Wagner Group fighters were in Ukraine several weeks before the Russian Bear invaded the country, ostensibly to prevent genocide and support two breakaway republics.
As part of the groundwork for the Russian Army, about 400 Wagner Group mercenaries were reportedly to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, and about two dozen other high government officials. To help its forces blunt a very aggressive Russian onslaught, several European countries, including The Netherlands and Germany, are supplying weapons to Ukraine. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point. It is our duty to do our best to support Ukraine in defending itself against Putin’s invading army.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz remarked.
Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the invasion. But the body’s general Assembly is poised to issue a similarly-worded statement.
Russian Use of Mercenaries
The pretext war is a familiar concept in the annals of Russian and Soviet history. The Soviet Union was on both sides of pretext wars in a 40-year period during the late 1900s.
In June 1941, during World War II, Nazi invaders told people in Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, and other non-Russian republics of the old Soviet Union that they were not there to take away their property or liberty, but they were just there to expel Josef Stalin. That ruse worked for a few weeks. But then, Nazi intentions became clear.
Four decades later, invading Soviet forces used much the same line in Afghanistan. During Christmas 1979, the Red Army insisted that it invaded the country to shore up a shaky, pro-Soviet government. But after a few weeks of intense combat, no one believed that line.
In sum, pretext wars are shady, to say the least. Therefore, Russia used mercenaries to lay the groundwork in Ukraine. Mercenaries mean deniability. Technically, the Wagner Group is completely independent from the Russian military. But there are too many connections between the Kremilin and the Wagner Group, which was started by Dmitriy Valeryevich Utkin, a well-known Russian militarist and neo-Nazi, to ignore. These connections include a close association with KGB successor the Federal Security Service
Furthermore, in most countries, mercenaries mean no oversight. Since they are not technically part of the military structure, they are immune from military discipline. As for civil justice, in most countries, activities which take place across international borders are beyond a court’s jurisdiction.
Russia uses mercenaries for other purposes as well. Most notably, the Wagner Group props up Kremlin-friendly governments in Southwest Asia, Africa, South America, and elsewhere. These fighters also destabilize Kremlin-unfriendly governments around the world.
American Use of Private Military Contractors
There are no “mercenaries” in America. There are only private military contractors. The difference between these two groups is not just semantics. Instead, private contractors are basically the office temps of the DoD.
Most of us have either worked as office temps or been temps ourselves. In general, office temps earn a lot more money than regular workers, mostly because they have no job security and no benefits. Furthermore, they typically get the worst assignments.
Private military contractors have fewer responsibilities than regular servicemembers. However, they often earn two or three times what their servicemember colleagues earn. Nevertheless, in the long run, contractors are much cheaper for the government. Once their service contracts end, the government has no further financial responsibilities. The Defense Base Act, which is a government disability benefits program, is funded by private insurance companies.
As for their assignments, some contractors work in Germany, Italy, and other relatively stable regions. But most contractors are deployed in places like Iraq, Syria, Korea, and other hotspots or potential hotspots.
So, contractors save money and keep American servicemembers out of harm’s way. Pretty much everyone should be on board with these advantages.
But we are not finished yet. Contractors are also subject to U.S. laws. Contractors are also pragmatically subject to these laws. Corporate structure is quite transparent, and pretty much anyone can sue a private military contractor for any reason.
Combat is dangerous. Non-combat operations, like reconstruction projects, are equally as dangerous. These dangers include trauma injuries and occupational diseases.
Trauma injuries include falls and gunshot wounds. Defense Base Act benefits usually apply in these cases. The victim’s job responsibilities do not matter. It also does not matter if the victim was on or off the clock, at least in most cases.
Extent of damages is usually the biggest issue in trauma injury DBA claims. Legally, these victims are entitled to compensation for their medical bills and lost wages. DBA insurance companies often dispute the amount of compensation. Usually, insurance companies use boilerplate standards to determine economic losses.
For example, if Emilio breaks his foot, as far as the insurance company is concerned, he might be entitled to $1000 in medical bills and three weeks off work. But Emilio has a pre-existing medical condition. He needs more aggressive medical treatment. That means a higher bill. That could also mean more physical therapy sessions and a longer off-work recovery period.
Despite what TV commercials may imply, insurance companies care nothing about people like Emilio. They only care about their profits. So, their lawyers look for ways to reduce or deny compensation to trauma injury victims.
Occupational disease claims include toxic exposure illnesses, repetitive stress injuries, and hearing loss. Responsibility for injury is usually the most controversial issue in these claims.
Let’s change the facts of this example. Assume Emilio was a contractor at a large overseas Air Force base. Since he did not work on the runway, he did not wear earplugs or other hearing protection devices. But he heard the noise of jet engines all day long. Over time, that excessive noise affected his hearing.
Emilio also played in a rock band nights and weekends. The insurance company might claim that the loud music, as opposed, the loud jets, substantially caused his hearing loss.
These two areas often overlap. Many insurance companies also devalue occupational disease claims. Hearing loss is a good illustration. This problem is not just physical. There is emotional damage as well. If Emilio cannot follow conversations well, especially in noisy environments, he might withdraw socially.
DBA lawyers advocate for victims in these situations. If the victim does not have an attorney, the insurance company sets the rules. If the victim has legal representation, that levels the playing field.
To learn more about DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.