The Wagner Group: Untangling the Purpose behind a Russian Power Tool

Tuesday, May 26, 2020
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Virtual Seminar

  • Kimberly Marten

This event is co-sponsored by the European Security Initiative

* Please note all CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone


Seminar Recording:


About this Event: Russia has employed the semi-state Wagner Group security company in Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic, Libya, Mozambique, and Mali (so far). Wagner is tightly connected to Russia's military intelligence organization (the GRU), and partially funded by one of Vladimir Putin's cronies, Evgeny Prigozhin, who also uses it for private duties. So why is Wagner technically illegal (and even unconstitutional) in Russia? Its use is less costly in budgetary and political terms than using the uniformed military, and it provides (limited) plausible deniability for Russian actions. But it is also unclear what Russia wants from impoverished sub-Saharan Africa. Using the best available evidence, this presentation explores these mysteries.


About the Speaker: Kimberly Marten is a professor of political science (and the department chair) at Barnard College, Columbia University, and a faculty member of Columbia’s Harriman Institute and Saltzman Institute. She has written four books, including Warlords: Strong-Arm Brokers in Weak States (Cornell, 2012), and Engaging the Enemy: Organization Theory and Soviet Military Innovation (Princeton, 1993) which received the Marshall Shulman Prize. The Council on Foreign Relations (where she is a member) published her special report, Reducing Tensions between Russia and NATO (2017). She is a frequent media commentator, and appeared on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. She earned her A.B. at Harvard and Ph.D. at Stanford, and was a CISAC post-doc.