The man known as ‘Putin’s Cook’ and the owner of the Wagner mercenary force, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is expanding his empire on the Dark Continent. The goal seems to be two-fold, to re-establish Russian influence in a region which is rich with minerals, and to make money, a lot of it.
In a monumental piece of outsourcing, Prigozhin is literally doing the Kremlin’s bidding in Africa, by propping up tin-pot dictators with an armed force for hire, and then pillaging the country for its resources.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur from Putin’s native St. Petersburg, has emerged as an unlikely point man in Russia’s belated push to bolster its geopolitical might by rekindling Cold War ties across a largely underdeveloped region laden with untapped mineral wealth. Lacking the financial muscle of its main rivals, the U.S., Europe and China, Russia is carving out a niche by shoring up strongmen in unstable but potentially rich states who have a taste for Russian weaponry.
Prigozhin and his hodgepodge of contract soldiers and political operatives are offering security, arms training and electioneering services in exchange for mining rights and other opportunities, two people familiar with the matter said. He’s already active in or moving into 10 countries that Russia’s military already has relationships with: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Libya, Madagascar, Angola, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic, reported Bloomberg.
America got a glimpse of Prigozhin’s tactics when U.S. air power engaged a large group of his soldiers when they tried to seize a Syrian oil plant located near American special forces on the ground. The results were not pretty and hundreds of mercenaries were killed.
Non-traditional soldiers provide Moscow a level of deniability that is very much dear to the Kremlin. All those years Russian President Putin was denying any Russian military was in the Donbass region of East Ukraine, he was technically correct. There were just Russian mercenaries there, supported by Moscow, not Russian government troops.
This modus operandi, combined with Russian hybrid warfare techniques, seems to be the Kremlin’s new way of bringing areas of the world under Moscow’s thumb on the cheap.
It’s called asymmetric warfare and the U.S. foreign policy establishment needs to get its head around these tactics. For simply, you can win a conflict without necessarily sending thousands of U.S. forces with their huge logistical and financial demands.
Erik Prince has pitched similar ideas to President Trump for the war in Afghanistan.