A heavily armed Russian caterer named Prigozhin with a bunch of former jailbirds grandly known as ‘the Wagner Group’ has enthralled the media ever since these mercenaries got marginally involved in the stalemated Ukraine conflict.
The influence and fighting power of the Wagner Group were wildly exaggerated by media and Washington. Wagner is portrayed as a dire threat to the US control of the Mideast – which I call ‘the American Raj.
I used to know of real mercenaries in Africa and the Arab states. Tough, brutal men who knew how to fight, giants like Frenchman Bob Denard and wild and crazy ‘Mad’ Mike Hoare and his Brit cutthroats. These white mercenaries routed black African armies and murderous gangs and put the fear of the lord into tin pot dictators all over Africa.
The US made a great hue and cry over Russia’s rag tag mercenaries – many recently released from jail to go fight in Ukraine. The tame US media rarely mentioned that the US had sent up to 50,000 mercenaries to Iraq and Afghanistan. Or that the armies of Uganda, Kenya and Morocco have become US paid mercenaries in Africa.
Prigozhin gained a lot of publicity in Russia and abroad for openly criticizing the Kremlin. His complaints about lack of artillery ammunition and food for his men were aimed at the minister of defense, Sergei Shoigu, and military chief of staff Valery Gerasimov. It’s an old Russian tradition to criticize underlings when the boss is the real target,
Shoigu had no formal military experience. He was a yes-man like Egypt’s late defense minister Abdel Hakim Amer who was smoking pot in his airplane in 1967 while the Israelis were destroying his nation’s Soviet-supplied warplanes on the ground.
Why on earth does Russia need to use mercenaries? In 1945, the Red Army (plus navy and air force) numbered over 34 million men. The breakup of the Soviet Union took away manpower, but today Russia should still be able to field 2 million men. Yet it hires convicts and the unemployed to go fight in Ukraine.
What about the Red Army with its glorious tradition of military valor? Out of sight. It’s been my contention for the past years that President Putin has limited military operations in Ukraine due to limited geography and manpower.
One day, he likely reasons, Ukraine will rejoin the Russian federation. Don’t totally wreck this vital industrial region. The Russian military has been ordered to fight with one hand tied behind its back. Moscow fully believes that this is a US-run proxy war that is fraught with nuclear danger. If anyone is likely to use nuclear arms, it’s a Russian tactical nuclear strike on concentrations of US and NATO warplanes and heavy armor. The amateur war-makers of the Biden administration seem oblivious to this grave risk in good part due to election fever.
Russian history is filled with would-be usurpers and fake czars trying to seize power. Various Cossack groups always posed a threat. So, briefly, did the secret police under Lavrentiy Beria. Russians are well used to this behavior.
Not so Americans who are swamped by disinformation by their corporate media. Now, we observe the really curious spectacle of the murder of mercenary chief Prigozhin – who may have wanted to be king – while in the US former president Donald Trump is on trial for an attempted coup against the government he once led. Peru’s former president Fujimori called this process a ‘self-coup.’
The media, mostly ignorant of military affairs, focuses its attention on mercenaries and drones. The Biden White House keeps pouring money derived from borrowing into more weapons and supplies for Ukraine – which has become another Israel for the US taxpayers. Israel, by the way, has long been an important, if discreet, supporter of independent Ukraine while managing to maintain cordial relations with Moscow.
The late head of French intelligence, the SDECE, Count Alexandre de Marenches, told me how his agents had planted an altitude-fused bomb on board Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s aircraft. After relations between Tripoli and Paris improved and they made a deal over French-protectorate Chad, de Marenches was ordered to cancel the hit. ‘If you think getting a bomb aboard Gaddafi’s jet was difficult, imagine how hard it was for us to get the bomb off’ de Marenches told me.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2023