Conflict Crisis Management Defense Industry Middle East Politics & Diplomacy Russia Security & Defense Ukraine
Podcast June 30, 2023

“What just happened?” The Wagner mutiny

By Alia Brahimi

In Season 1, Episode 4 of the Guns for Hire podcast, host Alia Brahimi speaks with renowned Russia expert Mark Galeotti about the striking developments which saw mutinous mercenary forces from the Wagner Group take over two Russian cities and march towards Moscow. Professor Galeotti argues that the rebellion is both a symptom and an accelerator of the decay of the Putin state and of systemic capacity to deal with crisis. He points out that the plot was not picked up in a timely manner precisely because the Wagner Group is a mercenary force operating outside of the purview of counterintelligence and the units that ordinarily monitor the loyalty of the military. He describes how the Wagner’s group shadow status was doubly corrosive: on the one hand it was a mercenary group engaging in organised armed violence for profit, and on the other hand it was enough of a state institution that it could tap into the resources of the state and play both sides.  

“It’s likely that this is the start of the real endgame… most crucially of all it was the spectacle of the security forces in the main not joining Wagner, but nor did they act to stop Wagner. They sat back and just thought, let’s see how this all plays out.”

Mark Galeotti, Professor and Russia expert

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About the podcast

The Guns for Hire podcast is a production of the Atlantic Council’s North Africa Initiative. Taking Libya as its starting point, it explores the causes and implications of the growing use of mercenaries in armed conflict.

The podcast features guests from many walks of life, from ethicists and historians to former mercenary fighters. It seeks to understand what the normalisation of contract warfare tells us about the world as we currently find it, but also about the future of the international system and about what war could look like in the coming decades.

Further reading

Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.

Image: A man speaks with fighters of Wagner private mercenary group deployed in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023. A sign on a tank reads: "Siberia". REUTERS/Stringer