Russian private military companies (PMCs) are on the march. In 2012, Russian PMCs were present in only two countries. Today, that number has risen to twenty-seven. Russia’s most infamous “corporate soldiers,” the Wagner Group, are now seeking to enter a new market, Mali, at a time when the country’s fragile democracy is backsliding and counterterrorism challenges are worsening. Wagner’s potential deployment to Mali stands to further erode democracy by entrenching an illiberal government and exacerbating longstanding counterterrorism challenges in the Sahel.
The potential deployment of the Wagner Group to Mali echoes other PMC efforts in Africa. Since 2018, Russian PMCs have been active in the Central African Republic, seizing control of mineral resources while committing brutal human rights abuses. PMCs have similarly deployed to countries like Sudan, Libya, and Mozambique, providing further evidence of a Russian irregular effort on the continent with PMCs at its forefront.