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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin May have Decided to Mobilize to Avoid Threats from the Rise of Private Military Companies

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 25 – Less than a week before Vladimir Putin announced his partial mobilization to fill the ranks of the Russian army in Ukraine, Moscow analyst Mikhail Pozharsky suggested one reason that the Kremlin leader might decide to so now: concern about the political implications of private military formations for his own political future.

            As the Russian analyst points out, at least since Max Weber, it has been common ground that the state having a monopoly on the legitimate use of force is part of what defines modernity. Most governments seek to maintain that monopoly as long as they are can lest these forces turn on them (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=6324036D25933&section_id=50A6C962A3D7C).

            In most cases, in fact, Pozharsky says, states who do turn to the widespread use of private military companies at home or abroad do so either because they want to remain covert or because they are too weak to maintain the monopoly of force modern countries do. When maintaining cover isn’t the goal, then the use of such forces is a sign of weakness.

            Intriguingly, Ukraine in 2012-2014 offered Moscow an object lesson on just how dangerous it can be if a government relies to heavily on private military formations rather than on regular army ones. And even though Putin has launched a broad attack on modernity, he cannot be insensitive to the implications of the rise of such forces.

            When he has wanted to use force covertly, of course, Putin has been quite prepared to use such units. But since February 24, the dangers of such units have become more obvious, not only in the increasingly independent actions of some units but their de facto multiplication by creating  regionally based battalions.

            With his declaration of a partial mobilization then, the Kremlin leader has signaled not only that he will do whatever it takes to gain victories in Ukraine but also that he is increasingly skeptical about the formation of units who whatever their declared intent may come to stand outside the chain of command.

Window on Eurasia — New Series

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