In the vast expanses of Africa, where power is often tenuous, and conflicts are a harsh reality, a new player has emerged, casting a long and ominous shadow. The Wagner Group, a Russian private military company (PMC), has entered the theater, and its influence is growing at a staggering pace. As operators who have navigated the complexities of geopolitics and unconventional warfare, we recognize the profound implications of Wagner’s presence, particularly in the geopolitically significant nation of Niger.

On the surface, Wagner’s role appears straightforward: to provide military advisory and training services to the local armed forces. Yet, as anyone in the special operations community knows, the realities of such operations often lurk beneath the surface. Wagner does not just offer services; it exerts influence, operating as an extension of Russian state power under the guise of a commercial entity.

drawing of Prigozhin
Just this week, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, pictured here, was spotted in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the Africa-Russia summit hosted by President Putin.

To better understand the dynamics at play, we can draw parallels with another notorious PMC – Blackwater, now known as Academi. Blackwater’s ventures, primarily in the Middle East, were marked by controversy and failures that serve as cautionary tales in the world of private military operations. From civilian casualties to questions of accountability and transparency, Blackwater’s actions sparked an international debate on the role and regulation of PMCs.

Wagner seems to be adopting a different approach, projecting a veneer of military advisory services and training for local forces. Yet, as is the case with many operations in the shadows, the reality is more complex. Wagner is more than a mere service provider; it operates as an extension of Russian state power disguised as a commercial entity.