January 17, 2024

New CNAS Report: “Potential Russian Uses of Paramilitaries in Eurasia”

Washington, January 17, 2024 — Today, the Center for a New American Security released a new report, Potential Russian Uses of Paramilitaries in Eurasia by Dr. Kimberly Marten, Dr. Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Carisa Nietsche, Nicholas Lokker, and Kristen Taylor.

The report argues that while much remains uncertain following the June 2023 mutiny of Russia’s Wagner Group and the death of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in August 2023, Russia will likely continue to work with semi-state armed formations. Russia’s degraded military capacity and constrained economic resources, especially as sanctions persist, will increase the attractiveness of these organizations as low-cost tools for advancing Russian objectives and competing against the West.

The report highlights how the Kremlin could use these groups to advance its interests in Eurasia, including by waging political influence and disinformation campaigns, physically protecting friendly governments, sustaining Russia’s influence as a key security provider, destabilizing unfriendly governments, and limiting any threats that Russia’s diaspora population might pose to the stability of the Putin regime from abroad.

The report concludes by identifying implications for the United States and its allies. The proliferation and increased activity of these groups would make it more difficult for the United States and its allies to attribute such actions to the Kremlin, complicating Western response options. These groups—and the opportunistic individuals who lead them—could, for example, stake out positions independent of the Kremlin, or even at odds with it, especially in the case of extreme ethnic nationalists who have criticized Putin for not going far enough in his actions. The proliferation of these groups would also make it difficult to discern when and under what circumstances the Kremlin might be willing to escalate on these groups’ behalf.

For more information or to schedule an interview with the report authors, please contact Alexa Whaley at awhaley@cnas.org.

Transatlantic Security

Potential Russian Uses of Paramilitaries in Eurasia

Executive Summary While much remains uncertain following the June 2023 mutiny of Russia’s Wagner Group and the August death of its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russia will likel...

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Authors

  • Kimberly Marten

    Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

    Dr. Kimberly Marten is a professor of political science at Barnard College, Columbia University, and a contributing author at CNAS. She is a faculty member and executive commi...

  • Andrea Kendall-Taylor

    Senior Fellow and Director, Transatlantic Security Program

    Andrea Kendall-Taylor is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Transatlantic Security Program at CNAS. She works on national security challenges facing the United States and Eur...

  • Carisa Nietsche

    Associate Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    Carisa Nietsche is an Associate Fellow for the Transatlantic Security Program at CNAS. She specializes in Europe-China relations, transatlantic technology policy, and threats ...

  • Nicholas Lokker

    Research Associate, Transatlantic Security Program

    Nicholas Lokker is a Research Associate for the Transatlantic Security Program at CNAS. His work explores the development of the political and security order in Europe, focusi...

  • Kristen Taylor

    Former Intern, Transatlantic Security Program

    Kristen Taylor is a former Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Intern for the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Before joining CNAS, Kristen hel...