Wagner’s Future After Prigozhin’s Death
The Wagner private military corporation may lose the position it gained from the Ukraine war, after Prigozhin died in a plane crash.
The Russian Investigative Committee confirmed on August 27 that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the private military group Wagner, was one of 10 people killed when a private plane crashed in Tver province, northwest of Moscow on August 23.
Observers said that Prigozhin’s death could put an end to the reputation and position that Wagner Group gained from the Ukraine war as well as its activities in Africa and the Middle East.
President Putin on August 25 signed a decree requiring members of volunteer military units, including Wagner, to swear allegiance under the Russian flag.
They are required to “strictly follow the orders of their commanders and superiors, and conscientiously perform their assigned duties”.
This decree is considered a decisive move to place armed groups like Wagner under the direct command of the Russian military, forcing them to obey instructions and maneuvers from the Ministry of Defense.
This is something that Prigozhin once strongly opposed and is considered one of the reasons why boss Wagner launched an unsuccessful rebellion at the end of June.
“In the absence of Prigozhin, I think Wagner will gradually disintegrate, because he leads this military group in a personal style that places loyalty to the tycoon above any other individual or organization. “, commented Natasha Lindstaedt, professor of politics at the University of Essex in England.
According to her, when he was alive, Prigozhin did not run Wagner according to the traditional military-style command structure, because the boss considered such a model to be rigid, ineffective and threatening Wagner’s survival.
During the campaign to attack the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, Prigozhin repeatedly criticized the command system of the Russian army, saying that only Wagner could fight effectively.
“All Wagner’s activities revolve around Prigozhin and when he dies, everything will be chaotic. Wagner gunmen will no longer know where to place allegiance, especially when Dmitry Utkin, the right hand man. of Prigozhin, also died in the ill-fated flight,” Lindstaedt said.
The fact that the two top commanders and Valeriy Chekalov, Wagner’s logistics man, were on the same flight caused a lot of skepticism among the group members, because the plane crash would create a leadership gap.
Very large, which could cause this private military company to fall into a “headless snake” situation.
Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Center for Eurasian Europe, said that Wagner’s future was gradually dimming after the rebellion in late June, despite the tycoon’s efforts to save him through visits to the cities. recent African countries.
“After the rebellion, Prigozhin was no longer a trusted partner of the Russian government and could not regain that position,” Stanovaya said.
According to her, Russia needed Prigozhin in a post-rebellion period to complete the process of stripping Wagner of influence and power, but that role would diminish as Wagner members move to Belarus.
In Russia, Wagner’s activities have been suspended for the past two months. In Belarus, Wagner members gradually left the organization due to dissatisfaction with the low salary and living conditions here.
The number of Wagner fighters in Belarus has dropped from 5,000 in July to less than 2,000.
Wagner was once seen as an important force for Russia to expand its influence in Africa, when the group’s gunmen signed security contracts with many countries in the region in exchange for mining rights for minerals such as gold. , diamonds, oil.
However, after the rebellion, the Russian Defense Ministry sent a high-level delegation to Africa to negotiate with the governments of other countries and sent a message that from now on they will work directly with Moscow.
Much of Wagner’s empire in Africa rests on the relationships Prigozhin and his close associates have built over the years.
Wagner is said to have helped the junta in Mali, a move that contributed to the decision to end France’s nearly decade-long military campaign there.
But in Prigozhin’s absence, Wagner’s position in Africa could quickly disappear.
The warlord of Haftar in Libya has turned to discuss defense cooperation with the Russian government, rather than Wagner fighters, due to concerns about the influence of this group after the rebellion.
“What is clear is that Wagner is no longer what it used to be,” said Guardian analyst Peter Beaumont.
Retired British General Sean Bell, now a military analyst, thinks that after the rebellion, Wagner would be left with nothing without Prigozhin.
“If Wagner was Prigozhin, it would be difficult for this corporation to survive. This is the end of Wagner,” Bell said.
Meanwhile, Professor Lindstaedt expressed concern about the possibility that the Russian military could hardly fully control Wagner when the organization was “crumbling”.
“When a military group that was once very large and heavily armed breaks up, it will cause chaos and gunmen will act more recklessly. That can be very dangerous for regional security,” she said.