Last week, the Russian people were reminded of the existence of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Russia, whose professional holiday has recently been celebrated on February 27.
The reminder was so loud and convincing that it was heard even in Venezuela, where the next day, President Maduro announced the creation of an analogue of the MTR - the Special National Anti-Terrorist Corps.
Without going into retelling stories the creation of the Special Operations Forces, which are detailed told on the pages of "Military Review"), dwell on the goals and objectives of the MTR, as well as the practice of using this unit.
Over the past couple of decades, Russians have finally become entangled in countless births and disappearing special forces. The average person is not always able to determine to which department (the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Defense) countless "Alpha", "Delta", "Vityazi", "Pennants", "Warriors", "Volcanoes", etc., belong, each of which branded and promoted the installation of its own elitism in the best traditions of modern marketing.
In this context, the Special Operations Forces differed from other special forces not only in that they were formed and deployed without too much fuss and in the prevailing secrecy regime, but also in the uniqueness of their mission and scope. First of all, it is counter-terrorism operations and the release of hostages in the territory of foreign states. All other MTR tasks are not unique and to one degree or another duplicate the tasks performed by other units of the RF Armed Forces.
From publicly available information on the practice of using MTRs, we can find out that this unit was used during well-known events in the Crimea, as well as in the North Caucasus and the Gulf of Aden (the fight against Somali pirates) and in Syria. There are no data on the hostages released, and work in Syria is more likely not an anti-terrorist operation (which almost any war is now called), but participation in full-fledged hostilities. At the same time, no one raises the question of the appropriateness of using a unique special unit, the preparation of which requires a lot of money, and designed to carry out targeted, jewelry, one might even say, intellectual operations, as a filling in the gaps as part of a full-time Russian military contingent. Unfortunately, the high qualifications of the SSO fighters do not always save their lives in the performance of functions unusual for them - they are just as dead from tank, artillery and mortar fire as fighters of sabotage and reconnaissance groups.
Briefly formulate military tactics in the conduct of large-scale hostilities, it consists in defeating (destroying) the enemy. The tactics of the operations of the MTR to free the hostages is the opposite - the release and preservation of life with extremely selective use of fire. Moreover, ideally (which is rarely achievable) we are talking about saving the lives of not only hostages, but also terrorists - for further transfer to the investigating authorities, identifying accomplices, and conducting trials.
Probably, the reason for the misuse of the Special Operations Forces lies in the full jurisdiction of the issues of their use to the Ministry of Defense, which uses the MTR in the framework of its tasks, while the capabilities and mission of this multifunctional unit are much wider, located, in fact, at the junction of the competencies of the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In the UK, Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), subordinate to the British Armed Forces and the Royal Navy of Great Britain, respectively, deal with sensitive foreign operations. Is the special unit Special Projects Team (SP Team) directly involved in counter-terrorism operations and the release of hostages? numbering about 80 fighters. SP Team is not used in any combined arms operations and military operations and is in constant combat readiness at its bases in the UK. Actually, sending the SP Team to the war will not work, because it is not a team with a fixed staff, but consisting of constantly changing "around" fighters from other SAS units, which allows you to receive anti-terrorism training and refresh the skills of actions to free hostages throughout the service SAS composition. SP Team training facilities are equipped with special buildings and structures that simulate objects where hostages can be held. The decision to transfer control of the operation and the use of SAS in hostage release operations is made by the cabinet in the crisis meeting room COBR. The effectiveness of using SP Team is extremely high; losses among SAS hostages and fighters during the release of hostages from prisons and captured embassies are minimal, but there have been cases of the erroneous destruction of innocent unarmed people.
In Germany, Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG 9) is directly and solely subordinate to the German Minister of the Interior in order to avoid unnecessarily involving units in minor operations, which units of a lower combat effectiveness and other target areas are capable of responding to. GSG 9 is the oldest anti-terrorist group in the world, having the highest efficiency and extremely low level of losses both among the fighters of the unit and among the hostages released by them.
Due to legislative restrictions on the use of GSG 9 abroad (this is possible only with the consent of the foreign state), a Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) division was also created in Germany, which has fewer such restrictions and is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. An analysis of the activities of KSK shows that they were much more involved in the fact that someone was captured and killed than they were released and saved, taking part in full-scale hostilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia. KSK continues to be heavily criticized by the press, public organizations, the legislature, and even representatives of the Bundeswehr due to misuse of the unit and closeness to parliamentary control. Massive criticism led the Bundeswehr to change its information policy in November and launch a campaign to improve its image, by running a series of articles and video clips where KSK was positioned solely as a special unit dedicated to the release of hostages and the rescue of German citizens. At present, the Bundestag parliamentary control over the use of KSK has been significantly strengthened. KSK losses during operations are still classified, and informational closure does not allow an objective assessment of their effectiveness.
