The New French Foreign Legion?

According to a Russian newspaper, the remnants of the Wagner Group, along with other Russian mercenaries, will merge to form the African Legion.

The report, published on Friday, cited two sources close to the Russian Ministry of Defense, who said that the African Legion will be activated in the summer of 2024 and will operate in five African countries: Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic and Niger.

Russia created the African Legion to replace the Wagner group, which faced legal and political challenges for its activities in Africa. Russia also had clear economic and strategic motives for its involvement in Africa, such as securing mineral resources, expanding its influence, undermining Western interests, and promoting authoritarianism. The African Legion is intended to be a more official and legitimate military force, directly subordinate to the Russian Ministry of Defense and cooperating with the African Union and regional organizations. However, the African Legion has also faced criticism and opposition from the international community and some African countries, who saw it as a threat to peace and security in the continent.

The African Legion will not be involved in direct combat operations but will act as a deterrent and a stabilizing force in conflict-ridden countries. The report also said that the African Legion will cooperate with the African Union and regional organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the G5 Sahel, to support peace and security initiatives in Africa.

The Original French Foreign Legion

This paramilitary group, which is legendary to many people, was formed in 1831 and still operates today. Injured Legionnaires may become French citizens under the Français par le sang versé (French by spilled blood) doctrine. Injury compensation for American private military contractors is considerably more generous. More on that below.

King Louis Phillippe created the Legion to reinforce the French expeditionary force that had occupied Algiers in 1830. During the 1800s, Legionnaires served with distinction in the following conflicts:

  • First Carlist War (1835),
  • Crimean War (1854),
  • Second Italian War of Independence (1859),
  • French intervention in Mexico (1863),
  • Franco-Prussian War (1870),
  • Sino-French War (1883),
  • Second Franco-Dahomean War (1892),
  • Second Madagascar expedition (1895), and
  • Mandingo Wars (1894).

In the early 1900s, the FFL was not as active. Legionnaires saw considerable action in World War I and limited action in World War II. Then, during the First Indochina War (1946-54), the Legion grew dramatically. Many of the French dead and wounded at Dien Bien Phu were FFL.

Today, Paris usually deploys the FFL to global hotspots, mostly in the Middle East and Africa. Legionnaires also served in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.

The Legion is more than a fighting force. It’s also a constant in the political life of France. The FFL has endured three Republics — the Second French Empire, two World Wars, the rise and fall of mass conscript armies, the dismantling of the French colonial empire, and the loss of its base of operation in Algeria.

Wagner 2.0

It is too early to know for sure what the revamped Wagner Group will look like. Most likely, Wagner 2.0 will be a combination of a mercenary force, like the original Wagner Group, and KBR and other American private military contractors, in terms of enlistment, responsibilities, and oversight.

The Wagner Group was founded on Russian nationalism. Almost all its fighters were Russian nationals.

The FFL and American private military contractors operate differently. Usually, people in these groups are committed not to a nation but to an idea. Legionaries were committed to the French way of government and way of life. Private military contractors are committed to the American way of life as well. That usually means a commitment to diversity and to upholding the rule of law in relatively lawless places.

The Wagner Group was a pure mercenary group in terms of its combat responsibilities. The group’s leaders (it is still a bit unclear who was really calling the shots) deployed Wagner Group fighters to an Asian, African, or other country. Once they were boots on the ground, they were theoretically subject to Russian army commanders. But, for the most part, they did what they wanted to do.

Contractors, and hopefully Wagner 2.0, are different. American law sharply limits private contractor duties. In fact, until the 1980s, the government couldn’t employ paramilitary units. Now, they may serve overseas, but only in a defensive or purely non-combat capacity.

On a related note, American private military contractors are accountable to U.S. law. Wagner Group fighters were accountable to no one.

Injury Compensation Available

Citizenship is better than nothing, but this injury benefit does not help contractors and their families on a day-to-day basis. The Defense Base Act’s lost wage benefit, on the other hand, helps families get through some very tough times. Mostly depending on the nature and extent of the disability, four basic kinds of lost wage replacement benefits are available:

  • Temporary Total Disability: Generally, job injury victims cannot work until their doctors clear them. If they try to go back too soon, that effort usually aggravates their injuries. Usually, Defense Base Act benefits pay two-thirds of the victim’s AWW (average weekly wage) for the duration of that disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: As a rule of thumb, if a victim can walk away from a fall or other injury, the victim probably has a temporary partial disability. These victims must reduce their hours or accept light-duty assignments as they recover. To ease the pain of lost income, the DBA pays two-thirds of the difference between the victim’s current and prior AWW.
  • Permanent Total Disability: PTS cannot work again, mostly because of their medical conditions but also due to their educational and vocational background. If a combat contractor loses her trigger finger and she is unable to do any other work, she is permanently disabled. If a training contractor loses her trigger finger, she can probably still work.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: The unfortunate contractor who lost her trigger finger may have a PPD. She can still work, but she must live with a permanent injury. If an injury is disabling, either fully or partially, the DBA pays compensation for future lost wages. The amount usually depends on the nature and extent of the disability and a few other factors.

All lost wage replacement orders hinge on the AWW. A grade point average is based solely on a student’s prior work. The AWW is based not only on previous wages but also on future wages. If Rick’s injury means he will miss future overtime opportunities, he should be compensated for that loss.

For more information about other DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.