Just Say No – US Warns Mali Against Using Putin’s ‘Private Army’ – Russian Wagner Group ‘Mercenaries’

The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office / Photo by Kremlin.ru

The West African country of Mali has provoked a warning from the United States against deploying Russia-backed Wagner (Vagner) Group paramilitary forces after reportedly signing a deal costing $10 million per day with the ostensibly private military company (PMC) with links to the Kremlin.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that the Wagner Group represents the Russian state or is paid by it. He has also said private military contractors can pursue their legitimate business interests anywhere in the world as long as they do not break Russian law.

However, many outside observers believe the Russian GRU, or military intelligence, directly controls or guides the Wagner Group.

See earlier ADN reports on Putin’s ‘Private Army’ – the Wagner Group here, and here.

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty notes that Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and close associate of Putin reportedly runs the Wagner Group, is sanctioned by the United States, Britain, and the European Union “in connection with his dealings with the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense and his efforts to subvert U.S. democratic processes.”

The European Union (EU) also recently slapped sanctions on the Wagner Group for human right violations as just reported by ADN here.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on December 15 that the U.S. is “alarmed” by the potential deployment of Wagner Group forces in Mali. He noted that Wagner Group forces “will not bring peace to Mali, but rather will destabilize the country further,” adding that countries with Wagner Group deployments “soon find themselves poorer, weaker, and less secure.”

In his statement, Price cited Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), Ukraine, and Syria as examples. In these countries he stated, the Wagner Group “stoked conflict and increased insecurity and instability, causing the deaths of local soldiers and civilians and undermining national sovereignty — all while depleting the national treasury and diverting essential resources that could have been used to build the capabilities of the countries’ own armed services.”

RFERL reported that:

Price added that engaging the Vagner Group “could put at risk” the contributions of more than 20,000 international peacekeepers and troops who serve in Mali at no cost to the government.

In a separate move on December 15, the EU said it would suspend its training mission for soldiers in CAR because of fears the mission could get tied up in violations of international law by Russian mercenaries, including many with the Vagner Group.

The European Union Training Mission in Central African Republic (EUTM RCA) says its job has been complicated by the presence of hundreds of Russian operatives who have arrived since 2018 and have been working in close coordination with the army of the CAR. ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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