deployments in Africa. “It is like a virus that spreads,” Dukhan told the Guardian. “They do not appear to be planning to leave. They are planning to continue.”

Wagner’s operations are too important for Putin and Russia for them to end anytime soon, the Asia Times contended. For starters, the financial benefits are great.

In the CAR, for example, where Wagner is essentially Touadéra’s security force, a company with ties to the group purchases gold and diamonds, then a second company in Russia buys the gold, providing Wagner with funding and Russia with a precious commodity that it can trade, evading sanctions.

Wagner allies in the CAR, incidentally, committed two of the group’s many alleged atrocities: the massacre of 15 civilians in 2021 in Boyo as well as the decapitation of the ex-mayor of Bambari and his family, according to La Marea, a Spanish newspaper, as reprinted in Worldcrunch.

Diplomatically, noted the Defense Post, Wagner is also presenting itself as an alternative to Western agents who send troops and equipment to developing countries to prop up or topple governments and grease the skids for business deals. Such actions evoke Soviet-era policies from the Cold War, when East and West sought to influence governments from Algeria to South Africa.

Wagner is a very dangerous tool. But it’s a Russian tool, so Putin will continue to use it.

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