Eastern Circles and Ukrainian Prism: Wagner as tool of Russian geopolitical strategy: lessons from Ukraine

2023-06-14 | Expert publications

By Régis Genté, Rodolphe Oberle, Hennadiy Maksak, Yan St-Pierre, Anastasiya Shapochkina. 

Wagner has gained increasing media attention in the last months due to its growing role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, especially in the frontline battles in the east of the country. How Wagner came about, who is behind it, and how its goals and strategy have evolved since its founding in 2014, are the questions addressed by this report.

The first and second parts explore Yevgeny Prigozhin’s assent on the ladder of the Russian elites, how he remains marginalized, despite the media attention, and what his criminal past is telling us about the role of « prison culture » in Russian higher political stratum. The third part of the report is diving into the origins of Wagner private military company (PMC), from the birthplace of its founder Dmitry Utkin in Ukraine, to the role Wagner played in the first invasion  in the east of the country in 2014-16, to the religious and ideological foundations of the PMC. Part 4 analyses Wagner’s actions and what they tell us about Russian military strategy in Ukraine since 2022. Part 5 explains the financial and geopolitical rationale behind Wagner’s operations in Africa. Part 6 explores Wagner’s business model with the Strategyzer « business canvas » analytical framework. The conclusion places Wagner PMC within the environment of other Russian PMC’s, fast expanding and multiplying across the globe, and provides scenarios of how the PMC’s will impact Russia from inside.

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