Staunton, October 23 – Yesterday, Just Russia Duma deputies tabled a draft bill that would allow private firms to create under license from the FSB their own military units, something that some Russian corporations have already done and that others appear to want to do and that could create new possibilities for deception and denial for Moscow.
According to the measure, such private firms could “provide military and guard services to the state, other companies or individual citizens, including foreign ones,” and assist Moscow in “the alternative resolution of military conflicts beyond the borders of the Russian Federation” (slon.ru/fast/russia/v-rossii-poyavyatsya-chastnye-voennye-kompanii-1174938.xhtml).
Although this bill was proposed by a nominally opposition party, the idea of creating such units enjoys support from within the pro-government United Russia Party. Last summer, Frants Klintsevich, a United Russia deputy who chairs the Duma defense committee, said he was working with the defense ministry on a similar measure.
Such privatization or outsourcing of military functions is already a major business around the world. According to the authors of the new bill, 110 countries already have some form of private militaries. Their activities a 350 billion US dollar business in which Russian firms would then have a chance to participate, backers of the plan say.
But there is a more worrisome aspect of this project if it goes forward: it could give Moscow yet another way to invade neighboring countries as it has in Ukraine with even greater plausible deniability, allowing Putin and Lavrov to say that such actions are the work of private firms and not the Russian government.
The willingness of some Western analysts and governments to accept such duplicity has been very much on display in the case of Ukraine. The former of nominally private Russian military units would only make it even easier for them to ignore reality in the future. Consequently, any formation of private armies in Russia must be watched with great care.