Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Until Yevgeny Prigozhin blinked and ordered his Wagner Group forces to turn back within 200 miles from Moscow, it looked as though Putin’s Russia had created a monster it could not control. But whatever fate awaits its hardman founder, the organisation Prigozhin built is too useful to be dispensed with entirely.
Wagner’s reach and methods are convenient not just in the furtherance of Russian interests in places where the Kremlin seeks to call the shots without taking direct responsibility for the consequences. As an army for hire, Wagner also serves many powerful paymasters, none more so than its clients in northern Africa and the Middle East.
Hiring Wagner’s dogs of war facilitates regimes to be overthrown, resources to be appropriated, and scores to be settled without calling, directly, for the intervention of a foreign power. That business model is simple: Russian muscle without the complications of formal Russian occupation (nor the alternative proposition of Western aid with its accompanying strictures on human rights, anti-corruption initiatives, and intrusive NGOs).
As an example, take one of Wagner’s most generous patrons, the United Arab Emirates. Since 2014, the UAE has backed the efforts of the rebel warlord, Khalifa Haftar, and his Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) to seize southern and eastern Libya with the aim of toppling the UN-recognised government in Tripoli. The Emiratis did so in defiance of the UN arms embargo. Indeed, their intervention went beyond arms supply. Between August 2014 and May 2018, the UAE launched over 160 airstrikes in Libya.
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