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Russia to legalize private military contractors to get a leg up in Africa

Moscow may take a page out of the Washington defense establishment’s playbook to get in on the new race for Africa

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(OrientalReview) – The upcoming draft proposal to legalize private military companies (PMCs, a.k.a. “mercenaries”) in Russia could give the country a competitive edge over its rivals by helping it carve out a valuable and much-demanded niche as a reliable security provider, thus enabling it to later leverage its strategic advantage to reap energy, mineral, economic, and other “rewards” in incentivizing the Kremlin to undertake a full-on “Pivot to Africa”.

RT reported that Russian parliamentarians are going to submit a draft proposal in the coming weeks to legalize the “mercenary” industry, which is officially referred to as “private military companies” (PMCs), with the outlet arguing that this step is long overdue and would simply amount to Russia keeping pace with other Great Powers. That said, it’s bound to generate considerable international attention if it passes owing to the Mainstream Media’s War on Russia, with conspiratorial accusations likely emerging in its wake in an attempt to pin the blame for all levels of global unrest from Afghanistan to Africa on the shoulders of Russian “mercenaries”. Accepting that there will likely be a flood of negative and mostly inaccurate reporting surrounding this topic, it’s much more worthwhile to concentrate on the “positive” aspects of what the legislative proposal could entail in the long term for Russia’s grand strategy.

Making Sense Of Mercenaries

The first thing that needs to be done is for the reader to abandon what might be their preexisting moral aversion to “mercenaries” and recognize that this element of “plausibly deniable” force projection by states is now part and parcel of today’s world, for better or for worse. The PMC industry has long been used by governments to indirectly exert influence in “sensitive” regions or contexts, relying on the fact that it’s ultimately a “private” company doing the work in order to eschew responsibility for the fighters’ actions if something “goes wrong”, like what infamously occurred with Blackwater in 2007 during the American occupation of Iraq. In addition, governments don’t have an obligation to publicly report on PMC casualties, so contracting their services means that they can keep the “official” casualty count low in order to avoid inciting public opposition to the given operation at home. That, however, is only relevant insofar as the respective campaign is common knowledge, which sometimes isn’t the case.

Other than amplifying the combat capabilities of openly deployed military forces in a conflict theater, PMCs also serve a very valuable role in having the said armed forces indirectly partake in missions abroad that haven’t been officially declared, whether through the media or even to the country’s own citizens per whatever its legal procedures may be. This “work flow” is possible because many “mercenaries” are former members of the state’s military, some of whom still retain contact with this body and could conceivably coordinate with it, as has often been suspected is the case. Not only that, but former intelligence agents and other “deep state” operatives are sometimes employed in this industry as well, thus making it an unofficial extension of a country’s power apparatus if “properly” applied. Taken together, the abovementioned two main qualities of PMCs make them desirable assets for all Great Powers, which explains why Russia is finally stepping up to the plate to wield this tool of national power.

The African Angle

There had previously been reports of Russian “mercenaries” in Syria even before the country officially began its 2015 anti-terrorist intervention there, and similar claims have recently popped up in Bosnia and might even be outright invented for Afghanistan in the future in order to concoct a “politically convenient” fake news narrative there, but the most pertinent of which to focus on in the course of this article is what Stratfor recently said about the African angle of this topic. The private intelligence firm alleged that the Kremlin dispatched the “Wagner Group” to Sudan and the Central African Republic, and while this assertion can’t be independently verified, it would indeed have a certain logic to it, especially in light of Russia’s latest strategic interactions with these countries.

To brief readers who might not have been keeping an eye on Russian-African relations, Russia was invited by Sudan to establish a military base on the Red Sea, and the country also successfully lobbied the UNSC to partially lift its arms embargo on the Central African Republic so as to facilitate Moscow’s arms transfers to this war-torn country. The author wrote about both of these developments last month in two articles titled “Here’s Why Russia Might Set Up A Red Sea Base In Sudan” and “Why Does Russia Want To Sell Arms To The Central African Republic?”, which can concisely be summarized as Russia’s desire to establish a strategic presence in the indispensable country along China’s African Silk Road and to lay the security groundwork for later “balancing” continental affairs through future involvement in various peace processes, respectively.

