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Chain the dogs of war. Private military companies in Russia: experience and prospects for the legalization of
Material posted: Publication date: 22-07-2017

Last week in the American press there were messages that the administration of U.S. President has attracted as advisers on the development of a new strategy of Washington in Afghanistan, two owners of large private military companies (PMCs): Erik Prins and Stephen Feinberg. Prince – the founder of one of the most famous in the world of the PMC Blackwater (now Academi). Feinberg owns the American PMC DynCorp.

According to media reports, discussed the issue of expanding the already significant role of PMCs in the Afghan campaign. It is noteworthy that at the end of may 2017 Erik Prince in the pages of The Wall Street Journal saidthat the best strategy for the US in Afghanistan would have been set in this country of the Governor, which would have a wide range of responsibilities (as General MacArthur in postwar Japan). Prince is confident that the situation could be reversed if we take into consideration the experience of the British East India company. While the plan Prince-Feinberg is unlikely to be adopted in the original version, it can be stated that the role of PMCs, the U.S. strategy will continue to grow, confirming which began in 1990-e years the trend known as "privatization of war".

In turn in Russia in the last month, once again intensified the debate on private military companies and the prospects for legalization of their activities. The discussion is heated with a series of articles in foreign and Russian media about the so-called "PMC Wagner." In pursuit of sensation journalists ignore a number of fundamental issues required for understanding of the phenomenon of "privatization of war" and the use of PMCs. At the same time, the existence of PMCs and their status, as well as prospects of development of the sector of private military services requires a well-balanced analysis. The model and perspectives of development (in the case of the adoption of the military-political leadership of Russia of the corresponding solutions) are not clear.

Unlike Western countries, in Russia at present, the PMCs does not legally regulated, and experience in the use of private military companies to perform any task under the contract with the state authorities and institutions, our country has not. Moreover, none of the official document that defines the external and military policy of the Russian Federation, no statements about the intentions to implement such a practice in the foreseeable future. PMCs are only mentioned in the Military doctrine of the Russian Federation and the external military threat.

Missed the time?

For the first time the question of the necessity of legalization of PMCs in Russia really actively started to be discussed in 2012, when Russian President Vladimir Putin, while still Prime Minister, said that the development of such firms is in the national interests of Russia. At the same time in favor of the development of the practice of using PMCs repeatedly expressed Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Against this background, in April 2012, the State Duma Deputy Mitrofanov (now under investigation) introduced a bill on state regulation of development and activities of private military companies. The project was rejected in June of that year for formal reasons, which were called "procedural non-compliance with the Constitution and State Duma regulations": there was no opinion of the Government, which is necessary because its implementation requires the creation of the authorized Federal body of Executive power.

In 2014, a renewed public discussion and development of the next bill on PMCs which was associated with the beginning of the war in the South-East of Ukraine. So, in October 2014, Deputy Gennady Nosovka were made to the draft law "On private military security companies". Co-authors were Dmitry Gorobtsov and Anatoly Shein. It is worth noting that all three are members of the party "Fair Russia" and fled abroad Mitrofanov. The fate of this document was similar: in November 2014 the State Duma Council was ordered "to return the bill <...> to carry out the requirements of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the State Duma Regulations".

In 2015-2017 the main discussion took place, mainly in the information field. In the network, however, you can find references about the different kinds of round tables dedicated to the discussion developed by the above-mentioned parliamentarians of the draft Federal law "On private military security activities". However, according to available information, a key obstacle to the adoption of the Russian law on PMCs is the position of the Ministry of defense and the FSB, where the possible emergence of a significant number of private organized paramilitaries are considered as a potential threat to the security of the country.

In December 2016 was amended in the Federal law "On military duty and military service", which the media dubbed it as "the law on short-term military contracts." It is believed that this was the alternative to adoption of the law on PMCs in terms of the need to increase Russia's military presence in Syria. Consequently, the prospects for legalization of this kind of business in Russia is still unclear.

"... And I don't see. And he is..."

Despite the difficulties and the lack of a clear status of PMCs in Russia, there are (albeit without legal registration as private military companies), and this is no secret. It is, for example, such companies that in different periods of time existed or continue to exist on the territory of Russia: MGK "Antiterror" (known as the "anti-terror eagle"), the Moran Security Group, the "RSB Group", VST and some others. Currently, it is known about the continued operation and availability of contracts with foreign customers from Moran Security Group and "RSB Group". Mainly Russian companies spetsializiruyutsya on the provision of services to support the ships and protect them from pirates, physical security, consulting, etc. However, this spring there is information about the company, the "RSB Group" contract demining plant in Libya.

