On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 25, the head of Russian diplomacy called for distinguishing interstate cooperation between Moscow and Bamako from matters linking Mali to private Russian companies.
The prospect of cooperation between the Russian private company Wagner and the Malian authorities has made France and several other European countries react strongly in recent days, visibly panicked at the idea of sharing their military counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel with other forces. foreigners.
While these chanceries willingly put the Russian government and Wagner in the same bag, the Russian Foreign Minister wanted to dot the “i” during a press conference on the sidelines of the General Assembly des Nations, this September 25 in New York. While being questioned on European concerns on this subject by RT journalist Caleb Maupin, Sergey Lavrov first recalled the context in which they took place: “The Malian transitional authorities clearly underline their attachment to the obligations international organizations and, moreover, fight against terrorism. They turned to a private Russian military company given that, if I understand correctly, France wants to considerably reduce its military contingent which was deployed there and which was supposed to […] fight terrorists [au Mali]”.
Thus, noting this decline in French military support and considering their own forces too limited, the Malian authorities turned to a Russian private security company, the head of Russian diplomacy noted. “We have nothing to do with that”, insisted Sergey Lavrov, before clarifying his point: “This activity is carried out in a legal manner and concerns the relations between the party which [embauche des spécialistes] – it is a legitimate government, recognized by all as a legitimate transitional structure – on the one hand, and those who offer the services of specialists abroad ”.
These relations between Bamako and a private actor are therefore different from those maintained by the authorities of Russia and Mali, which Sergey Lavrov explained during the same press conference: “We [les autorités russes] let us make our contribution – through state approaches and not private companies – with regard to Mali’s defensive capacity, its combat readiness to eradicate terrorist and other threats. We deliver military-technical production as aid from our part in Mali. And within the framework of the Security Council, of course, we participate in the development of optimal approaches for the continuation of the peacekeeping efforts. ”
These interstate security efforts are part of a larger Russian-Malian cooperation, which the Russian foreign minister and his Malian counterpart, Abdoulaye Diop, had already praised on September 24, during a meeting between the two men in New York. .
The prospect of a partnership between Bamako and Wagner frightens European chancelleries
On September 24, defense officials from 13 European Union countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain, asserted that a possible involvement of the security group private Wagner in Mali would be unacceptable. Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, host of a meeting between these states on the “European Intervention Initiative”, insisted: “We want to send a clear message: we are not ready to accept the entry of the Wagner group on the Malian theater. ”
The same day, the head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian had questioned Sergey Lavrov on the same subject: “On Mali, the minister alerted his Russian counterpart to the serious consequences of the Wagner group’s involvement in this country. “, Had thus indicated the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the day after an interview in New York between the two officials.
During his press conference on September 25, Sergei Lavrov condemned the European tendency to worry about the arrival of new foreign actors on the Malian security ground: “To say: ‘I was here first and you must leave eyes “, first of all it is humiliating for the government of Bamako which invited foreign partners, and secondly, it is not like that that one should speak”, denounced the head of the Russian diplomacy, adding that the European Union and Moscow would do better to coordinate their efforts in the fight against terrorism, in Mali and throughout the Sahel region.
Western confusion between Wagner and Moscow
The panicked reaction of France and other European countries to the potential cooperation between Wagner and Mali must be analyzed in the light of one element: the confusion, in the discourse of Western chancelleries, between this private Russian company and the Russian government. AFP thus recalls that Wagner “is accused, in particular by France, of acting on behalf of the Kremlin where he does not want to appear too officially”.
This confusion exasperates Moscow, which has always denied any link with the famous private security company.
This trait of equality between a private company and Moscow, which permeates the discourse of Westerners, is all the more significant as it seems exclusive to Russia. Paris does not seem to be worried, for example, about the involvement of the American company BlackWater, which is nevertheless one of the private security companies whose actions regularly cause controversy, all over the world. Last December, for example, BlackWater hit the headlines after US President Donald Trump pardoned four of his employees, who were sentenced to prison for massacring 14 civilians including two children in Baghdad (Iraq) in 2007. .