Estonian troops in Afghanistan. Picture via balticreports.com
The nets of empire are catching more and more countries. Estonia and the Central African Republic are a case in point. William Cleary reports.
Western powers are invading more and more places, and more and more Western countries are joining the invasions. The Central African Republic and Estonia are a case in point.
Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, neoliberalism has had a tight grasp on Estonia. There is a flat-rate income tax of 21%. Trade union membership is low and inactive. The tiny minimum wage of £1.87 an hour means many young people have to take on multiple jobs. It is not hard to see where the budget used for military spending is really needed.
Yet Estonia has been firmly accepted as a useful NATO member, despite a population of just 1.3 million. In 2012 Estonian troops returned from fighting for NATO in Afghanistan. Now those same soldiers are to sent to support the French occupation of the Central African Republic (CAR).
Estonian Defence minister Urmas Reinsalu defined the aim of the mission as “guaranteeing public security and separating opposing forces”. The official concern for CAR is that it is “on the verge of genocide” and “descending into anarchy”.
It takes a leap of imagination to believe that there are no other motives for European intervention. CAR, for instance, has large reserves of diamonds and uranium.
Major General Riho Terras, the commander of Defence Forces, reassured Estonians that “The French have a very long-term experience in operating in the region; in cooperation with them, we have considered all logistical elements to fulfil the task.”
They certainly do have a great deal of experience, but very little experience in bringing peace. France occupied CAR for from 1889 to 1960, while the French economy benefited from from slave labour and taxes across Africa. France imposed the first “independent” president, Bokassa.
In 2007, French paratroops colluded with CAR government forces in destroying 700 homes and almost wiping out the population of the town of Birao. Both Britain and France are still major suppliers of military hardware to CAR.
The intervention will not alleviate the suffering of either of Africans or Estonians. The former CAR dictator François Bozize could not maintain power despite support from South African troops. The recent brutal experience in Afghanistan also strongly suggests that further intervention will do nothing to help.