Staunton, February 17 – The challenges private military companies like Russia’s Vagner group present to international security are about to get significantly worse because Russia’s partners in its Collective Security Treaty Organization are about to legalize these institutions setting the institutions setting the stage for more confusion about who’s responsible for what.
That is because it is entirely possible that Moscow could make use of such private military formations nominally under the control of its Security Treaty partners in foreign conflicts to further confuse the situation and give the Russian government additional possibilities for denying its involvement, perhaps especially in the case of firms from Belarus.
Moscow has been urging the legalization of such private military companies by its security treaty partners for some time. In March 2017, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of CIS Countries adopted model laws that all members could adopt (365info.kz/2018/02/poyavyatsya-li-v-stranah-odkb-svoi-soldaty-udachi/ and belaruspartisan.org/politic/416046/).
Then last fall at the inter-parliamentary hearings of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Yerevan, the issue was raised again, just before Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged that the Russian Duma adopt a law legalizing such groups so that their members would not be guilty of mercenary activity, banned in Russia and most other post-Soviet states.
The Yerevan meeting adopted a program specifying that such firms once legalized could be contracted with by government agencies, foreign governments on the basis of bilateral agreements, and international organizations, that they would be classed as non-combatants and that they would be banned from taking part in any conflict on one of the sides.
They would thus be restricted to serving abroad as guards of facilities, including oil production, exactly the arrangement that Moscow has insisted the Vagner forces were performing in Syria – even though Russia has not yet passed a law legalizing them as Lavrov proposed last month.