The Wagner Group Intervention in Syria

What are the Private Military Companies, PMCs/PSCs?

Private Military Companies are independent corporations that offer military services (Private Military Contractors) to national governments, international organizations and sub-state actors. The utilization of private military forces is not a new technique. It has been at its disposal since the 18th and 19th century. However, during the 20th century its use remained underestimated and military power was restricted to state accountability. During the Cold War this scenario started to change and several military specialists in Africa and Asia emerged. Besides, the use of PMCs increased quantitatively during the last two decades operating in wars, conflicts, strategic spots, etc. such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and also Western countries for domestic purposes. Private Military Contractors, also known as defense contractors, can carry out different kinds of military service. They are specialized in providing combat and protection forces such as fighting in armed conflicts or gathering intelligence. Moreover, military contractors are trained to use powerful weapons such as tanks, helicopters, bazookas, etc. (BELL, 2016). Some of these private forces are long-established companies with highly qualified experienced and transparent business structures. However, others seem to be operating in the shadows behind the governments’ veil (VOILLAT, 2004).

Besides, the concept of war has been evolving during the years and has become the so-called Modern War in which several factors play a relevant role (new weapons, nuclear bombs, fighter planes, drones, etc.) and, PMCs stand out as a key actor to provide private security to citizens and wage war in the name of states to avoid international political issues. Hence, in countries where PMCs operate, security is becoming a private sector rather than a public good. This issue is damaging the conceived notion of protecting society as a whole and PMCs presence/action can even destabilize the economy, society, and politics of states. This phenomenon is increasingly affecting failed states or states in war such as Syria, Somalia or Afghanistan.

The main statement for the use of private military services is that they are “cheaper”, more efficient and reliable than armies. These assumptions are settled down in the thoughts that the public sector is corrupted, slower and inefficient compared with the free market. In fact, there is no evidence supporting these arguments. PMCs are often more expensive than conventional armies because they receive high-priced contracts to provide the same services. In addition, military contractors act without impunity and pressure from the governments or international coalition because its operations are done in the shadows, and therefore are considered highly controversial (VOILLAT, 2004).

To conclude with this section, it is relevant to considered that PMCs, mercenaries or freelance soldiers that fight for money can be mixed up. Nevertheless, PMCs are the only ones that, in terms of international policies, are considered legal (TEKINGUNDUZ, 2018).

What is the Wagner Group?