Wagner's leader now threatens a strategic region for Spain
The Wagner group, far from dissolving after its march on Russia, announces an additional effort in the African Sahel, where Spain maintains its troops deployed in various missions.
The reappearance of Yevgeny Prigozhin has a profound impact on Spanish interests. Because the leader of Wagner, the Russian contractors employed by Putin in the invasion of Ukraine, has announced new campaigns in the African Sahel, a strategic area for our country where Army and Air Force troops are deployed. The head of the mercenaries, after tightening the rope with the Kremlin with his military march to Moscow, assures that his efforts are now focused on «making Russia even bigger» in Africa.
«We are working,» warns Prigozhin in his address, who recursively — as he recorded in Ukraine- resorts to videos recorded in the first person to announce Wagner's next steps. The message, broadcast on pro-Russian channels, highlights the mercenaries' efforts to «make Russia even greater on all continents and Africa even freer.»
In this way, Prigozhin launches a message to recruit new mercenaries on the African continent, although there is no official confirmation of the country from which he was able to record the video. Various reports suggest that Wagner soldiers recruited in the Sahel would have participated in the war in Ukraine, although in this case the objective would be different: to reinforce the contractors in the region to combat the branches of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State that operate in the region.
It should be remembered that both terrorist organizations, through a changing dance of allegiances and strategic pacts with local groups, compete for influence in the Sahel. The fragility of State structures, together with other destabilizing factors — criminal organizations, warlord leadership, nationalism and mafias dedicated to human trafficking- facilitate the expansion of jihadist groups.
To all these factors of instability we must add Putin's movements through Wagner's mercenaries, projecting their interests in an area of strategic interest to Spain. Russia offers the services of the contractors to the local governments, which provide combatants and first-rate military means to combat the various threats that are shaking the region.
A policy that has managed to seduce several key countries, where there is a presence of European and Spanish troops. Among them, Mali, where nearly 300 members of the Army are supporting the European Union mission aimed at reinforcing the capabilities of the Malian army. This mission is currently frozen, without the development of the usual training exercises, although the military presence is maintained to avoid total ceding to Russian interests.
Thus, two different formulas for military deployment in the region are contrasted. On the one hand, the European Union plans various instruction and training missions for local armies, so that they are the ones who, in the long run, combat the various threats. From Brussels it is considered that this is the most appropriate formula to reap long-term success, delivering a hypothetical military victory to local forces instead of foreign forces, which implies a greater degree of social acceptance.
On the other, the short-termism of Russia, which offers its fighters and military means to participate directly in military offensives. Numerous reports denounce alleged overreach by its forces, implicating them in killings and human rights violations.
Wagner, however, has achieved its goal of becoming a strategic ally of various local governments. And Spain, which maintains military forces in Mali, Senegal, the Central African Republic, Somalia and Djibouti, watches with concern the advance of Putin's mercenaries.
Spain and the Sahel
The Defense Minister herself, Margarita Robles, already warned that «it is important to follow the evolution of events in Africa» after Yevgeny Prigozhin launched his mercenaries on Russia, in a military march that put Putin against the ropes after numerous Wagner's complaints about the lack of logistical support during the Ukrainian war.
The passage of time has cleared up the uncertainty: Wagner, far from becoming extinct, seeks to strengthen its presence in the Sahel. Experts do not hesitate to describe this region as Spain's «advanced border», both because of its physical proximity and its influence on national security, with an exponential increase in the terrorist threat and the consequent lack of control of illegal migratory flows.