Russia has employed the semi-state Wagner Group security company in Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Libya, and Mozambique (so far). Wagner is tightly connected to Russia’s military intelligence organization (the GRU), and its contractor, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is one of President Vladimir Putin’s close cronies. Why, then, is Wagner technically illegal (and even unconstitutional) in Russia? And what does Russia hope to gain from using it—including in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa? Using the best available evidence, this presentation explores these mysteries.
Kimberly Marten is a professor of political science (and the department chair) at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is a faculty member of Columbia’s Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, and Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies. She has written four books, including Warlords: Strong-Arm Brokers in Weak States (Cornell, 2012) and Engaging the Enemy: Organization Theory and Soviet Military Innovation (Princeton, 1993), which received the Marshall Shulman Prize. The Council on Foreign Relations published her special report, Reducing Tensions between Russia and NATO (2017). In addition to her numerous academic journal articles, her policy pieces have appeared in the Washington Quarterly, ForeignAffairs.com, War on the Rocks, Lawfare, the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, and the New Republic, and she was honored to testify before Congress about Russia’s Wagner Group in July 2020. She is a frequent media commentator, and appeared on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. She earned her A.B. at Harvard and Ph.D. at Stanford. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and is a founding member of PONARS-Eurasia