After dismissing earlier casualty reports as “classic disinformation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry now says that “several dozen” Russian and former Soviet Republic mercenaries were wounded or killed in a U.S.-led airstrike outside Deir ez-Zor. They now join the ranks of the thousands of American private military contractors killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.
The ministry stressed that the mercenaries, who were most likely employees of the shadowy Wagner Group, were not regular servicemembers and did not use Russian Army equipment. However, they did receive state-sponsored medical attention. Furthermore, these individuals came to Syria “of their own accord and for a variety of reasons” and “it is not the place of the foreign ministry to assess the legality and legitimacy of their decisions,” the ministry added. According to reports, since the current civil war began in 2012, about 300 Wagner Group mercenaries have fought for Russia in its effort to prop up Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
Per Russian law, the government cannot hire mercenaries and send them to war zones.
Over 3,000 private military contractors have been killed in the current Southwest Asian wars.
Private Military Contractors in Active War Zones
Like Russia, the United States has never signed a United Nations accord banning the use of mercenaries. Moscow’s motives are unknown, but Washington’s motives are clear. Although many people use the terms “mercenaries” and “private military contractors” interchangeably, there are some significant differences.
Mercenaries fight only for money, but contractors fight primarily for money. Admittedly, most contractors would not go overseas unless they were well paid. However, they would never dream of switching sides and fighting for ISIS or the Taliban if they received better offers. The Hessians, which the British used in the Revolutionary War, were classic examples of mercenaries. These German soldiers only fought for the money. They could not speak the language, cared nothing about British dominion over her colonies, and probably could not find North America on a map.
Scope of operations is another difference. Unlike contractors, mercenaries engage in both offensive and defensive operations. The Hessians may have occasionally stayed behind to guard the baggage while the Redcoats attacked, but that was not their only mission. If their commanders ordered them to assault American positions, they did so. In contrast, U.S. law prohibits military contractors from engaging in such operations; They only watch the baggage.
Many speculate that the Kremlin uses mercenaries because they keep official casualty figures and troop levels artificially low. Washington uses contractors for much the same purpose. Additionally, contractors are cheaper than regular service members. Their cash compensation is higher, but they receive no short or long-term benefits and their pay ends once their deployment ends.
American private military contractors are more than just cannon fodder. They check IDs at roadblocks, escort VIPs, protect supply convoys, and perform other important duties that free up servicemembers for offensive operations. Furthermore, they often have skills that military boot camps do not teach. This combination gives American field commanders much more flexibility. In fact, in 2017, Blackwater founder Erik Prince advised President Donald Trump to completely privatize the Afghanistan war, but the president left the generals in charge for now.
Private Contractors in Inactive War Zones
This header is a little inaccurate because war zones are never truly “inactive,” but it fits. So, here we go.
Once combat operations end, most regular servicemembers go home. The number of private contractors often increases, however, because these individuals take the lead in rebuilding efforts. Even though they may drive forklifts instead of tanks, they are still private contractors.
Just like their gun-wielding brethren, these individuals face significant risks. Stateside construction companies sometimes cut corners with regard to worker safety. This temptation is even stronger overseas, where government supervision is lax. In addition to a high potential for workplace accidents, overseas construction contractors also face dangers from sabotage, suicide attacks, and other violent incidents. These are things that construction workers in Minneapolis usually do not worry about, but they are a constant threat in Mosul.
Injury Compensation Available
Whatever the nature of their service, injured overseas contractors often face the same issues. After Army medics or other first responders do their best to stabilize injury victims, they usually receive treatment at rather crude field hospitals. Then, if necessary, they go to a larger facility in Germany or someplace else far from the battleground.
The Veterans Administration picks up the tab for regular servicemembers, but private contractors are on their own. Anyone who has had any contact with a hospital recently knows that such care is tremendously expensive.
With rare insight, U.S. lawmakers foresaw this problem way back in 1941. So, they passed the Defense Base Act. Injured contractors receive compensation for lost wages as well as for:
- Emergency care,
- Diagnostic tests
- Follow-up medical treatments,
- Subsequent doctor visits,
- Physical or occupational therapy,
- Medical devices,
- Prescription drugs, and
- Any other reasonable medical expenses.
Private contractors who are injured because of their service overseas while in a war zone are eligible for this compensation. The injury need not be directly related to their service and need not occur during working hours. An indirect connection usually suffices. Furthermore, a DBA “war zone” is any country that has at least one U.S. military base.
Additional compensation is available as well, including money for lost wages. To learn more, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A.