Private Soldiers Are Increasingly Fighting Russia’s Battles in Syria and Beyond

Thousands of Russian private military contractors are reportedly fighting in Syria, and there are increasing reports about such contractors being killed in action. Despite a Russian ban on the use of mercenaries, Moscow has turned to private military contractors as part of its assertive foreign policy. In an email interview, Michael Kofman, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, discusses Russia’s use of contractors in Syria, and the risks and opportunities they pose for the Kremlin.

WPR: Russia is reportedly using private military contractors in Syria. How do such contractors figure into Russia’s general operational approach, and how does that differ from the way the U.S., for instance, uses military contractors?

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