Russian and Chinese Influence Growing in Africa

Russian and Chinese Influence Growing in Africa

Moscow and Beijing are ramping up their policial, economic, social, and military presence in Africa, and the Trump Administration is worried.

National Security Advisor John Bolton, as well as the current and former heads of the U.S. Africa Command, all stated that Russia and China have already made significant inroads in about a dozen African countries. Additionally, 39 of Africa’s 54 countries have signed on to China’s ambitious, trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. This plan would link vast swaths of Africa, the Middle East, and Eurasia with a network of roads, pipelines, and railroads. Beijing and Moscow have also increased cultural exchange initiatives, boosted trade with Africa, and sold guns to African governments.

The Central African Republic is one of the biggest hotspots on the continent. Former head of U.S. Africa Command, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser testified before Congress that “a Russian civilian” is now that nation’s National Security Advisor. “The President also promised the armed forces would be deployed nationwide to return peace to the country by forces likely trained, equipped, and in some cases, accompanied by Russian military contractors. Russia’s ability to import harsh security practices, in a region already marred by threats to security, while systematically extracting minerals, is concerning.” General Stephen Townsend, Waldhauser’s replacement, predicted that Chinese influence would exceed Russian influence by 2030.

First Scramble for Africa

In 1870, European powers like Great Britain, France, Belgium, and Spain controlled less than 10% of Africa. Many African countries had existed for hundreds or thousands of years. By 1914, these powers controlled 90% of the continent. Ethiopia, Liberia (which was basically an American protectorate) and Somalia (the Dervish State) were the only remaining independent nations.

Imperialism was widespread. At the 1884 Berlin Conference, European powers essentially carved up Africa among themselves, even though many parts of the continent were still independent at the time.

The completion of the Suez Canal in 1879 had much to do with the change. As far as Europeans were concerned, the waterway which connected the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea changed Africa from a place to be avoided into a place that needed to be subjugated. Additionally, European powers had surplus capital in the late 19th century. Investment in overseas colonies usually provided a generous return.

The inherent rivalry between the European powers may have contributed to the scramble for Africa more than anything else. For example, if the British moved into another part of the continent, their age-old rivals the French felt like they had to keep up with the Joneses.

In the early 20th century, a series of escalating crises built up to the explosion of World War I. These crises began in 1905, when German Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Tangiers in Morocco and urged the Moroccans to resist French incursions into their country.

As two modern great powers expand their influence in Africa, will the result be the same or different?

Second Scramble for Africa

The 19th century scramble for Africa was basically about political power. This latest scramble for Africa is more about economic power.

Many African countries, such as the Central African Republic, have significant natural resources and somewhat unstable governments. That combination is too tempting for powers like Russia and China to ignore. These nations feel like they can exert control over a country’s resources and not face much resistance from a disorganized or corrupt government.

These incursions often involve shadowy “partnerships.” For example, Russia or China might promise to improve a country’s infrastructure in exchange for mineral or other rights. No one knows if there are any side-agreements that the politicians do not want anyone else to discover.

These kinds of shadow wars are tailor made for private military contractors. Flexible and low-profile contractors can operate in ways that the U.S. military cannot.

Contractor Duties in Africa

During the Cold War, the United Nations often sent “peacekeeping” troops to global hot spots. These soldiers often enforced cease-fires and performed other such tasks. By UN mandate, they could not engage in any operations. They were a show of force.

This system came crashing down in Beirut in 1983. A truck packed with about 21,000 pounds of explosives crashed through a barrier and slammed into a U.S. Marine barracks, killing 307 people. A shadowy group calling itself Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the blast, but the actual culprit has never been identified.

A multinational operation in the Balkan Peninsula in the 1990s was much more successful. NATO forces stopped ongoing genocide and secured the historically unstable area. World War I began as a regional conflict in the Balkans.

U.S. private military contractors are something like the NATO forces in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Military contractors are more than a show of force. They train local soldiers, engage in intelligence-gathering, and serve in other capacities. Because of their wide-ranging mission, they are highly susceptible to serious injury. That is where the Defense Base Act comes in.

Injury Compensation Available

The Defense Base Act generally pays for economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages, which foreign military contractors incur because of a deployment-related injury or illness.

The process begins with a written notice of claim. It is very important to file a claim as soon as possible. Otherwise, the victim may lose important rights. If the claim turns out to be unnecessary or unwarranted, the victim can simply withdraw it. It is illegal for a current or future employer to discriminate against people who file DBA or other job injury claims.

A settlement conference usually happens a few weeks later. Most DBA claims settle out of court, but very few claims settle at this point. The mediator reviews the medical evidence in the file, but that is about it. There is no other evidence-gathering. Even more importantly, many victims do not have attorneys at this point in the process.

So, the matter often goes to an administrative law hearing before an administrative law judge. The ALJ hears legal arguments and reviews all the evidence in the case. A DBA attorney can make arguments, introduce evidence, and challenge evidence.

The DBA insurance company knows injury victims have a much better chance to obtain maximum compensation at this hearing. So, many claims settle before the administrative law hearing.

Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. for more information about DBA benefits.