Having these objectives in mind, it makes perfect sense why Russia might have actually dispatched “mercenaries” to those two African states in order to assist with those missions, but considering that PMCs might soon be legalized, regulated, and possibly even promoted within Russia, it’s very likely that this is just the first step in a larger “Pivot to Africa” that will be unfolding in the coming years, and one which desires much more tangible dividends than those already mentioned.

Reaping The “Rewards”

Russian servicemen did an astounding job defeating Daesh in Syria, and their newfound global renown could understandably make them highly sought-after “mercenary” assets all across the world, and especially in the conflict-strewn and volatile regions of resource-rich Africa. While establishing a strategic presence in part of the continent and playing a role in conflict resolution processes are both very important, they don’t in and of themselves bring any physical “rewards” for Russia, which is why this multipolar Great Power will probably also leverage its PMC appeal for more “earthly” gains, perhaps quite literally.

In particular, Russia might reach an agreement with its trusted Chinese global partner to protect the Silk Roads – especially those in Africa – in exchange for lucrative commercial contracts along it, which could in many cases result in energy or mining deals that eventually lead to a further and more robust Russian presence in the continent. Moscow, after all, would be fulfilling a vital function for Beijing by “informally” flexing its military muscles in the most Hybrid War-prone part of the world. It might sound condescending that Russia would work through China in clinching African deals instead of the host states themselves, but it’s already the case that Beijing controls a sizeable amount of the continent’s extractive industries and is therefore the most logical actor for Moscow to engage with on this front.

Even so, Russia doesn’t want to be China’s “junior partner” in Africa forever, especially since it’s prospectively slated to assume a disproportionately important role in protecting its global paradigm-changing New Silk Road assets, which is why Moscow will probably roll out a comprehensive “mercenary”-led policy there in the near future following the expected legalization of the PMC industry. To explain, Russia is regarded as the most “neutral” Great Power interested in Africa, and to that end its “mercenary” services would already be in high demand in principle, not even accounting for the battle-tested value that its former servicemen could provide to any client.

Coupled with Russia’s toolkit of “military” and “balancing” diplomacy, PMCs could transport, guard, and possibly even employ Russian weaponry provided to conflict-plagued states in order to help their governments shape the battlefield situation to the point where international-(and Russian-) mediated political solutions can be considered, possibly even including the implementation of “Identity Federalism”. So long as Moscow takes the lead with each of these moves or is involved to an important extent, then Russia could quickly play the part of “Africa’s Guardian” in helping to safeguard peace and security there more reliably than any other country.

The ultimate “reward” for this service would be for the host governments themselves to favor Russian companies over Chinese ones in the dispensation of future contracts regardless of the sphere that they’re in, with an eye on eventually making Moscow one of their strategic partners in order to counterbalance any real or imagined fears of being “dominated” by Beijing. This win-win outcome would see Russia and China entering into a “friendly” and complementary multipolar competition with one another in Africa that would work out to every party’s benefit by diversifying their relationships and solidifying stability in the continent.

Concluding Thoughts

Russia is in the midst of a global Great Power resurgence that’s seeing it exert its influential reach into all corners of the world, which naturally includes Africa as well. However, it’s this continent where Russia’s sway is weakest following the strategic retreat that Moscow undertook in the last days of the Soviet era, and from which it has yet to fully recover. In the two and a half decades since, Russia has lagged far behind all of its competitors in Africa, meaning that the only hope for it to catch up is to unveil a totally new and ambitious vision that satisfies a valuable demand and can subsequently be leveraged for tangible “rewards”, hence the policy of using “mercenaries” to stabilize the situation in many resource-rich states and create the conditions for Russia to reap favorable contracts afterwards.

