The Rise of Russian PMCs – ‘Stealth’ Instrument for a ‘Sharp Power’

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Kiril Avramov


Information & Security: An International Journal (2018)


hybrid warfare, mercenaries, plausible deniability, private military companies, Russia, Syria


The reoccurring well-documented incidents involving personnel belonging to Russian private military companies (PMCs) in distant theaters, such as Syria and the Central African Republic, shed light and provide for additional understanding regarding the modus operandi of these ‘hybrid’ instruments of ‘plausible deniability’ frequently employed to supplement the global geopolitical ambitions of Kremlin. This article will argue that the recent ‘re-discovery’ of mercenary potential and its utility by the Russian political leadership stems from the results of initial experimentation with irregular private forces in the Balkan wars, later in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in augmenting regular forces on the ground and furthering political objectives, only to be exported as a tested working model in Syria and elsewhere. In essence, if the Balkan wars and Ukraine battlefields were initial testing grounds, then Syrian experimentation is the final experimentation with the model prior to its global export. The specificity of the regular armed forces and PMCs relational dynamics illustrates the very essence of the ‘hybrid’ nature of the Russian state where the grey zone between public policy and private endeavors remains blurred in search of global resurgence.
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