Inside The Russian Special Forces Spetsnaz - June, 2008


During the Cold War, merely the name itself struck fear into the hearts and minds of many around the world. This vast organization, along with their KGB and Internal Ministry counterparts once numbered around one hundred thousand highly trained warriors, performed on a regular basis operations that their Western counterparts could only dream of in their wildest Hollywood derived fantasies. From Vietnam to Afghanistan, from the Middle East to Europe, from Africa to South America, this highly specialized and ruthless force shaped the history of the world for half a century. While Western intelligence heavily relied on electronic surveillance and paid informants to carry out their tasks, Russian special forces performed tasks hands-on.

I vividly remember an event in Lebanon during the mid-1980s when four Soviet citizens were kidnapped by the Palestinian Fatah forces, known at the time to have been funded by the CIA. One of the abducted men was subsequently murdered in captivity. The Soviet union responded. Using their vast network of regional informants and intelligence assets, KGB led Spetsnaz forces managed to swiftly abduct the abductors. What followed was quite typical of the KGB - ruthless, efficient and effective. They mutilated the hostage takers and sent their body parts, in boxes, to their families. Soon thereafter, the surviving three captives were released.

Needless to say, this swift and brutal action made a great impression upon me at the time. It is now also becoming increasingly apparent that Russia's current resurgence as a global superpower is in large part due to surviving KGB/GRU/Spetsnaz elements within Yeltsin's Western infested government that succeeded in retaking power in the Russian Federation. The resilient and warlike nature of Russians, their legendary military ingenuity and, most importantly, their control over a vast landmass containing vast amounts of natural wealth is what makes the Russian Federation poised to become a global superpower with no rival. Thus, I fully understand where Western fear towards Russia comes from. For the long-term security and prosperity of the West's financial/political elite, Russia had to be tamed. The West lost their chance, however, when Vladimir Putin took over control of the Russian government from Yeltsin. The following video presentation (see below) is a Western produced documentary about the Russian Spetsnaz that places this organization in a proper perspective, albeit a Western perspective.



Inside The Russian Special Forces - Spetsnaz


During the 1970s, when the Cold War was at its height, the West became aware of the existence of Soviet Spetsnaz troops, which were grouped into what were known as "diversionary brigades." Today, although the Cold War is long since ended, Spetsnaz units are still part of the Russian order-of-battle, although their missions have changed. Spetsnaz (Spetsialnoye nazranie = troops of special purpose) were raised as the troops of the Glavnoe razvedyvatel'noe upravlenie (GRU) (= main intelligence directorate [of the General Staff]) and in the 1980s numbered some 30,000. These were deployed: one Spetsnaz company per Army; one Spetsnaz regiment in each of the three "theaters of operations"; one Spetsnaz brigade in each of the four Soviet Fleets; and an independent Spetsnaz brigade in most military districts of the USSR. There were also special Spetsnaz intelligence units, one to each Front and Fleet: total 20. A Spetsnaz company was 135 strong, normally operating in 15 independent teams, although they could also combine for specific missions. A Spetsnaz brigade was 1,000-1,300 strong and consisted of a headquarters, three or four parachute battalions, a communications company, and supporting troops. It also included an anti-VIP company, composed of some 70-80 regular troops (ie, not conscripts) whose mission was to seek out, identify and kill enemy political and military leaders. A naval Spetsnaz brigade had a headquarters, two to three battalions of combat swimmers, a parachute battalion, supporting units, and an anti-VIP company. It also had a group of midget submarines designed to deliver combat swimmers to distant targets. The existence of Spetsnaz was a closely guarded secret within the Warsaw Pact and individual troops were not allowed to admit membership, to the extent that army Spetsnaz wore standard airborne uniforms and insignia, while naval Spetsnaz wore naval infantry uniforms and insignia. There is a broad spectrum of such forces in Russia, ranging from the army, where dolphins and beluga whales, especially trained by specialists of the Defense Ministry's Scientific Research Center No. 172, serve as underwater saboteurs, to social structures worthy of the attentions of the Russian special services. (1) But the units which are of the greatest interest are those which enable Russia's rulers to achieve their political goals. There are more than enough such units in Russia today. As the magazine Ogonek observed, if someone assumess that the Russian armed forces consist of only an army, a navy, and an air force, they are mistaken. (2) There are other, less visible, armed forces. There are the internal troops, the border troops, the railroad troops, Communications Ministry troops, armed units of the Federal Security Service (FSB), of the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), and Ministry of Emergency Situations troops.

