19 Febr 2018 – Deniability and De-Escalation: Russia’s Use of Military Contractors in Proxy Wars

Russia’s use of private military contractors on the Syrian battlefield creates problems for the United States, lending the Kremlin a sense of deniability, and making it more difficult for Washington to determine an appropriate level of escalation when retaliating against incursions against U.S. and coalition troops by the Assad regime.

This problem reared its head last week when the U.S. reportedly conducted retaliatory strikes that killed Russian contractors near eastern Deir ez-Zour province. • Private military companies (PMCs) are conceptually different than private security companies hired for defensive asset and VIP protection and training. PMCs are expeditionary, offensively oriented private entities equipped with the mandate – whether official or not – to engage in combat that seeks to defeat or deter opponents and gain territory.

  • Unlike relying on proxies such as ragtag local militias or organized criminal groups in conflicts such as in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, Russian private military companies offer the promise of greater Kremlin control and combat effectiveness, all while sidestepping the potential domestic political backlash of Russian military casualties in far-off wars, all while hiding Moscow’s hand.

Read the full brief, featuring expert commentary by:

– David Shedd, former Acting Director of the DIA

– Michael Sulick, former Director of the CIA National Clandestine Service

– Maj. Gen. Volodymyr Havrylov, the Defense Attaché of Ukraine in the United States

– Michael Kofman, Research Scientist, CNA Corporation

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