Kimberly Marten (Professor of Political Science, Barnard) was interviewed on PBS Newshour by Anna Nawaz about the Wagner Group’s presence and activities in Africa (July 4, 2023).
From the interview:
Nawaz: Knowing the relationship between this Wagner paramilitary force and the official Russian defense forces and the military there, what does their presence in Africa say to you about Putin’s larger foreign policy?
Marten: Well, they have all been put there with the support of Russian state ministries of various kinds, and so they are acting on behalf of Russia’s foreign policy interests.They have never really been a completely private company. That’s been sort of a fig leaf put over what they’re doing.
And what it means is that Putin is able to establish a relatively large presence in Africa for Russian security forces in particular, and then also in terms of getting gold and other potential precious natural resources, without having to spend a lot of money and without having to put the Russian uniformed military at risk for casualties, which makes it much easier to sell to the home audience, if you can just say it’s a bunch of people who are private actors who are out making money.
And we have to remember that, up until 2014, Russia really didn’t have much of a remaining presence in Africa. It never left the continent entirely. But its presence there has been relatively insignificant, in comparison to the West, China, Turkey, the UAE, and other actors.
And so it’s a way for Putin to keep control in some areas there at relatively low expense and low risk.
Watch the video.