Unlike its American, French, or British counterparts, the Russian military and its PMC offshoots aren’t regarded as having any regional political interests that would “warrant” them partaking in destabilizing measures; to the contrary, Russia’s continental interests are entirely in securing Africa’s stabilization and therefore facilitating commercial, extractive, and public works contracts for its companies. This latter realpolitik motivation is much like China’s, though with the notable exception being that Beijing is unable to provide the level of indirect “mercenary” security assistance that Moscow can, thus increasing Russia’s appeal. On top of that, Russia already has extensive diplomatic experience in promoting a “fair” and “compromised” settlement to the War on Syria, something which sets it apart from all other Great Powers and adds value to its participation in resolving the continent’s crises.

African states are aware that their loyalty and resources are being contested by the West (mostly the US and France in this context) and China, and they’re eager to find a viable third partner in order to “balance” between the two and hopefully obtain the best benefits from each of them. India and Japan, which are teaming up to construct the “Asia-Africa Growth Corridor” (also known as the “Freedom Corridor”), can’t offer the hard infrastructure projects that China can and are mostly marketing their soft infrastructural development strategies (healthcare, schools, job training, etc.), which doesn’t differentiate them much from the competition and therefore disqualifies them as substantial “third partners”. Turkey, while having its own unique attractiveness primarily in its “Islamic Democracy” governing model and sizeable economic investments, doesn’t have any relevant security experience in Africa apart from Somalia and lacks the leading conflict resolution capacities that Russia has.

All of this leads to the conclusion that Russia is far better suited to play the role of African countries’ third “balancing” partner than any other state, and that these governments’ embrace of Moscow could actually come to embody a 21st-century iteration of the “Non-Aligned Movement” in their continent’s New Cold War context. Instead of being firmly in the Western or Chinese ‘camps’, these states could straddle the two by reaching out to Russia and having the unparalleled security and diplomatic assistance that it can offer to them aid in striking a manageable “middle ground”. This is even more poignant of a point when it comes to conflict-wreaked or Hybrid War-prone countries such as Sudan, the Central African Republic, and many others, as they more so than any of their African peers desperately need the security and diplomatic services that only Russia can provide, and Russia of course needs their partnership as the first step to comprehensively commencing its “Pivot to Africa”.

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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At Age 70, Time To Rethink NATO

The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


“Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.”

So said President Charles De Gaulle, who in 1966 ordered NATO to vacate its Paris headquarters and get out of France.

NATO this year celebrates a major birthday. The young girl of 1966 is no longer young. The alliance is 70 years old.

And under this aging NATO today, the U.S. is committed to treat an attack on any one of 28 nations from Estonia to Montenegro to Romania to Albania as an attack on the United States.

The time is ripe for a strategic review of these war guarantees to fight a nuclear-armed Russia in defense of countries across the length of Europe that few could find on a map.

Apparently, President Donald Trump, on trips to Europe, raised questions as to whether these war guarantees comport with vital U.S. interests and whether they could pass a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

The shock of our establishment that Trump even raised this issue in front of Europeans suggests that the establishment, frozen in the realities of yesterday, ought to be made to justify these sweeping war guarantees.

Celebrated as “the most successful alliance in history,” NATO has had two histories. Some of us can yet recall its beginnings.

In 1948, Soviet troops, occupying eastern Germany all the way to the Elbe and surrounding Berlin, imposed a blockade on the city.

The regime in Prague was overthrown in a Communist coup. Foreign minister Jan Masaryk fell, or was thrown, from a third-story window to his death. In 1949, Stalin exploded an atomic bomb.

As the U.S. Army had gone home after V-E Day, the U.S. formed a new alliance to protect the crucial European powers — West Germany, France, Britain, Italy. Twelve nations agreed that an attack on one would be treated as an attack on them all.

