The Russian state has kept a degree of separation from the Wagner Group for the past decade, but years of war crimes and avoided sanctions are about to come crashing down on Putin…
If you’re not familiar, the Wagner Group has been operating internationally as a gang of mercenaries and thugs since 2014. Most countries knew this was a branch of the Russian State, but many embraced the ‘legal deniability’ to protect trade and relations.
The Russian government just admitted that Wagner is, and always has been, an arm of the Russian State. Not only is this going to piss a lot of people off and start a new round of punitive sanctions, but it also means that the seizure of Wagner (aka Russian) assets will be starting up very soon.
Wagner’s capacity to operate internationally is going away, and Russia no longer has the ability to project power outside of the former Soviet space. So if you’re tired of hearing the name Yevgeny Prigozhin or Wagner, you’re probably in luck…
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Hello, everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado. Today is the 27th of June. And the news is that the Russian government has admitted formally that Wagner is an arm of the Russian state to the tune of about $1,000,000,000 a year in terms of their outlays. Now, why is this important?
Now, Wagner was formed by the Russians, specifically by a guy by the name of Prigozhin back in 2013, 2014, in the lead up to the Donbass war, which is a war where the Russians basically created what we’re called little green men to fight on the other side of an international border and foment a, quote, secession war, and then under that pretext, move in regular forces. Well, no one really bought it, but the legal fiction did allow a degree of separation that gave especially the Europeans pause. And anyone who was looking for an excuse to continue normal relations with the Russians. The Germans are probably at the top of that list, grabbed onto that little flimsy bit of legalism with both hands and wouldn’t let go. In the years since, Wagner has been used by the Russian state in any number of conflicts all over the world, most notably in the Middle East and Africa. And in those operations, because it has not been a state entity, it has gleefully engaged in the series of massacres that are really war crimes by almost any definition. And so Wagner has been under sanction not just in the United States and the European Union, but Australia, Japan, a lot of other countries that we generally considered part of the you know, if you want, here’s a loaded term, civilized world – and are the the leaders of it are persona non grata at most of the world’s airports. Well, but as long as the Russians haven’t claimed that Wagner is one of their own from a government point of view, that it’s just a group of mercenaries, kind of like a Russian Blackwater, if you will, then that degree of legal separation allows Wagner to do what it wants might be under sanction, but it’s not like it’s under state sanction charges today.
Now that Vladimir Putin has said that Wagner is and always was part of the Russian state, assets of the Russian state can be seized in order to pay for things that Wagner has done in various countries. And whenever you have a government shift in one of the countries where Wagner is accused of war crimes or one bordering it, that has an influence in that area, you now have two things going on. Number one, the degree of legal installation is gone. Now, anything that Wagner does or has done, Moscow itself is culpable. And in a lot of circumstances, Wagner slash Russia have been compensated not with cash, but with, say, mineral concessions, with gold mines being a favorite. Those are now legally all up in the air. So the admission here not only is going to piss off a lot of people in Europe and generate an awful new round of punitive sanctions, it means that the assets of the Russian state and the assets of Wagner are now one and the same, and the same tools can go after all of them. And that flimsy legal pretext is completely gone now. And so anyone who had a line into a private asset by Wagner or public assets by Russia can now use those same tools to go after both. So we’re going to see a wrapping up of Wagner’s international economic position in a relatively short period of time. And it won’t take much of a government shift in places where Wagner has been accused of war crimes that include Sudan and the Central African Republic and Syria and Libya in order to see their military position wrapped up as well. And that, of course, assumes that nothing else goes wrong and several other things are going wrong.
So as you guys have obviously seen those Wagner through a kind of not-coup over the weekend and Wagner troops now have to pledge loyalty to the Russian state and hand over their heavy equipment to the Russian military. Some of them will. Some of them won’t. And what that means is there’s a smaller number of Wagner staff that are available to man all these international missions in the first place, even if the Russian government doesn’t go through and do a purge of them. And that purge is definitely coming. Remember that Vladimir Putin’s power center is not within the Russian military. They control it. But that’s not their power center. Their power center is within the security services, most notably the intelligence bureaus like the FSB and the GRU. And those institutions are very capable of doing a purge of personnel of people who are not physically in Russia. So we’re going to be seeing a lot of that. So Wagner’s capacity to function internationally is going to go down significantly. And since the Russian military no longer has the capacity to project beyond the former Soviet Union, you’re looking at all of this getting wrapped up one way or another, probably by the end of the year.
Alright. That’s it. Take care.