Spetsnaz: Operational Intelligence, Political Warfare, and Battlefield Role

February 9, 2022

Executive Summary

  • Its Spetsnaz (Special Designation forces are infantry light forces which are mostly design to perform reconnaissance. Counterinsurgency and power-projection operations which are more similar with those of the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment or the British 16th Air Assault Brigade rather than true special forces. Its Special Operations Forces Command, however, is a real Special Forces unit.
  • Spetsnaz missions range from battlefield surveillance and behind-the-line assassination to training guerrillas and. In recent years helping allied regimes fight the insurgency and protests. They’ve played a major part in the recent missions, including Crimea as well as the Donbas and Syria.
  • Spetsnaz forces are specifically focus on “political combat” operations, indicating Moscow’s keenness to integrate conventional military-operations with secret “active tactics.”

While there are many some elite organizations. Including paratroopers’ 45th Guards Independent Reconnaissance Regiment and the Federal Security Service’s Al’fa anti-terrorist teams. The Spetsnaz (the name is an abbreviation of the words spetsial’noe naznacheniya, “of special purpose” or “of special designation”)

Remain the principal elite force that comprise the Russian military.They are part of the military intelligence. However, even though Spetsnaz troops are consider to be an asset of strategic importance as well. These can “lent” for territorial commanders to deploy operationally in wartime under the ultimate power from General Staff.

The Spetsnaz initially were design by during the Cold War, as strategic assets. That could deploy in the shadows of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) lines. Particularly to attack nuclear weapons of tactical nature as well as command and control structures. They had to have the capability to be deployed in stealthy ways via air, land, or sea. Also to function as strikers and scouts.

This was a combination of tasks that resulted in the fact that even though the troops mostly comprised of conscripts. (even when they were consider to the best of the crop). But they also had to to operate more independently than the majority of Soviet units. In the end, they were also able to play an extremely important part in the Soviet conflict that fought in Afghanistan (1979-1989) and the Chechen conflict (1994-1996 in 1999 and 2009). More recent foreign ventures, Georgia (2009), Crimea (2014) and Crimea (2014), the Donbas conflict (2014-present) as well as Syria (2015-present).

Presently, there are more than 17,000 Spetsnaz however, this number is subject to qualification. They’re certainly an elite part of the Russian military, however there are elites, and the elites. The Spetsnaz have conscripts that serve one-year term. However they are the most popular members of the draft and usually possess some experience prior to joining the military-patriotic groups and those in the Young Army movement. There have been significant efforts to create this Spetsnaz an all-volunteer organization however, even though this isn’t a reality but they are more on the path to achieve this goal than the majority of the military. Special Operations Forces Command (KSSO: Komandovanie Sil Spetsial’nykh Operatsiy). A few brigades are now all-volunteer while other forces may be 70 to 80 percent professional.

It’s optimal and most reliable to evaluate them against other light infantry mobile intervention forces like for instance the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment or the British 16th Air Assault Brigade instead of with Tier One truly special forces of operations. The designation of Tier One should be reserved for highly-readiness, top-quality elements like the reconnaissance companies of regular Spetsnaz brigades. The combat swimmers of the Naval Spetsnaz, and (above all) the KSSO combined the KSSO’s forces total over 1,000 soldiers.

Seven regular independent Special Designation Brigades (OBrSN: Otdel’naya Brigada Spetsial’nogo naznacheniya) as well as the 100th Brigade. (which is a combat group, but is particularly involve in the testing of new tactics and weapons). The 25th Independent Special Designation Regiment, 25th Independent Special Designation Regiment as well as the Special Operations Command. Brigades are made up of one or two Independent Special Designation Detachments (OOSN: O T’delnyi Tryad Spetsial’nogo Nanacheniya). Which arein essence regiments with about 500 effectives, but specifics of strength, equipment and training depend on local-environment or mission. Every one of four Fleets includes one Independent Naval Reconnaissance Spetsnaz Point (OMRPSn. Otdel’nyi Morskoy Razvedyvatelnyi Point Spetsial’nogo naznacheniya), an army-strength group of different composition, and the maximum capacity of around 1400 people.

