first published on March 2, 2018 by Josh
Wagner Group, also known as Группа Вагнера or PMC Wagner, is a Russian paramilitary contracting agency similar to the America’s contracting agencies Triple Canopy and Academi. It was founded by Dmitriy Valeryevich Utkin in 2014, and has an operational history that can be traced back just as far. Utkin was a former brigade commander in the 700th Independent Spetsnaz Detachment of the 2nd Independent Brigade. The name Wagner comes from the founders obsession with the Third Reich, and originates from the founder’s own call sign during his time with the Spetsnaz. The group itself shares many common similarities with our own American contracting agencies in the fact that they head-hunt recently separated soldiers, and pay them a ridiculous salary, with some rumors stating that they are paid north of 300,000 Russian Rubles per month. (5,300 USD)
Initially the group was spotted conducting operations in Syria back in 2014. Their primary objective at that time was to defend oil fields and protect pipelines that were vital to the economic success of the Russian government. Their operations often extended well past general security duties however, and at the time they operated under the name of “Slavonic Corps.” Since then, the group has seen action in Ukraine, and all across the country of Syria where they have been deployed in tactical roles, and have been given advise and assist missions with the Syrian Arab Army. It is estimated that currently, 2,500 men are working in Syria for PMC Wagner. The group was also briefly spotted in Sudan.
Russia, much like the United States, is using this contracting agency to reduce the size of their overall military footprint in Syria. While the group is indeed conducting traditional military operations that should be filled by Russian troops, Wagner group’s status as a private military contracting agency allows Russia much more flexibility, and allows them to bolster troop numbers without committing traditional forces. If asked how many total troops they have in Syria, Russia is not required to report the number of private military contractors. Also, when those private military contractors are used to conduct kinetic operations, Russia has the ability to state that those troops were not operating under the guidance of the Russian military, or Russian command. This is what we saw Russia say after the incident on February 7, 2018 when contractors from Wagner engaged American Soldiers.
It is still mostly unclear what happened on the ground on February 7, 2018, but one thing is certain. Russian casualties occurred when PMC troops from Wagner group moved forward with the Syrian Arab Army into the Deir al-Zour region of Syria. The intent was to conduct an attack against Syrian Defense Force positions, where American troops were also present conducting advise and assist operations. The return fire from the American troops, American air power, and American artillery were far too great for the SAA and Wagner contractors, and they were decisively defeated and pushed back into Syrian Arab Army controlled territory without any American casualties. This may be just the beginning of a much larger conflict brewing, however the Russian government has denied any involvement in the attack.