(Post-Soviet Affairs) Abstract: This article provides a definitive, in-depth case-study, using primarily Russian sources, of Russia’s use of the informal “Wagner Group” private military company (PMC) and its antecedents (from 2012 to 2018) in Nigeria, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. It explores why Russia has used this group without legalizing its existence or role. While Wagner is sometimes used in the same ways that other rational states use PMCs, corrupt informal networks tied to the Russian regime have also used it in ways that are not typical of other strong states and that potentially undermine Russian security interests. Understanding the Wagner Group is interesting for comparative academic studies of PMCs, because Wagner doesn’t fit well any existing PMC category or template in the literature. It is also crucial for US and allied policy analysts attempting to attribute “Russian” actions in foreign theaters.
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