The French GIGN (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) is simultaneously subordinate to both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior, being considered a special forces detachment of both the army and the police. He does not participate in any military operations, being engaged only in the release of hostages and personalized operations to capture and destroy terrorists. The unit is rightfully considered one of the best in the world in its field and has achieved impressive results: more than 1600 operations have been carried out, about 625 hostages have been released, more than 1500 criminals have been captured or eliminated, losses among GIGN fighters did not exceed 11 people. It is noteworthy that in 2015 GIGN challenged the priority of its use in foreign terrorist attacks against the French with another special service - SOC (Special Operations Command), which is part of the French Armed Forces. As a result of consultations, work on the release of hostages abroad recognized the responsibility of GIGN, which has a narrower specialization and more experience in this field. The army team was left with work in the zone of armed conflict and actions for the mass evacuation of French citizens from dangerous zones.
In the USA, everyone who is not lazy is engaged in the release of hostages abroad: the Pentagon, the CIA, and units of the Special Operations Command. Recent operations were carried out by Delta and Seals. However, the units of the US Armed Forces and the US Navy were well trained in warfare, invading other countries and eliminating opponents, but often suffered loud failures when it came to rescuing hostages (operation in Yemen in 2014, Eagle Claw in Iran and others). In 2015, President Obama creates a special group for the return of hostages, which includes representatives of the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Ministry, the Ministry of Finance and several other government bodies. In essence, this means the creation of a new collegial body designed to coordinate the work of all departments in order to achieve a common goal. The decision is sound and, perhaps, worthy of the Russian Federation to take a closer look at it. But so far no reform actions have been taken to reorganize the hostage rescue units.
Finally, the Israeli Sayeret Matkal, who is a role model, thanks to the audacity, complexity and professionalism of her operations. The special forces accounted for more than 200 operations abroad. Efficiency is high: over the past 45 years, hostages have rarely died, casualties among personnel are minimal (for every hundred liquidated terrorists, 1 unit soldier dies). For the same period, there is no information on the participation of Sayeret Matkal in the hostilities, and the list of operations carried out by them is limited to the release of hostages, deep intelligence, and the neutralization of specific terrorists. Sayeret Matkal is subordinate to the Office of Military Intelligence (Aman), which, in turn, is an independent service, and not part of the ground forces, navy or air force.
Transformation into “combat spotters”?
Thus, we are witnessing a trend in accordance with which the most successful foreign counter-terrorism units are either not subordinate to the Ministry of Defense, or only partially subordinate to it, or strive for a separate functioning. We also see that world experience highlights the futility and harmfulness of using such structures in hostilities. However, the Russian Ministry of Defense continues to use the Special Operations Forces in Syria, deforming their unique skills and turning the SSO from an elite unit into regular combat spotters, gunners, DRG and DSB, which are already enough in our army.
It can be foreseen that supporters of the preservation of the status quo will say: the situation with the seizure of Russian hostages abroad is now not so acute as to pay special attention to this. However, in this matter it all depends on the interpretation of the concepts of "terrorism" and "hostage", which are undergoing a certain transformation in the present century. In particular, it is worth recalling the Geneva Declaration of 1987, which interprets mass arbitrary arrests, demonstration courts and other practices of the police state as state terrorism. And from the political concept of "state terrorism" to the legal term "terrorism" - just one step.
We came to the XNUMXst century with the realization that terrorism does not have a nationality. Now comes the understanding that terrorism also has no posts, titles or state status. That is, the obviously illegal (arbitrary) armed seizure of citizens and the deprivation of their freedom is, in fact, the same terrorism, regardless of whether it is committed by a religious fanatic or a man in police uniform, throws a person in a pit or in prison, and the field commander convicts or official court.
Today, about 6000 Russians are in foreign prisons, hundreds of them are there illegally, that is, without any legal grounds or by sentences disproportionate to the offense committed. This is exactly what is happening with dozens of our sailors in Greece, who are given life sentences for crimes they did not commit, and with our sociologists who are in a Libyan prison without trial. The migration crisis and recent events in Syria, Turkey, Greece and Libya make them hostages to the situation, since all these countries now want something from Russia, and the Russians sitting behind bars unwittingly become an element of political bargaining and pressure on the Russian Federation.
