Once again in an ecstatic anti-Russian frenzy, the collective West is waging an information war against Russian private military companies (PMCs). Europe has been particularly active in combatting Russian PMCs: on September 24, the defense ministers of the 13 countries involved with the European Intervention Initiative issued a relevant statement. An uptick in such jabs is apparently fueled by France amid the failure of its neocolonial policies in Africa and the Mali government’s decision to replace French soldiers by inviting the representatives of Russian PMCs in order to fight regional terrorism.
An irreconcilable European stance towards Russian PMC Wagner in Africa was hammered out by Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist when representatives of the member states of the European Intervention Initiative (EI2) met in Stockholm. It is noteworthy that the attack on the Russian PMCs was backed up also by Ukraine, which is not a part of EI2.
Russian presence in Mali resulted in a backlash from Côte d’Ivoire, a country closest to Mali and, as of yet, one of the few French strongholds in Francophone Africa. The President of Ivory Coast delivered an ultimatum: If Mali hires PMC Wagner it should not count on its neighbors’ support.
A separate statement to this effect was made by the British Foreign Office launching another anti-Russian fake information campaign against the Russian PMC.
Meanwhile those countries where PMC Wagner has shown its worth strongly disagree with the point made by the West. The Russian PMC, for instance, is fondly remembered in Syria: while the US military and US-based PMCs were stealing local oil under the pretext of another “peacekeeping mission”, it was taking part in liberating Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor and clearing residential areas of mines allowing thousands of refugees to return home. In addition to Syria, this point was proved in Libya, then the Central African Republic and finally Mali. In Libya and Syria, Russian PMCs were guarding various facilities and institutions, the perimeter and facilities entrusted to them by authorities were totally secure.
The Central African Republic, which had been “sponsored” by France for many years, struggled in vain to defeat local gangs until at CAR authorities’ initiative Russian instructors were invited. The latter trained government forces to effectively stamp out crime which resulted in a swift victory over almost all the militants. The same thing will happen in Mali where Russian specialists recently arrived.
The more positive examples of the Russian PMCs activities in Africa, the stronger Russia’s influence will be there. The West clearly takes a particularly dim view of such development. This is especially true for France which never managed to eliminate criminals and extremists in Mali. As for the Western accusations regarding Russian state involvement in expanding PMC presence in different countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear that the agreement between Mali’s authorities and the Russian PMCs had been outside Moscow’s remit. In other words, this is a private deal. The PMC is doing its job without violating Russian interests. As for the West, it blatantly violates the right to self-determination and independent policy by interfering in the decision-making process of a particular state and dictating it with whom it should cooperate and develop ties.
Some sort of security vacuum in Africa has been a long-standing reality, with various foreign PMCs trying to fill it. Thus, Chinese PMCs have been guarding Chinese industrial facilities in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Sudan. A few years ago, during the unrest in South Sudan that endangered the lives of Chinese working with an oil company, personnel of a Chinese private security company DeWe showed a high level of professionalism rescuing 330 Chinese citizens under insurgent fire. Moreover, it is interesting that Chinese contractors are mostly unarmed. At least, for now.
Chinese PMCs are also present in Afghanistan and Iraq, countries that are not just “hot spots”, but “incandescent spots” while about five million Chinese work in 16,000 companies around the globe, including in regions where military conflicts never cease. In South Sudan, for instance, the civil war has been raging for decades. The number of Chinese private security contractors abroad has exceeded 3,000 people, a figure destined to grow since their services are much cheaper than those of American or British organizations.
As for “security vacuum” in Africa, not only Russia and China are trying to fill it, but also Turkey, Israel, the UAE, the UK, Saudi Arabia (PMC Al-Khaleej in particular), and other actors who are competent in this field of expertise. However, when other countries are mentioned in this context, the “collective West” keeps a consensual silence. Due to geopolitical reasons it is Russian influence in Africa that causes the greatest pushback in the West.
Meanwhile, the “collective West” is fueling anti-Russian frenzy against the Russian PMC while sweeping under the rug numerous crimes committed by Western PMCs. This is true, for instance, for an American PMC called Academi that has been staging coups d’etat and eliminating national leaders deemed undesirable.
It is no secret that the US State Department supervises many terrorist groups both via its own channels and those of American PMCs. From the very beginning of the US presence in Afghanistan numerous American PMCs were given a free reign in the country. One of the largest is considered to be DynCorp, its strength with technical personnel included may reach 15,000 employees. DуnCorp mercenaries are infamous for their blatant criminal activities. In Bosnia, as it turned out, they were involved in the systematic executions (as the investigation showed, they did that just for fun) of local civilian population while in complicity with Albanians they organized trafficking of underage girls in view of selling them into sexual slavery in Europe. As early as in the late 90s, an aircraft mechanic Ben Johnson, who worked for this PMC in Bosnia, accused the corporation’s employees of pedophilia and child trafficking. In Afghanistan, this PMC patronized drug trafficking and “distinguished itself” by executing unarmed civilians. Subsequently a story broke about DynCorp employees who were training Afghan police forces: allegedly, they took drugs on regular basis and were engaged in child prostitution.
It is worth noting that such PMC practices are common all over the world. PMC services are in high demand in the US (Blackwater employees, for example, are notorious for killing civilians during some operations), France, Poland, the UK and a number of other countries.
However, the reports about the continued engagement of American private military companies in openly disruptive anti-government operations circulating in the American media do not seem to bother anyone. Thus, The Washington Post previously reported that the Venezuelan opposition attempted to hire a US-based PMC to set a stage for a coup in Caracas and overthrow the legitimate Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. Time magazine reported that notorious PMC Blackwater founder Eric Prince planned to recruit veterans of combat operations in the Donbass to create a new PMC. His purpose was obviously not to perform security functions, but to escalate hostilities in this area. It had been also reported that mercenaries from Academi PMC, formerly known as Blackwater, were taking part in the fighting in the Donbass on the side of Kyiv.
Meanwhile, unlike their foreign counterparts, Wagner fighters do not have a notorious record similar to the controversies plaguing both Blakwater and a number of other Western PMCs. Experts with a venerable Nigerian publication The Guardian highlighted the phenomenon of PMC Wagner pointing out that an increased traction it had gained in global media is explained by the fact that Russian personnel are considered as professionals who are capable to solve almost any tasks. They have proven themselves as an effective asset against terrorists and all kinds of armed radical groups, the article says.
For the Russian fighters on the battlefield such words as “honor”, “dignity” and “courage” are not meaningless: they are fighting international terrorism both to prevent it from spreading and to protect Russia at a distant frontier.
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.