And almost each of these agencies have their own units or detachments which could be called elite. There is also the General Staff's Main Intelligence Directorate's [GRU] spetsnaz, which the military men do not discuss. The security services' elite detachments--the anti-terrorist "Alfa" and "Vympel" units--are well-known. The Ministry of Internal Affairs' special detachments are also well-known-- they specialize in fighting street disorders, organized crime, and terrorism. There is talk of creating a special border detachment. To make a long story short, there are about as many special detachments as there are agencies. Whether or not a unit is "elite," according to the magazine, is defined, for the most part, by three things: by fulfilling a special function or mission distinct from that of the army as a whole, by its special equipment: material, technical, etc., and by the amount of money spent on the unit. All the rest--a special way of selecting personnel, special training--is secondary. In addition, service in such units is always considered prestigious and thus the spetsnaz has rarely experienced a shortage of people wishing to fill its ranks, either in Soviet or in post-Soviet times. Naval Spetsnaz also continue to serve in the Northern, Baltic, Black Sea, and Pacific fleets. Most of these are subordinate to the Fleet commanders, but some are under the direct control of the Naval Commander-in-Chief in Moscow. Again, their manning levels are not known and it may be that, like other areas in the Russian armed forces, they are seriously under strength. Russian naval special-designation forces, or spetsnaz, have been less visible in the wake of the USSR's dissolution. Recently, however, the Russian navy's commander in chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, reaffirmed that naval special-operations units – which have a long, active history in the Soviet armed forces – remain assigned to the Russian Baltic, northern, Pacific and Black Sea fleets. Although the admiral provided few specifics on the size and capabilities of the units, he did indicate that they were elite, that they were equipped with special weapons (including small submarines), and that they were comparable to U.S. Navy SEALS or the Israeli Navy's 13th Flotilla.

Other Spetsnaz Troops: Alfa was set up by the KGB's Seventh Directorate in 1974 and appears to have been inspired by the British SAS and US 1SFOD-D (Delta) as a c ounter-terrorist and hostage-rescue group. Al'fa is generally credited with being the unit that attacked the Presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 28 1980 and murdered President Hafizullah Amin and his family. Al'fa is now controlled by the FSB (Federal'naia sluzhba bezopasnosti = Federal Security Service) in general terms, equivalent to the USA's FBI. Current strength is estimated to be about 300, with the main group in Moscow and three smaller groups elsewhere in the federation. Today it is difficult to determine in which operations Alpha will have to participate in the near future, but it is already clear that together with carrying out its fundamental mission, it will have to participate in guaranteeing the safety of the coming political maneuvers, linked in particular with the presidential elections. What kind of participation this will be depends not on Alpha's members, but on the country's political leaders, who have now put Alpha back under their own direct control for a reason, subordinating it directly to the Federal Security Service. But to this day, Alpha remains the Russian special services' most effective anti-terrorist unit, and has substantial capabilities to carry out the missions with which it is entrusted. According to the Russian press, Alpha has about 200 universally-trained fighters who have made it through a rigorous selection process, physical, psychological, and special training, who are able to master any kind of weapon and any form of land transportation.

A Spetsnaz team prepares for a mission at Kabul airport, in Afghanistan, 1988

To these men are added specialists in narrower professions, including snipers and the best shots with various weapons, specially trained frogmen, alpinists, rock climbers, psychologists, and, in recent times, hostage-negotiation specialists. This unit has no contract system; everyone passes through real military service in the military ranks from lieutenant to colonel. Incidentally, similar units exist in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus, where individual Alpha units existed in Soviet times, and Russian special operations troops maintain professional and friendly relations with them. Alfa first won international renown after the storming of Afghan president Hafizullah Amin's palace, in which it participated together with the anti-terrorist unit Vympel. The Vympel group was created in 1979 as the special operations unit of the KGB's First Main Directorate, and its first mission was to carry out special missions, to carry out military actions and sabotage abroad. The Vympel group was manned only by officers who knew two or three foreign languages, and it was said that they knew the maps of about thirty world capitals by heart. After August 1991, Vympel was passed on from one Soviet, and later, Russian, security structure to another, and after October 1993, it was put under the MVD and thrown into the fight against organized crime. After that, 110 of the group's 180 officers applied for discharge so that they wouldn't have to take orders from police bureaucrats. With what was left of Vympel, the MVD leadership tried to create its own anti-terrorist unit, Vega, to fight nuclear terrorism. As a result of the latter's unprofessional efforts to neutralize terrorists in Mineralnye Vody (in the Northern Caucasus) on July 29, 1994, four hostages were killed. At the same time, the KGB's main successor -- the predecessor of the present FSB, left without its own anti-terrorist unit for about a year, began to create the so-called USO, or Special Operations Directorate.

Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev killed by Russian special forces in Ekazhevo, Ingushetia.

After Basayev's fighters' raid on Budennovsk last year, a few of the remnants of Vympel were returned to Russia's security system. And after last year's presidential decree on the formation of a so-called Anti-terrorist Center in the FSB system, this organ began to coordinate or attempted to coordinate the anti-terrorist efforts and capabilities of these disparate groups--USO, Alfa, and Vega. In addition to the security forces' spetsnaz troops mentioned above, there is also the well-known Vityaz, the special operations forces of the MVD's special Dzerzhinsky division. It was formed on the eve of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, when the Soviet authorities feared the possible acts of "terrorists sent by the CIA." In distinction from Alpha and Vympel, this unit was staffed by soldiers who served for a fixed period, who received excellent training in hand-to-hand combat and showed impressive mental toughness.



1 comment:

  1. Why all the faces covered with white circles or blurred, could you explain this? You know for me I am Spetsnaz operative too (Damned Serious) theres no such thing as covering their faces while they get pictured, or interviewed by the media. I've experienced that many times, you want a proof here it is: (you will see me get interviewed no blurs or whatsoever to cover my face).


Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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