For the KSSO it is a strategic asset that was officially launch in 2013 and was subject to its first firefight in 2014 during the Crimean Annexation. It is based around its 346th Independent Spetsnaz Brigade, which is an “light” force that is one OOSN that has around 500 employees. But, it additionally has an helicopter squadron that includes Ka-50/52 assault transports and Mi-8/17 assault vehicles gunships that are based at the Torzhok base (home to the 344th Army Combat Training Centre) as well as a designated airlift squadron.

The distinctiveness of Spetsnaz is partly it is a reflection on the Russian operational code that has shaped the way the country conducts its business of war , and consequently the demands it places on its troops. A strategic view of the world that puts Russia constantly in danger of subversion and invasion has resulted in a distinct blurring of the line between peace and war. This worldview, combined with an understanding of the strength of NATO as Russia’s primary potential antagonist and the perceived need for Russia to find ways to reassert itself on the wider world stage, has contributed to the emergence of the Spetsnaz’s particular roles as power-projection assets and forces that support wider campaigns of covert intelligence-gathering and subversion.

Spetsnaz are use to test a variety of the most modern equipment, particularly design for specific situations and missions like the Russkaya Mekhanika A-1 snowmobiles. (Russian Ministry of Defense/Creative Commons CC-BY-4.0 as adapted in M. Galeotti, Combat Vehicles of Russia’s Special Forces, Osprey, 2020)

Saboteurs and Scouts

Due to their versatility and the ability to deploy quickly and thoroughly They are the Spetsnaz remain to serve as an effective “tip of the spear” employed to search out and clear the way for their slower and heavier but more resilient regular friends. Like all special forces they are capable of striking hard, however they can be incredibly fragile when they are unable to count on their strengths of stealth, speed, and the ability to surprise.

After the gentle populace (the Russians’ term for the so-called little green guys) had initiated their coup of principal in Crimea. For instance they were swiftly bolster and, in certain regions substitute by regular mechanized troops. From the 727th Independent Naval Infantry Battalion 291st Artillery Battalion along with the 18th Independent Rifle Brigade. The reason for replacing them consisted of the fact that Ukrainians could mobilize and initiate a response that which Spetsnaz and their sporadic “local defense force” support units would be unable to fight back.

Donbas since 2014 The Spetsnaz were use in various roles, Sometimes battlefield reconnaissance and support, but usually for more political-tasks. In particular, they (or their counterparts from the Federal Security Service) are widely assumed to have been behind the assassinations. Of several more-independent-minded or otherwise troublesome local militia commanders, although these deaths are officially blame on Kyiv. As battalion tactical groups are known to be composed of forces from multiple brigades. The Spetsnaz deployment is also believe to consist of units typically of platoon or squad strength. Drawn from several brigades which includes the 346th brigade of the KSSO.

In general, they continue to play their position in long-term battleground surveillance and reconnaissance missions. In addition, the Naval Spetsnaz also play an active function on the northern European waters. Since the Cold War, the Northern Fleet’s 420th OMRPSn has trained for operations against NATO’s Sound Surveillance System underwater listening stations across the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) gap.

In addition, following an apparent hiatus during the 1990s and the early 2000s and early 2000s, it appears. That the Baltic Fleet’s 561st OMRPSn has been back in the forefront of activities. That are not officially disclose within Baltic as well as Scandinavian territorial waters. This duty is in the Northern European Waters is not confine to maritime operations.

There is ample evidence that Spetsnaz forces occasionally, from time at times, ventured out onto Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, either for reconnaissance or just to demonstrate their position considering that certain officials in Moscow have suggested territorial claims to the archipelago.