The limits of non-interference have clear boundaries outlined by international law and the domestic law of the state. The Israeli secret services will not stop the liberation operation even from the fact that Palestinian authorities seized their citizen. The US will not stop its “seals” because their diplomats were arrested by Iran’s official police. It would never occur to anyone to justify the Holocaust because it was in line with the official orders of the Third Reich authorities. And there is no reason for Russia to regard the illegal arrests of its fellow citizens as not terrorism and not be ready to carry out operations to free them.
The hunt for Russians around the world
And still, Russia has not used MTR units on the territory of countries where military operations are not conducted and with which interstate relations are formally maintained (with the exception of Crimea), preferring to use diplomatic methods whenever possible. This is partly due to the fact that when people who are illegally thrown into state prisons are released, it is almost impossible to avoid victims among the guards of prisons, who are essentially not guilty because they are obliged to comply with criminal orders of the authorities, not being able to assess their legitimacy and honestly carrying out their official duties responsibilities. Free five innocent Russians, while killing two dozen innocent foreigners is too high a price that negates the expediency of the operation and can lead to serious political costs. Including this aspect, it makes foreign counterparts of the MTR pay special attention to non-lethal and sublethal means of suppressing and neutralizing the enemy. For example, the anti-terrorist unit SAS invented the well-known stun grenade (G60), while the French GIGN practices the use of an electric pulse gun Taser X26, and when using a lethal weapons trying to shoot terrorists in the shoulder of an armed hand. “Our basic principle is to not use firearms until the last”- said Denis Favier, ex-commander of GIGN.
An analysis of video materials on the work and training of MTR allows us to assume that they are generally unfamiliar with non-lethal and sublethal weapons, and the Syrian experience is unlikely to teach them to shoot in the shoulder and encourages them to minimize the use of firearms.
On February 27 (on MTR day), the famous rock singer Yulia Chicherina said something that relatives and friends of prisoners of the Libyan prison Mitiga have long been thinking about:
“I think the only option is to exert force pressure on Tripoli in order to detain the Russians in the future for them was unprofitable. Steps to save their own citizens rally society, increase confidence in the security forces, the government in general, and this strengthens Russia's position. This is a challenge for our intelligence services: the time has come, and this is a good reason to restore order in Libya that the Americans destroyed. After the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, the legal field in Libya is very arbitrary. A lightning strike with the support of the air forces will sober up all our ill-wishers and force us to Russian press in the region. "
You can be arbitrarily indignant over the competence of “these civilians” and resent the fact that “some singer gives advice to the military,” but those who wear epaulets must take for granted that they are not civilians, but civil society (through their representatives in power) determines the scope, time and expediency of the use of the armed forces (despite the fact that the competence of the military in choosing means, methods, strategies and tactics for the implementation of tasks) cannot be challenged. And in this regard, Chicherina expressed general sentiment in a society that is shocked by the mass arrests of Russians abroad, which today have reached such proportions that our country has not seen in all of post-war history. The United States plays an important role in this bacchanalia, at the request of which there is a hunt for Russians all over the world, which to a large extent has no proper legal basis.
Of course, the MTR intervention should occur after a number of preconditions have been fulfilled, which must be implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the legislature and the competent authorities. These conditions are:
- legal assessment and recognition of unlawful imprisonment of Russian citizens;
- confirmation that diplomatic methods for the release of citizens have been exhausted, and economic and political methods of influence have not yielded results;
- approval of the State Duma (President) of an operation outside the Russian Federation while maintaining the secrecy of the proposed operation;
- assessment of risks and expediency of the operation;
- assessment of political consequences and the implementation of a package of measures to minimize negative consequences;
- the creation of an operational headquarters for monitoring the operation from representatives of law enforcement agencies, competent departments and ministries, and legislators;
- approval of the plan of information coverage of the operation at all stages and the necessary control over the media;
- approval of the action plan in case of failure of the operation;
- implementation of a set of measures to prepare public opinion both domestically and abroad.
No proven algorithm
How these conditions will be implemented remains a mystery, because at the moment in Russia there is no proven algorithm of actions in such situations and there is no body designed to carry out interagency cooperation, respond and make decisions on protecting the constitutional rights of Russian citizens abroad by all available methods (in including power, if other methods have been exhausted). Ask any representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the scheme of interaction with the Moscow Region and methods of forcibly releasing Russians from foreign captivity, and in return you will get wide eyes and a statement that the Russian crisis cabinet is, in fact, the president’s office.
Today, the Special Operations Forces resemble an ultramodern concept car stuffed with the latest achievements of science and technology, but so classified that it is not known where it has a steering wheel, gearbox and clutch.
