Historical comparisons with contemporary events are always risky, particularly with regard to warfare. But two historical patterns in the use of mercenaries in Europe can provide insights into the role that private military contractors like the Wagner Group play within the Russian political system, and how that might evolve over time.
A suspected Russian intelligence operation on the soil of NATO ally Albania may have been the first direct confrontation between NATO and Russia since Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine six months ago. If so, it could force the United States to act in some manner, given its past promises to respond to a threat on NATO soil.
As energy supplies from Russia to Germany dwindle because of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Germans are grappling with the prospect of an unprecedented energy crisis that could last months, as well as with the implications it could have for food supply shortages, droughts and security concerns.
Because the Wagner Group has such an established reputation, many took claims made earlier this year that the group would deploy to Burkina Faso at face value. However, rumors about Wagner rarely square with reality. The actual evidence that the group will imminently deploy to Burkina Faso is far from conclusive.
A debate is raging across Europe over whether all Russians should be banned from entering the EU. Politicians are debating whether that would unfairly hold the Russian people collectively responsible for the war in Ukraine, and conversely whether it is fair to let them in while Europeans cannot safely travel to Russia.
The human suffering and risks of escalation caused by the war in Ukraine are leading many observers to call for the U.S. and NATO to take any steps necessary to strike a deal with Russia for an immediate cease-fire. It is understandable to want to end the war. But calls for the West to do so in Ukraine’s stead are misplaced.
The first ship exporting grain from Ukraine since February left Odessa’s port this week thanks to a deal brokered by Turkey and the U.N. The agreement aims to ease the global food crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but there are doubts as to whether it will hold for long enough to make a difference.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Kyiv has barred adult men aged 18-60 from leaving the country and fleeing the war with their families—regardless of their training or fitness for military service. But is this policy strictly necessary, or could the war effort be helped by allowing men to leave the country?