An interesting subplot of the Russian invasion and subsequent war in Ukraine has been the rush of fighters from other countries to join the Ukrainian foreign legion and to fight as legionnaires on behalf of the Ukrainian government. The phenomenon of legionnaires is an interesting one that crops up all throughout history yet has remained relatively understudied. What role do legionnaires play in conflicts? How does their impact differ from that of typical soldiers? How can we distinguish them from contractors or mercenaries or other categories of fighters? And what can legionnaires tell us about the ways that states like to conduct international affairs and international conflict?
To talk through these issues, Jacob Schulz spoke with Elizabeth Grasmeder, a researcher and author of an international security article entitled “Leaning on Legionnaires: Why Modern States Recruit Foreign Soldiers.” They talked about the historical practice of use of legionnaires and what it can reveal about conflicts today.