One of the most important components of the activities of counter-terrorism units is their public positioning and interaction with the media. Neglecting PR-technologies, the German GSG 9 got serious problems, and not neglecting competent advertising, GIGN turned from a line in the budget expenditures into a highly profitable enterprise, giving master classes around the world, advising the creation of similar units in other countries and teaching even the American " Delta "and the German GSG 9. But the most important thing is that a public demonstration of the unit’s capabilities in many cases has a psychological effect on the enemy, often avoiding conducting a power operation, and, therefore, to avoid possible casualties. An example is siege of Balk Streetwhen the terrorists surrendered after learning from the BBC broadcast that the British SAS was going to storm them.
A great example when the image of special forces and their willingness to use them work to prevent illegal seizures of citizens is the same USA that created the legend that any seizure of an American citizen abroad leads to the immediate sending of aircraft, aircraft carriers and combat swimmers to the incident area. Of course, this is just a myth: US citizens are not much less in foreign prisons than people with other citizenships. But if it weren’t for a competent PR campaign, then there would have been twice as many of them, and not only for the cause, but also without legal grounds.
How many foreign police, prosecutors or judges have been held accountable for the arbitrary arrests of Russians who were recognized as arbitrary and unreasonable in these countries? Zero! The absence of fear of the inevitable responsibility for arbitrariness and repression against our fellow citizens makes it possible to create any lawlessness against them with impunity. And while they watch overseas how our “commandos”, called upon to respond harshly to the illegal seizures and abductions of Russians, are fighting in Syria and practicing security measures at the training grounds, nothing will change in this regard.
What is the leadership of the Special Operations Forces in Public Relations doing? MTR has three channels for this: in networks VK и TwitterAs well as YouTube. Surprisingly, among the nearly fifty videos posted there about the MTR exercises and trainings, there are not a single that featured hostages or the release of civilians. Illuminating these tasks that the MTR should be able to carry out, it’s a stretch to take the only video, which briefly shows the exercises on the capture and clearing of a civilian vessel from two terrorists in training pants in the complete absence of hostages.
Among the published materials, you also practically will not find video training in buildings and enclosed spaces (where hostages are usually held), you will not see personnel evacuating citizens from dangerous facilities and helping the wounded. Everything that the foreign colleagues of the MTR try to focus on is missing.
The Ministry of Defense without hesitation throws its high-quality and expensive toy into the midst of armed conflict, while society expects the state to at least demonstrate a willingness to save civilians in different parts of the world.
What prevents the MTR command from building models of Mitig Prison, Guam Prison, or Saipan Prison on training grounds, where kidnapped Russians were detained and strategically available for special operations because of their proximity to the coastline and airfield (recall Entebbe operation)? Who, if not the MTR, should carry out operations that foreign special services are so proud of to capture (liquidate) and deliver for the court to the territory of the Russian Federation persons involved in the terrorist seizures of Russians? These questions are still unanswered.
On the example of the story with Viktor Bout, we see that our legal partners are not interfered with by any legal conflicts in order to command a foreign citizen to be seized abroad on charges of harming Americans outside the United States. But Russia is still inclined to practice “mirror responses” only when the harm to the citizens of the Russian Federation is inflicted within the territorial borders of the Russian Federation.
Perhaps for the leadership of the MTR this will be newsbut in Russia non-governmental organizations already exist that have plans for prisons where Russians are kept register, track the connections and movements of persons involved in state terrorism, have contacts of local citizens who are ready to assist in the liberation operations. And these organizations are ready to share their best practices, but nobody turns to them.
It is likely that some of the MTR missions are still not declassified and not all the subtleties of their work are acceptable for public demonstration, which makes this analytical review not sufficiently objective and somewhat one-sided, but there are some conclusions that seem quite obvious:
1. The full-scale use of MTR in armed conflicts is harmful, inexpedient and unpromising.
2. It is necessary if not joint subordination of the MTR to several ministries (in addition to the Ministry of Defense), then at least the development of a mechanism for the operational interaction of the MTR leadership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Human Rights Council. Perhaps this will be a kind of interagency committee that will determine the possibility and necessity of applying the MTR. Otherwise, the MTR will never release a single civilian hostage, if only because the Ministry of Defense does not have information about civilian hostages.
3. It is necessary to reorient the MTR to operations to release civilians (including those outside the combat conflict zone) and visualize this work in the form of relevant public video reports (as foreign units similar to the MTR do).
I would like to hope that the absurd paradigm in which armed people who illegally kidnap and hold our fellow citizens in foreign captivity, we can oppose only notes and petitions, will be changed, and every Russian will know that not only the Foreign Ministry and human rights organizations are behind him , but also a highly professional counter-terrorism unit.