Russia’s Corporate Soldiers: The Global Expansion of Russia’s Private Military Companies

This report examines Russia’s growing use of private military companies (PMCs) to increase its influence through irregular means. In recent years, Moscow has expanded its overseas use of PMCs to countries such as Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, and Mozambique. Many of the PMCs operating in these countries, such as the Wagner Group, frequently cooperate with the Russian government—including the Kremlin, Ministry of Defense (particularly the Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU), Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and Federal Security Service (FSB)—and perform a variety of combat, paramilitary, security, and intelligence tasks. However, many of these PMCs have a poor track record—including operational failures and human rights abuses—and there are opportunities to exploit PMC vulnerabilities. Although Russian PMCs present only one of a variety of national security threats and challenges facing the United States, this report assesses that they warrant a more substantive and coordinated response from the United States and its partners.

This report is made possible by generous support from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation and other sources.

Seth G. Jones
Senior Vice President; Harold Brown Chair; and Director, International Security Program
Catrina Doxsee
Fellow, Warfare, Irregular Threats, and Terrorism Program

Brian Katz

Former Fellow, International Security Program; Transnational Threats Project

Eric McQueen

Former Military Fellow, International Security Program

Joe Moye

Former Military Fellow, International Security Program