Cross the Elbe and you are at war with us, including the U.S. with its nuclear arsenal, Stalin was, in effect, told. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returned to Europe to send the message that America was serious.

Crucial to the alliance was the Yalta line dividing Europe agreed to by Stalin, FDR and Churchill at the 1945 Crimean summit on the Black Sea.

U.S. presidents, even when monstrous outrages were committed in Soviet-occupied Europe, did not cross this line into the Soviet sphere.

Truman did not send armored units up the highway to Berlin. He launched an airlift to break the Berlin blockade. Ike did not intervene to save the Hungarian rebels in 1956. JFK confined his rage at the building of the Berlin Wall to the rhetorical: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

LBJ did nothing to help the Czechs when, before the Democratic convention in 1968, Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact tank armies to crush the Prague Spring.

When the Solidarity movement of Lech Walesa was crushed in Gdansk, Reagan sent copy and printing machines. At the Berlin Wall in 1988, he called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Reagan never threatened to tear it down himself.

But beginning in 1989, the Wall was torn down, Germany was united, the Red Army went home, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the USSR broke apart into 15 nations, and Leninism expired in its birthplace.

As the threat that had led to NATO disappeared, many argued that the alliance created to deal with that threat should be allowed to fade away, and a free and prosperous Europe should now provide for its own defense.

It was not to be. The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

This, said Kennan, would “inflame the nationalistic and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion” and “restore the atmosphere of the cold war in East-West relations.” Kennan was proven right.

America is now burdened with the duty to defend Europe from the Atlantic to the Baltic, even as we face a far greater threat in China, with an economy and population 10 times that of Russia.

And we must do this with a defense budget that is not half the share of the federal budget or the GDP that Eisenhower and Kennedy had.

Trump is president today because the American people concluded that our foreign policy elite, with their endless interventions where no vital U.S. interest was imperiled, had bled and virtually bankrupted us, while kicking away all of the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Halfway into Trump’s term, the question is whether he is going to just talk about halting Cold War II with Russia, about demanding that Europe pay for its own defense, and about bringing the troops home — or whether he is going to act upon his convictions.

Our foreign policy establishment is determined to prevent Trump from carrying out his mandate. And if he means to carry out his agenda, he had best get on with it.

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Photos of new Iskander base near Ukrainian border creates media hype

But research into the photos and cross-checking of news reports reveals only the standard anti-Russian narrative that has gone on for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News obtained satellite photos that claim that Russia has recently installed new Iskander missile batteries, one of them “near” to the Ukrainian border. However, what the Fox article does not say is left for the reader to discover: that in regards to Ukraine, these missiles are probably not that significant, unless the missiles are much longer range than reported:

The intelligence report provided to Fox by Imagesat International showed the new deployment in Krasnodar, 270 miles from the Ukrainian border. In the images is visible what appears to be an Iskander compound, with a few bunkers and another compound of hangars. There is a second new installation that was discovered by satellite photos, but this one is much farther to the east, in the region relatively near to Ulan-Ude, a city relatively close to the Mongolian border.

Both Ukraine and Mongolia are nations that have good relations with the West, but Mongolia has good relations with both its immediate neighbors, Russia and China, and in fact participated with both countries in the massive Vostok-2018 military war-games earlier this year.

Fox News provided these photos of the Iskander emplacement near Krasnodar:

Imagesat International

Fox annotated this photo in this way:

Near the launcher, there is a transloader vehicle which enables quick reloading of the missiles into the launcher. One of the bunker’s door is open, and another reloading vehicle is seen exiting from it.

[Fox:] The Iskander ballistic missile has a range up to 310 miles, and can carry both unconventional as well as nuclear warheads, putting most of America’s NATO allies at risk. The second deployment is near the border with Mongolia, in Ulan-Ude in Sothern Russia, where there are four launchers and another reloading vehicle.

