March 18, 2022

The Soufan Center Webinar: “Foreign Fighters, Volunteers, & Mercenaries: Parsing Non-State Actors in the Ukraine-Russia Conflict”

On March 29, 2022, The Soufan Center hosted a webinar entitled, “Foreign Fighters, Volunteers, & Mercenaries: Parsing Non-State Actors in the Ukraine-Russia Conflict.” In response to rapidly evolving dynamics in Russia’s war with Ukraine, this webinar explored the complex challenges posed by the increasing number of non-state actors engaging in the conflict, to include foreign fighters, volunteers, and mercenaries. Beyond many volunteers’ moral and humanitarian rationales for engagement, several legal and practical issues – such as conduct of war and eventual return of combatants – may arise. States should prepare their citizens who may be traveling to Ukraine while also considering long-term implications on their return. The involvement of private military contractors, such as the Wagner Group, and the potential for further proxy actors muddies the waters, and only heightens the human security risks on the ground.

Speakers included:

  • Dr. Daniel Byman, Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and Professor in the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service’s Security Studies Program;
  • Dr. Vera Mironova, Reporting from Ukraine, Visiting Research Fellow at Harvard University, and Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute;
  • Ms. Naureen Chowdhury Fink, Executive Director of The Soufan Center;
  • Ms. Stephanie Foggett, Resident Fellow, The Soufan Center; and
  • Dr. Colin P. Clarke, Senior Research Fellow at The Soufan Center, as moderator.

Relevant TSC Commentary:

TSC Special Report, “Foreign Fighters, Volunteers, and Mercenaries: Non-State Actors and Narratives in Ukraine” LINK
Politico op-ed: “Foreign Fighters Are Heading to Ukraine. That’s A Moment for Worry” LINK
CNN op-ed: “Putin is calling in favors from Syria and Africa. It’s a dangerous move.” LINK
War on the Rocks op-ed: “”How Are Putin’s Far-Right Fans in the West Reacting to His War?” LINK
Defense One op-ed: “How Russia’s War in Ukraine will Accelerate U.S.-China Competition” LINK