Tribune. The irruption of the Russian private military company Wagner in countries in crisis, such as Mali, is only one of the avatars of a more general movement. In reality, we are witnessing the emergence of a kind of Wild West in international relations under the combined effect of two factors. The first is the weakening of the law, its challenge, or the inability of the States which are responsible for its implementation to ensure that it is respected. The second is the emergence of new areas of conflict: to the classic dimensions of the “Land-Air-Sea” battlefield are added space, cyberspace and, of course, the information field.
The conjunction of these two trends creates a new strategic “playing area”: gray areas in which some of our competitors are implementing a new grammar of hegemony through hybrid strategies. These strategies are based on a few simple principles which have now been observed: irrevendicability (« plausible deniability », “Plausible deniability”) or the denial of responsibility for an action, the reversibility of actions, disinhibition in the use of force, the implementation of strategies that combine all the levers of power and a commitment that remains below the estimated reaction threshold of potential competitors. In fact, in this new Wild West, we observe states which behave like gangs by making intermediaries act on their behalf, and bands which behave like states; the case of Daesh is of course the most significant.
In these gray areas and with regard to Western countries, the declared and claimed action of States is sometimes disproportionate in terms of costs, reputation, diplomatic and financial impacts, while so-called “indirect” strategies are insufficiently meaningful. . Suddenly, not having the “intermediary” capacities to invest these areas, we are often in a binary logic of “all or nothing”, and, often, it is nothing that wins and leaves the field open to our competitors. We must overcome the paradox between the performance without ethics reproached to Wagner and the ethics without performance in which we drape ourselves.
It is in this context that we must evoke the question of Wagner. In fact, Wagner looks like the Great Companies of the late Middle Ages, to be mistaken: mercenaries under the orders of the highest bidder – there, obviously, it is Moscow – and living by the looting of populations or countries crossed. . Moreover, without being able to attribute formal responsibility to Wagner, the horrors and abuses that we discover in the wake of this gang in the Central African Republic have nothing to envy to those practiced by the Flayers of the time. past: 20 civilians murdered in the enclosure of the Bambari mosque in February 2021, a body dismembered and burned in Kaga-Bandoro in May and the arrest of 9 civilians tortured and killed with bayonets in September. I will stop this macabre litany there, but no less than 200 abuses have been recorded since December 2020. Moreover, the United Nations have expressed their concern about Wagner’s actions, while the NGO The Sentry accused her of war crimes.
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“With the irruption of Wagner in Mali, we are witnessing the appearance of a kind of Wild West in international relations”