Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Defence and security / Special Operations: Theory and capabilities / Articles
The probability of legalization of the Russian PMC this time really high
Material posted: Publication date: 14-02-2018
In the Russian media space does not stop discussion of the problem of private military companies (PMCs). Amid the ongoing debate on the next bill, designed to regulate this sphere, a new reason to return to the topic were rumors of casualties in Syria, who have suffered so-called PMCs "Wagner."

Military experts, journalists, politicians of different views in Russia and abroad to speak about the possible legitimizing private military activities.

Formally, a new round of discussions was launched after the statement of the Minister of foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, which he made January 15, 2018, during the press-conference on results of activities of Russian diplomacy in 2017.

The words of the head of the Russian foreign Ministry about the need to "clearly define the legislative framework to ensure that these people (the staff of PMCs – ed. the author) was also in the legal field and protected" was the answer to the question about the fate of Gregory Turcanu and Roman Zabolotnyi – the citizens of Russia, who was captured by ISIS militants in September last year.

The words of the head of the foreign Ministry was clearly not a guide to action and is largely a consequence of internal discussions on this issue.

However, parliamentarians responded immediately: 17 January 2017 Deputy Mikhail Emelyanov made a statement about readiness in the shortest possible time to finalise and submit for consideration the state Duma the bill regulating the activities of PMCs.

It is unclear which of the four bills made earlier by members of the faction "Fair Russia", the basis for the current document reliably this can only be judged after it is published.

Every day there are more details: as from the mouth of the initiator of the document, and from "reliable sources". However, there are no fewer questions.

"The question so often raised, that he was eventually hung in the air»

Let's start with the fact that Lavrov's statement – essentially, the first statement on this subject in a positive way from a senior representative of the Executive power since 2012, when consistently the idea of legalization in Russia approved Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Rogozin.

Do not dwell on the history of this issue. We note only that the bill after its introduction in the state Duma will be already the fifth such document.

In various forms and under various names it has already been considered by the Parliament almost every year: in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The verdict was always the same: "to return to the subject of law of legislative initiative"; the reason is a mismatch between the requirements of the Constitution and regulations of the State Duma.

It is clear that the reference to the requirements of the Constitution an excuse for failure. The reason, apparently, is the position of law enforcement agencies (notably the FSB and the Ministry of defense), which was considered to date the legalization of PMCs in Russia as a potential threat to the stability and security of the country (especially considering the "Ukrainian experience"), but could not agree among themselves about who will control the licensing process and other aspects of data structures.

According to some, the issue of licensing of PMCs is still the stumbling block between the FSB and the Ministry of defence. Objectively speaking, if the bill will be fixed monopoly any law enforcement Agency for the licensing and control of PMCs, the chances of its acceptance is sharply reduced. The establishment of the interagency regulatory authority in this sense would be the most sensible and effective solution.

So, maybe a statement Lavrov had expressed only his personal opinion or the position of the foreign Ministry, and spravedlivorossy, in the tables which are laid up for bill on this subject, just reacted, taking advantage of a good information occasion, and thus to increase the chances of success?

Of course, it is possible. However, it should be noted that since August – September of 2017, gradually changed the tone of articles devoted to the possible activities of the so-called PMCs "Wagner": if earlier the Kremlin and the government generally denies the existence of this structure and its involvement in the success of a military operation in Syria, over the past six months in the information field began to dominate the discourse, emphasizing the role of fighters "musical orchestra" and their heroism.

So the process definitely was not spontaneous and obeys its own logic...

"Don't do anything without a reason and purpose»

The defense Ministry is quite serious about the opportunities provided by PMC their employers. It is sufficient to note the fact that in the Military doctrine of the Russian Federation PMCs mention in the context of describing key external military dangers.

Apparently, the Russian leadership the question of whether the adoption of the law on PMCs, the most important is not so much the potential effectiveness of private entities, as the possibility of local use of PMCs in armed conflicts or in areas where military presence is necessary, and the involvement of armed forces is not possible or feasible, especially from the point of view of the painful perception by the Russian society of possible losses.

Given the growing number of conflict regions, where the Russian leadership seeks to play a leading role, the PMC can become an indispensable tool.

It seems that its role in the adjustment of the official government approach to covering the issue of "those who are not there" and played that to continue to deny the very existence of structure is simply impossible for the totality of the circumstances (loss, information noise, etc.). Probably so, though to attribute transparency to the list of determining factors probably is not.

The prospect of success of Russian PMCs in the world market of military services is hardly a key in assessing the possibility of legalization of this business in Russia.

First, the market by and large is already divided between the largest players, and to find serious customers among foreign States, corporations and individuals domestic companies will not be easy – especially with the tightening of the sanctions policy.

Secondly, it seems that the Russian government is considering PMC solely as a private tool, and the tool to protect the interests of the largest Russian companies working abroad.

"Russian with the Chinese..."?

Hence, emerging statements some Russian lawmakers on the need for the submission of PMCs by the Ministry of defence is nonsense when viewed from the perspective of us or European experience.

In the case of a positive conclusion from the Federal bodies of Executive power in Russia will be adopted "the Chinese model", where the PMC is also are a sort of branch of the people's liberation army of China. Is it good or bad is debatable, but to call these companies "private" will be possible only conditionally.

The geography of the possible use of PMCs by order of the Russian state wide, from Afghanistan, Yemen or Libya to Sudan, the Philippines or Venezuela. Its role PMCs could play in solving the "Ukrainian question".

The American experience shows that the range of tasks that can solve the PMC is extremely large. It seems that in the Russian version it will be mainly on direct participation in hostilities, training, and protection of objects and persons.

It is noteworthy that the law allegedly included language prohibiting "violent change of internationally recognized borders, the violation of the sovereignty, support foreign occupation." It is logical to expect new initiatives on the part of Russia in the sphere of international legal regulation of PMCs, particularly within the UN.

Moscow has for many years been a member of talks on the issue, but noticeable results in determining the status of PMCs and their employees in the international arena as there was no and no. The Montreux document and the international code of conduct for private security companies are still the most significant in this respect and Russia in the number of signatory countries is not included.

Perhaps it is in the context of international legal initiatives in Russia is to consider and appeared information about the direction of the draft model law "On private military security activities" to the Secretariat of the CSTO parliamentary Assembly.

Which will take operators?

The thematic groups in social networks are already overcrowded from those who traded each other with the question of how to get into the PMC. So what can you expect potential candidates to the operators PMCs, to some work to prepare?

In the case of the adoption of the law on PMCs, which you can see in the previous bills in the short term there will be a need for personnel capable of performing the functions of infantry, to act in the composition of assault groups and units.

Based on available data, the PMC will not be able to perform, such as intelligence functions, which also strongly differentiates the Russian approach the practice, which is common in the US, where PMCs can do the exploration, to participate in strategic and tactical planning, servicing and control of the UAV.

However, as the development of the new structure of the Russian market of military services and also the expansion of geography and tasks that may be involved in the PMCs requirements for staff will grow and, therefore, is wishing to increase their professional level and to learn foreign languages, improving their competitiveness.

The probability of the legalization of PMCs in Russia, this time really high, but consider this issue resolved and to give absolute predictions is impossible: there are too many factors that can still change.

Regardless of how it will look in the final bill – a decision can only be welcomed. The removal of PMCs from the grey zone, recognition of their existence, the determination of the status of PMCs and their employees is only a partial list of benefits that can improve the efficiency and flexibility of Russia's actions in the international arena.

* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law "On countering extremist activities"

Vladimir Neelov

Source: The business newspaper "Sight" 12.02.2018

RELATED MATERIALS: Defence and security