While some Private Military Companies (PMCs) serve authoritarian governments, these actors are not representative of the global industry. PMCs whose structure, leadership, and culture increase accountability can provide benefits to states consistent with international law.
With Wagner’s expanding activities in Africa, and a failed mutiny attempt in Russia, PMCs have been back in the news with a familiar focus on the industry’s disastrous effects on global stability and human rights. This frame was first widely adapted with reports of American contractors from Blackwater firing at an intersection in Baghdad in 2007 and killing over a dozen of civilians. Subsequent investigations from the US government exposed the industry’s fraudulent activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. These frames, however, lead to oversimplifications of the industry and risks undermining scholarly and data-driven efforts of the past 10 years to move away from an almost exclusive focus on threats posed by such non-state actors.
Radziszewski, Elizabeth. 2023. “Private Military Companies: Lessons from Wagner.” Australian Outlook. Deakin, Australia: Australian Institute of International Affairs.