World News: Russia’s Paramilitary Wagner Group Blackmails Europe

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The announcement of the withdrawal of French forces from Mali as part of Operation Barkhane paves the way for the progress of the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary entity, quick to assume the costume of bulwark against Sahelian terrorism.

Much to the chagrin of the Europeans? If the next few weeks, probably the next few days, should, with caution, see the Russian forces stationed near the Ukrainian border return to their original bases, this withdrawal would not mark the end of Russian influence and pressure.

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Aware of the strategic stakes in Eastern Europe, hence the current situation, Vladimir Putin also knows that the diplomatic game aimed at giving Russia the place in the concert of nationals who consider it right is not limited to the presence of military forces on the European continent alone but on other continents. Established for several months in West Africa, usually France's area of influence, the Wagner force, co-assembled by Russian soldiers officially detached from Moscow, tends to establish itself as the security recourse sought by some countries in the zone, in particular Mali.

Shaken in 2020 and 2021 by two coups d'état that put in power a militaria junta with little help with the French forces of Operation Barkhane initiated in 2013 by François Hollande and then relayed by the Takuba force created in 2020 by Emmanuel Macron, Mali is now openly seeking to get rid of the presence of the former colonizing power that was considered cumbersome and sources of evil.

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Competitor and Omnipresence

This position, which precipitated and recorded the end of Operation Barkhane, is not to displease Moscow, which thus finds itself implanted in a sensitive country and region with no real competitor. The opportunity to establish Russia's reputation as a bulwark against the jihadist terrorism that plagues the Sahel could therefore be seized without a blow by a Russia to happy to play a tacit diplomatic role within a continent gradually placed under the rule of Beijing.

In this three-band billiard game where Russia, China and France compete in speckled foils for control of the Sahel but for different reasons, the question of influence remains central.

If Russia, through the Wagner force, seeks to extend Russia's aura in Africa in order to give Moscow a heavier diplomatic weight on the international scene, China is increasing its presence there for essentially economic purposes, which are also underlying diplomatic motives. As for France, the reasons for its presence in Mali and the Sahel in general were primarily related to the fight against the Islamist terrorist threat, as the area is known to be home to many individuals with malicious intentions.

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Thus, by moving some troops stationed on the banks of the Ukrainian border, Vladimir Putin gives pledges of goodwill in the European theater while regaining space and influence on other minefield, here Mali.

Inspired Ruler and Hydra of Lerna

By placing himself at the center of the global diplomatic game, shifting the center of gravity of the Washington/Beijing axis to Moscow, by activating himself on peripheral areas with strategic stakes, Vladimir Putin seeks to present himself as an inspired and conciliatory leader by loosening the Ukrainian vice while assuming the role of bulwark against the Sahelian terrorist.

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What takes on all aspects of a tactical maneuver on a massive scale can also be analyzed through the prism of the happy circumstance: understanding that the Ukrainian quagmire had more risks than benefits, Vladimir Putin may have opted for another diplomatic partition to play articulated around of Africa, less geographically exposed for Russia.

One certainty seems to be imposed today: the man of the Kremlin, just as vilified, hated or hated as he is, ultimately proves to be a formidable diplomatic adversary, the veritable Hydra of Lerna, whom nothing leaves tremble when it comes to giving Russia the place that the latter intends to attribute to it.


Bio: Olivier Longhi has extensive experience in European history. A seasoned journalist with fifteen years of experience, he is currently professor of history and geography in the Toulouse region of France. He has held a variety of publishing positions, including Head of Agency and Chief of Publishing. A journalist, recognized blogger, editor, and editorial project manager, he has trained and managed editorial teams, worked as a journalist for various local radio stations, a press and publishing consultant, and a communications consultant.

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