Trainees and Tourists

In Soviet times during the Soviet period, during the Soviet period, Spetsnaz (or their predecessors) often served as covert soldiers overseas to help insurgencies, like those of the Republicans combating Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), diverse anticolonial conflicts (including Angola and Vietnam) and also in Afghanistan. A fascinating twist, the Kremlin’s position today that it is the ultimate defender of sovereignty in the nation against an overly intrusive. U.S.-dominated “unipolar” world order suggests Kremlin is likely to send its troops in support of current (if frequently uncomfortable) regimes. Offering education and physical security, and sometimes , even combat however this function will more often played through The Wagner Group or other Russian private security and military firms.

With this support, Russia is continuing a tradition, even if it is initially non-formal, Spetsnaz role. Soviet doctrine taught (or at the very least stated) that Moscow will never engage in operations against insurgents that it believed to a sin committed by an imperialist West. Naturally, they did, from repressing those who participated in the Basmachi rebellions during the Basmachi uprisings in Central Asia in the 1920s and 1930s to fighting those who opposed annexation in afterwar Baltic states.

However, in the instance of Afghanistan both orthodoxy and reality were often at odds and the post-Soviet divide was very like the Soviet one. In the end, a lot of the lessons learn from Afghanistan were omit and were retaught in Chechnya. As always they were the Spetsnaz who has a greater ability to think and act and their greater flexibility of thought, that were at the center of this endeavor.

In the end, Moscow has come to an understanding that beginning with the North Caucasus today to potential operations in Central Asia or beyond tomorrow it has to prepare for low-intensity and counterinsurgency conflicts.

These roles, as well as the recent political decision to support the sovereignty of allies against threats from both domestic and foreign sources are resulting in a growing significance for Spetsnaz as they train and fight alongside allies forces, or in signalling Russian commitment. In Syria For instance while the media may mistakenly label Naval Infantry, Military Police or private military company operators as Spetsnaz There is enough solid evidence to show that they have played an important role from the very beginning.The Spetsnaz deployment in Syria appears to comprise around 250 soldiers from various units which include some KSSO operators and Naval Spetsnaz from the 431st OMRPSn. Some are responsible for security of particularly important officers and places however, they’re generally carrying out special operations like controlling air and artillery strike and recapturing lost Russian airmen

Although the reports of Moscow’s deployments to Venezuela in 2019 were often exaggerate and contradictory. Sometimes thanks to judicious Russian media management. There appear to have been some Spetsnaz along with Wagner Group mercenaries and technical-specialists sent in March of that year. Certain were charged with providing training to Venezuelan forces, but the majority were likely to have provided security for Russian personnel and facilities. All were remove by the end in the calendar year. However, regardless of their effect on the terrain that is likely to be very restricted the presence of Russian troops. In Venezuela at a moment when Washington was intensifying their pressure Caracas was a clear and deliberate-signal for political system. That was believe by the Russians (rightly or incorrectly) believe had been successful in cooling U.S. zeal for regime change

Political Warfare

So it is clear that the Spetsnaz aren’t only a weapon for combat, but also a weapon. Used for active and strategic warfare that can operate at the murky interplay of politics, conflict, intelligence, and even propaganda. While he was talking about what is believed to be Western usage, the role was not explicitly stated. In the words of Chief of Staff Valeryi Gerasimov articulated in his-now famous 2013-essay about that he was describing how

the role of nonmilitary ways in achieving strategic and political goals has increased . . . It is complemented by military means that are concealed that include the carrying out of actions of informational conflict. As well as the operations of special-operations forces. Forces’ use in open-air situations, often disguised as peacekeeping and crisis control is usually used only at the appropriate time. Mostly in order to achieve final success in the war.

In Syria the Spetsnaz basically are counterinsurgency warfighting assets. Crimea they carried out an attempted coup of the principal. In the Donbas the Donbas, they’re primarily an asset. That can use to protect Moscow’s power over the shackle and frequently uncontrolled local militias. In Venezuela the country, they were consider to use as political symbols. While it is true that the Russian military is initially and foremost concerned with planning. How to beat conventional war against its peers but the significance of war in Russian strategy-making. Especially for the civilian community of national security and the Security Council secretariat–means that a army. That can operate within that “gray area,” to use the terminology of the moment, will continue to a strategic issue

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