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Private Military and Security Groups: Main Successes and Failures

Written by Ginevra Bertamini

Edited by Miguel Andres Reyes Castro

Supervised by Paul Dybjer

On Saturday 24 June 2023, Russia woke up to a military mutiny. The Wagner Group, a Russian private military organisation that has played a central role in the current Ukrainian conflict, had started marching back across the Ukrainian border into Russia (Maguire, 2023). This was announced on the Telegram channel of Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, while Russian channels initially did not release an official statement (Maguire, 2023). Although this could mean that Russia was trying to silence the uprising, the event did not go unnoticed by the Kremlin. In fact, as the Wagner Group took over Rostov, Russia initiated an anti-terrorism protocol (Maguire, 2023). This response can be considered appropriate when looking at the estimated military capacities of the Wagner group. In fact, the British Ministry of Defence assessed that the Wagner Group had placed around 50.000 troops in Ukraine (Ministry of Defence, 2023).

As the Wagner Group posed a significant threat to the Kremlin during the mutiny, it is relevant to consider the roles that modern Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) play in conflicts and the securitisation of critical resources. This Info Flash considers some of the PMSCs that have been active globally to generally review their successful and unsuccessful activities. The aim is therefore to explore the strengths and weaknesses of modern mercenary forces, and to identify the opportunities and challenges that European states might encounter in regard to PMSCs. This Info Flash will introduce some of the PMSCs to date and outline their contributions to conflicts. Therefore, this paper will summarise their main achievements and failures to provide an overview of the advantages and disadvantages that these groups provide.