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Russia’s Wagner Group: An orchestra of violence

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Most of us have certainly heard of mercenary groups — “guns for hire.” The concept and practice have likely been around for as long as prostitution. They are both about getting you a satisfactory return so you will be a return customer at some point later. I don’t advocate or condone the morality of either. Russia’s most famous mercenary company is the Wagner Group, a private military company (PMC) that essentially functions as Putin’s secret military arm. “Guns for hire!”

This may nail it down for you a bit better:

“Marshall, the Oakridge Boys just busted out of jail — what are we gonna do?”

“We’re gonna hire us up a posse and deputize so they can legally go after them Oakridge bilge rats.”

“Hey, boys… Marshall Mathers just gave me this-here deputy badge.”

“Yeah, he gave me one too, heck… we all got badges — YEAH!” That was the day Oprah Winfrey rode into the town of Deadwood.

Related: Why you don’t want to be taken into secondary during airport security interrogation

A shadowy mercenary company

Yevgeniy Rigozhin the owner of Wagner Group
Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the owner of Wagner Group. The Russian oligarch is also wanted by the FBI on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The powerful Wagner mercenary group is owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin who is loyal to Putin. It was founded in 2014 by intelligence officer Dmitry Utkin to back Ukrainian separatists from Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

Wagner has since represented the interests of Russia and its allies across Africa and the Middle East, even showing loyalty to, and taking part in, the Syrian civil war in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

Putin has also dispatched the mercenaries to Libya’s civil war, exploiting the protracted and tumultuous conflict to forge out yet a new sphere of influence in North Africa.

Related: Al-Shabab resurfaces in Africa and invades Ethiopia

A patch of the Wagner Group
A Wagner Group patch (Wikimedia Commons)

The Russian president employs them for all things including war crimes. According to reports, in the war in Ukraine, the Wagner Group participated in atrocities in the city of Bucha in the east Donbas region.

What does the group have to do with German composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner? When I first heard of the name Wagner I only ever could associate it with the German classical music composer. And I was beguiled to learn that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group was in fact named after the famous German composer.

Related: Putin’s Playbook: The author of Putin’s failing foreign policy

The Wagner Group versus American firepower

Marine machine-gunner firing an M240B during a live-fire demonstration in Syria
Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine-gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response, Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live-fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

My own short tenure doing mercenary work revealed that these organizations aren’t characterized by brotherhood or brotherly loyalty. It was, I tell you, every man for himself when the lead flew. Sometimes a certain language was part of the hiring criteria, sometimes not.

Now, the absence of real camaraderie makes for mayhem on a significant scale when faced with capable opponents.

For example, in May 2018, U.S. armed forces were attacked by a 500-man contingent of Wagner Group forces. The U.S. brought aircraft, ground-based artillery, and rocket artillery to bear on the Wagner mercenaries killing over 100 while not suffering a single casualty.

One could say that the American counterpart to Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group is former Navy SEAL Eric Princes’s Blackwater company, now known as Constellis, which is a mercenary organization by act and definition. Constellis is a private sector organization owned and operated by civilians, mostly retired military special operators.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner was the composer of the orchestral objet d’art. Who has not rumbled into combat with a loudspeaker blasting Wagner’s The Ride of The Valkyries?? That, friends, is the food of camaraderie.

By Almighty God and With Honor,
geo sends

Feature Image: Wagner Group mercenaries in Libya. (Wikimedia Commons)

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George Hand

Master Sergeant US Army (ret) from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. In service, he maintained a high level of proficiency in 6 foreign languages. Post military, George worked as a subcontracter for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the nuclear test site north of Las Vegas Nevada for 16 years. Currently, George works as an Intelligence Analyst and street operative in the fight against human trafficking. A master cabinet-grade woodworker and master photographer, George is a man of diverse interests and broad talents.