Selling the war

From a legal point of view, almost all of the above companies have a holding structure. On the territory of Russia registered the company, which is composed of various entities, including the private security enterprises (chop), which are often even perform the appropriate activities on the territory of the Russian Federation. However, since the activities of PMCs in Russia is not regulated, to perform work abroad, the leadership of these firms register companies in the offshore zones: Cyprus, Belize, British virgin Islands etc. This scheme allows to solve the issue of gun control, which expands the possibilities of creating a branched network of bases and logistics in different regions of the world, and is traditionally used for tax optimization.

So, despite the lack of adequate legal framework, PMCs find ways officially legalized on the territory of the Russian Federation and carry out their activities. Some experts say that in Russia there was a misconception about the big demand for domestic military experts in the West. In practice, it is not confirmed: the Russian PMC with difficulty enter into individual contracts abroad, and a similar situation exists long before the "Ukrainian crisis". However, some experience in the foreign market, domestic companies have. Thus, the use of Russian military experts Western companies have been observed already in 1990-e years, and their number increased with the start of operation Iraqi freedom. Russian worked in Iraq under contracts with the British "Erinys", successfully operated the company "anti-terror eagle", carrying out the orders of the Russian oil and energy corporations.

However, Russian companies still have good potential because of the availability in Russia of a large number of military professionals, however currently they are unable to compete with Western firms, which, in essence, are the main providers of military services in the world. Moreover, the possibility of obtaining Russian PMC contracts precluded by the leaders of this business. So, in 2012 in Nigeria detained a Russian ship PMCs Moran Security Group, and the contract with the Nigerian side was terminated. The reason for this was that "Moran" has invaded the area of direct interest to the British company Armor Group, which has considerable leverage to influence the situation in the region and, if necessary, support from the UK.

The smell of blood and warfare

As soon as the civil war in the South-East of Ukraine has become protracted, in Russia there are organizations carrying out armed guards numerous humanitarian convoys delivering aid to the unrecognized republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. These organizations that have officially registered legal entity on the territory of the Russian Federation, positioning themselves on their official websites as PMC: for example, the so-called PMC "MAR" and "ENOT Corp". However, company data PMC can not be called in the full sense of the word – especially as it is understood in the West. Information about them a little, however, judging from public sources, rather, they are associations of volunteers, past war in the new Russia on the Russian side of the rebels and decided to change the scope of activities and capitalize on the protection of humanitarian convoys.

In fact, today we have a situation where the state does not legitimate the existing practice by entering the activities of these organizations in the legal field, but does not declare them illegal. Their work is not hampered as long as there are scandals (as in the case of the so-called "Slavonic corps") or while they are acting strictly in line with the public policy (or touch it).

"The flying Dutchman" Russian media

As for the often mentioned in Russian and foreign media of the so-called "PMC Wagner," that no reliable information about its existence – just as PMC or any organization – no. Unlike all of the companies listed above, there is not a registered legal entity with a similar name, or whose founders were persons who are usually referred to in journalistic reports as the leaders of this "PMC".

Analysis of the available open publications suggests that no private military company in the sense attached to this concept in the West, it is not. If such a structure exists, to call it the PMC, it would be absolutely wrong. That would be called a private military company special unit of the US or the UK, performing combat missions in any conflict, but the activities of which are fairly unknown. The same can be said of the so-called "PMC "Turan"", allegedly operating in Syria and which, presumably, are coming from republics of the North Caucasus, Transcaucasia and Central Asia.

Just business

However, the absence of a law on PMCs and their activities in Russia leads to the emergence of such rumors, which in itself presents a problem. The question of whether legalization should be consistent with the goals and objectives set before the military-political leadership and/or specific departments who plan to attract them. For example, in the hands of intelligence agencies, private military companies can be a useful tool, and that its application was regulated by an appropriate law.

In the form in which PMCs exist in Western countries, they are an effective instrument for implementing the foreign policy of a state without the formal participation of the country in which they are registered, a notable example of which are the USA. From this point of view, "the law on short-term contracts" may not be an alternative to the legalization of PMCs. The spectrum of their tasks is much wider than is customary to represent the General public. But problems, as shown by Western experience, there is a large number. We must not forget that the owners of PMCs as in any business, put its main objective the extraction of profit, which in a certain sense, is contraindicated in this case as military security.

Assuming the involvement of Russia in conflicts related to the use of military force, and from the list of the main external military dangers listed in the military doctrine of Russia, PMCs could play a significant role in the promotion of Russian interests. It is important to note that, beginning in 2014, dramatically increased the number of citizens (not only Russian) with combat experience who are willing to defend the interests of Russian weapons in the hands of the Russian private military companies for a fee. There is a demand, there is a proposal, there is a labor market in the field of security.

In addition, such structures bring a handsome profit, and in the presence of the relevant law, could have significant transfer tax payments to the Russian budget. The legalization of the industry would strengthen the position of Russian companies on the world market of military services and, perhaps, to get at least some support from official Russian structures, thereby avoiding incidents similar to the case of Moran Security Group in Nigeria.

Risks and a noble cause

One of the potential problems caused by the development of the private military business in Russia, may be the outflow in the PMC professional staff from the active military, not only for financial reasons but also in terms of the lack of rigid hierarchical structures, compulsory in the regular armed forces, where often the professionals with the desire to realize their potential is more difficult to do than in private organizations.

The situation when de facto such structures exist, but their activity is not regulated (not prohibited, but not permitted) by the state, was unacceptable. However, as already noted, we can assume that in the coming years, it is unlikely to change because of the negative attitude of the Russian state to the possibility of a significant number of companies with such a serious power resource. Especially it affects the example of Ukraine, where the oligarchs are, in fact, got their own private armies.

On the other hand, the law, if it were accepted, could and would have to consider such risks, which implies a strict control by the public authorities. From this point of view, it would be possible to use the Chinese model (which implies strict regulation by the state), or to pay attention to the experience of the UK in which the scope of permitted activities of PMC in the country is much lower than abroad. Essentially, it would be sufficient to prohibit PMCs armed activities on the territory of Russia, allowing their registration, training, conducting economic activities, etc.

Summing up the above, we note: if the adoption of the law still held, it is unlikely domestic PMCs will be similar to the West. Most likely will be based on the Chinese experience and, therefore, private military companies would be rather than some kind of analogue of state-owned corporations in the field of military business. Not to say that it's definitely bad (China, for example, actively uses its "private military companies", ensuring the interests of the corporations that peaceful colonization of Africa), but to call them private in this case is unlikely to succeed. In any case, the presence of at least some of the law is better than no regulation.

The risks and consequences associated with the legalization of such activities, need to be assessed. To make predictions it would be a thankless task, and malovozmozhnym. Surely public outcry, actively accompanying the adoption of regulations such as the law on PMCs, will require extensive work to clarify the purposes and prospects of activity of the PMC. However urgent the need, the benefits and the availability of similar structures in major countries of the world make an appearance in our state private military force a matter of time. Time in which, according to Russian tradition and relying on chance, we are always late.



  1. Tump Aides Recruited Businessmen to Divise the Options for Afghanistan / The New York Times. July 10, 2017
  2. Prince E. The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan / The Wall Street Journal. May 31, 2017
  3. Korotkov D. a Little business in the Syrian war / the St. Petersburg online newspaper "" 26.06.2017
  4. The military doctrine of the Russian Federation from December 30, 2014.
  5. Putin supported the idea of establishing private military companies / RIA Novosti 11.04.2012
  6. Private business. Dmitry Rogozin is ready to let in the military sector private company / Business Newspaper "Sight". 19.09.2012 years
  7. In the state Duma held a round table dedicated to the discussion of the bill on private military-security activities / the Official website of the party "Fair Russia". 28.01.2016
  8. Putin signed a law on short-term military contracts / Business Newspaper "Sight". 29.12.2016
  9. RSB Group said "military contract" with Libya / the Business Newspaper "Sight". 13.03.2017.
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  12. The last battle of the "Slavonic corps" / the St. Petersburg online newspaper "" 14.11.2013
  13. In Syria arrive the staff of PMCs Turan? / Article from the website 17.11.2017.


Source: The business newspaper "Sight". 21.07.2017

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