What's This? Private Military Companies (PMCs) and Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) are new names for an old phenomenon, Mercenaries. You know, Soldiers of Fortune, former soldiers denounced during the 1960s for overthrowing African governments.
Today, they are part and parcel of the modern world order. Why? Politics. And money. Which is easier? To send the children of taxpayers and voters off to be killed in a village with an unpronounceable name in a country no one can locate on a map? Or to send professional mercenaries, once serving soldiers, off to do the same job? They are subcontractors with no pension benefit plan. They are not a line item on a budget that some nosey parker of a politician might question.
Their use has widely increased over the last two decades. PMSCs and PMC operate in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Gulf of Aden as well as in Africa and Latin America. They are rightly seen as political-military tools of state influence, which can be employed under the cover of plausible deniability.
They are used by all major powers, as well as the UN itself. UN cooperation with PMSCs, such as Aegis, DynCorp, ArmorGroup and Global Risk Strategies, has long been documented.
Is War a Business or Is It Politics Conducted by Other Means? Originally, Western countries, primarily the United Kingdom and the United States, pioneered this area. They account for most of the world's PMCs. They created the PMC as an industry with its own rules and regulations, making it virtually impossible for outsiders to enter.
In the 2010s, however, the powers, which oppose Western hegemony in the world arena, created irregular formations similar to the Western PMCs. In Russia, the so-called Wagner Group has appeared. (According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, it is deeply intertwined with the Russian military and intelligence services. www.csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/band-brothers-wagner-group-and-russian-state.) In Turkey, there is SADAT (a company providing international consultancy and military training services). The principal difference from the Western companies, is that these PMCs do not see war as an industry or war as a business. Instead, they operate as state agents of influence in a kind of "grey zone" that is neither war nor politics.
Unlike the U.S. PMC Blackwater, whose contractors were found guilty of killing civilians in Iraq in 2007 (the Nisour Square massacre), the Russian PMCs, operate only in the interests of their government. In fact, unlike the American firms, it is very difficult to say whether they make money at all. (The name-changing Blackwater often worked for the U.S. State Department and acquired substantial sums in doing so.) The position of Russian PMC contractors might be more "moral" and consistent with traditional ideas about the motivation and responsibilities of the soldier. In addition, these PMCs are more accountable to their state, which is also an undeniable plus.
The idea of war as a business turns the leadership of PMCs into unstable, relatively independent actors. Without control, their operations can even harm the position of the state in the international arena. One such example of a botched attempt to organize a putsch occurred in Venezuela. Silvercorp USA tried to overthrow the Maduro government of Venezuela with "...a high-end BB gun...a Kindle e-reader...and two... ex-Special Forces [soldiers], a boat stocked with guns and ammunition and about 50 Venezuelan revolutionaries."
War is Peace? Peace is War? Even St. Augustine, considered the founder of "just war" theory, noted that the purpose of a "just war" is peace.
However, an objective analysis of U.S. PMCs and their use in key regions of the world, shows that they do not meet this criterion. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the employment of PMCs, as well as the use of regular forces did not lead to peace or victory in the "war on terror". On the contrary, their use strengthened the terrorists' position. In Africa, the U.S. and other Western PMCs also did not succeed.
But the Turks in Syria and Libya also did not contribute to peace. Rather, they acted as de facto allies of destructive Islamist forces. The results of Western and Turkish intervention using PMCs spread instability, not peace, and weakened state sovereignty there. Ultimately, this increased insecurity and led to more war.
Russia, on the contrary, is committed to the protection of state sovereignty. In Syria, using the Wagner Group as the main ground force fighting ISIS terrorists ultimately defeated the extremists. This strengthened the country's autonomy. In Libya, the Russian PMC supports the only force (Khalifa Haftar's), which promises to end the anarchy and chaos that began in 2011. In the Central African Republic, the Russian PMC Wagner Group now effectively opposes the militants attacking government troops and helps U.S. forces secure the elections. Even in the Ukraine in 2014-2015, the Russians stopped the Ukrainian forces' offensive against the people of its eastern regions. The result was the Minsk peace agreements, which reduced the conflict's intensity.
Russian PMCs/US PMCs. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted, "The Russian government has found Wagner and other private military companies to be useful as a way to extend its influence overseas without the visibility and intrusiveness of state military forces." Mercenaries might appear as troublemakers, yet acting at arm's length from governments, they minimize Great Power conflict and instability. The Russian PMCs (and the significant Wagner PMC) have established themselves as exporters of peace and order, rather than chaos.
But would Americans want their PMCs to be used the same way? Ordinary citizens, possibly, yet they are buried in anti-Russian propaganda. As for the American elites, so long as they are satisfied with the possibility of making money from war, as long as the military-industrial complex dictates its terms to the state, the American PMCs will remain as they are. Unstable, dangerous, hostile. A Wagner Group in the U.S. is impossible.