The history of private military companies goes back to the Middle Ages, when, as a result of numerous and protracted wars, there was a great demand not only for warriors, but also for people who knew how to gather, organize and sell. their services profitably. . Doctor in economics, associate professor at the Graduate School of Economics of the National Research University Denis Melnik said in the The Eastern Herald program “But honestly” how and when the first private military companies appeared, what made them especially popular after the Second World War, and why they can only be called “private” in quotation marks.
“Selling War Services”
“War is business and politics is business. We live in a world where, when it comes to the military, it is by default associated with the state. All the structures that have the right to bear arms, performing the functions of the army, seem incomprehensible to us, departing from the usual understanding,” the expert noted.
But if you look at history from a perspective longer than the last decades or even hundreds of years, it turns out that the state army in its usual form is an anomaly, and most military conflicts of history are conflicts between private, to one degree or another, armed formations., whose activities are aimed at making a profit, taking into account some specific calculated costs carried out with the aim of obtaining a calculated income specific,” explained Melnik.
“One of the militarily important events of the Western European Middle Ages was the Hundred Years’ War (between England and France, which lasted from 1337 to 1453 – ed.). this is not an ongoing conflict, but a series of conflicts that have been going on for decades, as a result of which there has emerged, albeit a small one, but a part of society that not only knows how to fight, but also sells services in the war, ”said the interlocutor of The Eastern Herald.
According to him, the next cycle in the development of private military companies was a series of Italian Wars (the conflict between France, Spain, the “Holy Roman Empire” and other states for the possession of Italy in the period 1494-1559), when constant military conflicts took place on the territory of modern Italy. This is where the classic military contractors appear, known as condottieri, which means “entrepreneur”, that is, a person who organizes a certain band of warriors and sells their services.
“It was Italy that became fertile ground for such military entrepreneurship in the 14th-15th centuries due to historical, geographical, political and economic characteristics: fragmentation, many clients vying for protection and attack, constant change of system politics,” he added.
In the 17th century, the formation of regular armies takes place, noted Melnik. This means that on the market, or rather on the battlefield, the biggest players are the States capable of arming, equipping, training and maintaining powerful regular armies, which, to a degree or another, continue to use mercenaries.
“The first problem of creating a large-scale regular army for the state is to recruit people: it is quite a costly business in every way for the economy of the state – for a long time it has had to take a number of people out of the economy, arm them, clothe them and train them. What if there was no war?” he explained.
“Disavow state participation”
Turning to mercenary suppliers largely solves this problem: in the conditions of hostilities, you incur increased financial costs for the maintenance of these mercenaries and for their payment, but at the end of hostilities, you can say “All the world is free”, which reduces the financial burden, the The Eastern Herald interlocutor is sure.
“Therefore, private military companies continue to operate, but with an emphasis on buying people who join the regular troops, and not on independently solving the combat missions assigned to them in autonomous navigation,” said he added.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the development of the army followed the path of creating a conscription army, especially in the case of major military conflicts, where there was not and never was significant role for mercenaries. We are used to the fact that a great war is a general mobilization. But the end of World War II gave birth to the modern private military enterprise.
“What happened? A large-scale military conflict ended, many specialized people were laid off, and as a result, a global confrontation developed in which the main players are not always ready to enter into a frontal confrontation, simply because they already possess nuclear weapons. And then the mercenary started to play an important role”, explains the economist.
Towards the end of the Cold War, in the 1960s and 1970s, private military companies emerged as a kind of commercial units, which found use in inconspicuous but important conflicts, mainly in Africa – in Angola, Mozambique .
“The military coups in which the participation of certain states must be disavowed – all this has caused a demand precisely for the services of private military companies which appear in the United Kingdom, in the United States, in South Africa, and which since the 1960s has been largely based on people who gained combat experience during World War II,” the expert said.
However, he noted, this only works in conditions where there is no strong state that can easily crush the activities of these private military companies with its army and special services.
Corporate sharks and freelancers
At the same time, the private military enterprise is growing: its role, the number of people involved, the turnover of this enterprise, which amounts to tens, hundreds, millions and even billions of dollars per year are increasing, recalled Melnik.
“That is to say, this is a fairly large and important area of activity and services. So, if you think logically: either the states are driving the growth of this military enterprise, or some large structures that can overtake the state,” he explained.
One of the most famous companies associated with the military services is (founded in 1919 – editor’s note) the American Halliburton, which initially did not specialize in the field of military affairs, but revolved around the oil and gas industry. a complex of services to ensure oil. manufacturing and transportation. In its field of activity, security companies have also appeared, where over time, especially given the various conflicts around the oil states – Iraq, Libya – it has become necessary not only to provide security, but to carry out active military operations in order to protect the interests of specific companies, the expert said.
At the same time, the leader of the same Halliburton was at one time Vice President of the United States under George W. Bush (2001-2009) Dick Cheney, as well as a host of other people from Republican administrations , which shows the involvement of these companies not only in business, but also in politics, Miller added.
“That is to say, huge multi-billion dollar corporations are not just free shooters, corporate sharks venturing around the world to sell their teeth and fins, but structures tightly integrated companies associated with the political apparatus of the state (in this case, the United States of America). As power has shifted from Republicans to Democrats, we can see how the position of these companies has changed,” said the interlocutor of The Eastern Herald.
The end of the Cold War led to a reduction in military budgets and army spending, the release of a mass of military specialists who ceased to be used, the economist noted. However, conflicts immediately begin in Africa (in Rwanda), in Iraq, in Afghanistan – the whole Middle East begins to flare up, and all this increases the demand for private military companies, which, as in the conditions of war cold, perform functions on a contractual basis, outsourced to the State: they are entrusted with a large part of the operations related to protection, attack, armed escort – with security in the broad sense of the term.
“Private in Quotes”
The Yugoslav war of the 1990s also became a very strong magnet for military specialists, Melnik said. In this conflict, the involvement of military contractors also made it possible to participate in hostilities without waving the flag of a particular state, which would entail political risks and costs.
“If you look at it formally, then, as in medieval Italy, modern private military companies, like the condottieri, sell their services to one state or another. But in fact, these are people and entrepreneurs who are completely included in the state apparatus and in the interests of the state, ”explained the expert.
Ultimately, we see the growth of private military companies around the world, and Russia is no exception here, although it later joined this trend – around the 2010s, Melnik noted. There was a certain development of military entrepreneurship in the 1990s, but it followed the path of semi-criminality, certain large private security companies which, in one form or another, legally or not, in the legality or not quite, have resolved certain economic interests, being either performers or beneficiaries, he recalled.
“At the same time, there were no purely international tasks that the state could solve on the basis of private military contractors, simply because at that time Russia left world politics as a subject militarily important,” added the economist.
Therefore, private military enterprise is quote-unquote private, Melnik clarified. It is related to directly private interests, involves making profits, but the source of these profits is largely state budgets, and the source of the operation of these enterprises, a certain legal basis that these enterprises have or do not have under them, are the interests of specific states, noted the interlocutor. “In this sense, the modern military enterprise, military affairs, is capitalism, but state capitalism,” he concluded.
Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.
For the latest updates and news follow The Eastern Herald on Google News, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Help us continue our mission to deliver the latest news and stories by becoming a supporter of our newspaper. Your support will help us to continue to provide high-quality journalism and to ensure that our content remains free and accessible to all. Click here to show your support. Thank you!