[Fox:] Earlier this week, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said authorities of the former Soviet republic are being “controlled” by the West, warning it stands to lose its independence and identity as a consequence. “The continuation of such policy by the Kiev authorities can contribute to the loss of Ukraine’s statehood,” Mr Patrushev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, according to Russian news agency TASS.

This situation was placed by Fox in context with the Kerch Strait incident, in which three Ukrainian vessels and twenty-four crew and soldiers were fired upon by Russian coast guard ships as they manuevered in the Kerch Strait without permission from Russian authorities based in Crimea. There are many indications that this incident was a deliberate attempt on the part of Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, to create a sensational incident, possibly to bolster his flagging re-election campaign. After the incident, the President blustered and set ten provinces in Ukraine under martial law for 30 days, insisting to the world, and especially to the United States, that Russia was “preparing to invade” his country.

Russia expressed no such sentiment in any way, but they are holding the soldiers until the end of January. However, on January 17th, a Moscow court extended the detention of eight of these captured Ukrainian sailors despite protests from Kyiv and Washington.

In addition to the tensions in Ukraine, the other significant point of disagreement between the Russian Federation and the US is the US’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Russia sees this treaty as extremely important, but the US point of view expressed by John Bolton, National Security Adviser, is that the treaty is useless because it does not include any other parties that have intermediate range nukes or the capability for them, such as Iran, North Korea, and China. This is an unsolved problem, and it is possible that the moves of the Iskander batteries is a subtle warning from the Russians that they really would rather the US stay in the treaty.

Discussions on this matter at public levels between the Russian government and the US have been very difficult because of the fierce anti-Russia and anti-Trump campaigns in the media and political establishments of the United States. President Putin and President Trump have both expressed the desire to meet, but complications like the Kerch Strait Incident conveniently arise, and have repeatedly disrupted the attempts for these two leaders to meet.

Where Fox News appears to get it wrong shows in a few places:

First, the known range for Iskander missiles maxes at about 310 miles. The placement of the battery near Krasnodar is 270 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border, but the eastern part of Ukraine is Russian-friendly and two provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk, are breakaway provinces acting as independent republics. The battery appears to be no threat to Kyiv or to that part of Ukraine which is aligned with the West. Although the missiles could reach into US ally Georgia, Krasnodar is 376 miles from Tbilisi, and so again it seems that there is no significant target for these missiles. (This is assuming the location given is accurate.)

Second, the location shown in the photo is (44,47,29.440N at 39,13,04.754E). The date on the “Krasnodar” photo is January 17, 2019. However, a photo of the region taken July 24, 2018 reveals a different layout. It takes a moment or two to study this, but there is not much of an exact match here:

Third, Fox News reported of “further Russian troops deployment and S-400 Surface to air missile days after the escalation started, hinting Russia might have orchestrated the naval incident.”

It may be true that Russia deployed weapons to this base area in Crimea, but this is now Russian territory. S-400s can be used offensively, but their primary purpose is defensive. Troops on the Crimean Peninsula, especially at this location far to the north of the area, are not in a position strategically to invade Kherson Oblast (a pushback would probably corner such forces on the Crimean peninsula with nowhere to go except the Black Sea). However, this does look like a possible defense installation should Ukraine’s forces try to invade or bomb Crimea.

Fox has this wrong, but it is no great surprise, because the American stance about Ukraine and Russia is similar – Russia can do no right, and Ukraine can do no wrong. Fox News is not monolithic on this point of view, of course, with anchors and journalists such as Tucker Carlson, who seem willing to acknowledge the US propaganda about the region. However, there are a lot of hawks as well. While photos in the articles about the S-400s and the Russian troops are accurately located, it does appear that the one about Iskanders is not, and that the folks behind this original article are guessing that the photos will not be questioned. After all, no one in the US knows where anything is in Russia and Ukraine, anyway, right?

That there is an issue here is likely. But is it appears that there is strong evidence that it is opposite what Fox reported here, it leaves much to be questioned.

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