The future of Wagner

By Christos Zampounis

At the Presidential Palace in the Malian capital of Bamako, a group of high-ranking military officers watch the news on Russia Today. They are trying to understand what is going on with the Wagner company, which, since they took power, has been taking care of essential law and order in their country. The interests at stake are great. Firstly, keeping them in power; secondly, eliminating the Islamists, who are a constant threat; and, thirdly, the smooth running of the gold mines, which allows them to pay the Russian mercenaries.

The same concern prevails in another African country that has requested assistance from the Kremlin. The Central African Republic, a former French colony, like Mali, has been torn by civil strife in recent years, with President Faustin-Archange Touadera turning to Wagner for protection. The sight of hardy Russian praetorians outside the presidential palace in Bangui, the capital, surprises visitors. In return, the regime has ceded a percentage of the country’s diamond mining rights. According to the intelligence services of Western countries, the revenues from these two contracts amount to over $100 million, most of which is used to finance the war in Ukraine. The US Treasury Department recently announced the imposition of sanctions against four companies involved in the above-mentioned transactions.

Some analysts argue that it is impossible for Vladimir Putin to dismantle Wagner because of its important role in the conduct of foreign policy. Others speculate that a new entity may be created, which will carry out exactly the same mission, namely the hiring of private armies to fragile regimes, as is already the case in Libya and Sudan. The future of the head of Wagner, Yevgeni Prigozin, remains unclear. His life was cut short at the last moment, but his disobedience to orders seems at first sight to be his swan song, although none of us knows the desserts of the case.


Cover photo / Illustration by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications