Putin wants to use Wagner soldiers - GulfToday

Putin wants to use Wagner soldiers


Vladimir Putin. File

It seems after the. botched rebellion of Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Wagner, the private military company (PMC) which was deployed in the war in Ukraine, in June and his death in an air crash in August marked a serious crisis in the 20-year uninterrupted rule of Vladimir Putin in Russia, as president, prime minister and as president. It seemed that private army Wagner had become a problem to the Russian army commanders and to Putin. But Putin survived the scare. It seemed that Wagner, after losing its founding commander Prigozhin, has just melted away.

It comprised criminals serving various sentences who were recruited by Prigozhin on the promise that if they survive the war they will be free. It seems that Putin wants to use the Wagner soldiers in Ukraine, and it is not clear as to why he would want to use a private army when the Russian army is large enough to do the fighting in Ukraine. But Putin is determined to use the Wagner fighters. This time round, Putin has made the ground rules clear. The Wagner fighters will declare allegiance to the Russian army.

Putin met with former Prigozhin aide and former Wagner commander Alex Troshev at the Kremlin in the presence of a Ministry of Defence official. This was shown on Russian TV and reported by the official news. agency. The television clip showed Putin addressing Troshev and telling him that he (Troshev) knows what is to be done on the field in the ‘special military operation’, which is Putin’s description of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has also been disclosed that Troshev is now employed at the Ministry of Defence.  The details of the deployment of Wagner fighters on the Ukrainian front have not been disclosed. With Ukraine claiming that it is pushing back Russian forces in a new offensive, it would appear that Russia needs all the soldiers it can deploy. As the Wagner men are already trained fighters, it will save time for the Russians in training new recruits before sending them to the front. The question does arise as to how many fighting men does Wagner have? Is Wagner allowed to recruit men and train them?

Wagner has acquired the status of army within an army as it were. Putin has not declared Wagner to be part of the Russian army. This would mean that Wagner would remain an army of mercenaries. Putin seems to keep the status of Wagner as that of a mercenary group. As a matter of fact, the Russian Ministry of Defence official had toured Africa where Wagner has been fighting. It implies that Russia approves of Wagner’s role in the internecine wars in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Russia wants to remain an influential player and it would not mind using the private army Wagner.

The fact that instead of shutting down Wagner after the aborted rebellion by then Wagner commander Prigozhin, Putin’s decision to normalise Wagner as a fighting unit under the Russian army, raises questions about the fighting strength of the standing Russian army. If the Russian army is not able to be the sole fighter for Russia in the war in Ukraine, that it needs to be supplemented by a private army like Wagner, then it raises serious questions about the strength of the Russian armed forces. It is understood that after the fall of communist Russia, that is the Soviet Union, in 1991, Russia has ceased to be the superpower it seemed in the Cold War period with its nuclear arsenal. And it raises the further question as to whether Russia can continue to fight the war in Ukraine. The use of Wagner only shows the vulnerability of the Russian army.

The West, especially NATO, must be assessing the vulnerability of Russia’s armed forces because of Putin’s decision to deploy Wagner in the war in Ukraine. And it must be strengthening the determination of Ukraine to fight Russia with its military vulnerability.

This does not mean that Ukraine, with the massive military aid it is getting from the United States and other NATO members, will score a decisive victory over Russia. That would be an unrealistic assessment. Ukraine is faced with the prospect of a protracted war in the face of tough Russian resistance. The Russian economy had certainly weakened because of West’s economic sanctions. But Russia is unlikely to give up the war, and that is why it is tapping unorthodox sources like a private army, a la Wagner.

Related articles