“Return Move”, “Solo Voyage” ... These Soviet action films once filled the hearts of hundreds of boys with enthusiasm who dreamed of putting on the beautiful black uniform of the Marines. In the ranks of elite units, it was possible to forge a real male character, get a good combat training and give two years of interesting service with the prospect of being abroad, for many of our compatriots, especially the guys from the provinces, then inaccessible ...
At the beginning of the new millennium, the Russian leadership demonstrated its determination to return its military and political presence in a number of regions of the world that were once the sphere of the geopolitical interests of the Soviet Union. The Kremlin didn’t limit itself to declarative statements, taking practical steps in this direction.
Here are just a few examples. In 2007-2008, a campaign was undertaken in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea grouping of the North fleet led by the aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov, Russian ships were on alert off the coast of the Horn of Africa, Russian-Indian exercises Indra-2009 were conducted in the Indian Ocean.
In this regard, undoubtedly, many have a reasonable question: does Russia need muscle flexing in the oceans in the face of the most serious problems experienced both by the country and its Armed Forces?
We consider it relevant to study the most successful operations involving black berets during the cold war in the context of analyzing the military-political situation in the countries where they landed. Here are just a few examples of the actions of the Soviet marines abroad.
Off the coast of egypt
In 1955, the leader of Egypt, Abdel Nasser, achieved the withdrawal of British troops from the country and headed for rapprochement with the USSR. For the first time, Moscow had a real opportunity to establish its influence in the Middle East, which was reflected primarily in military-technical cooperation with Cairo: deliveries of Soviet weapons were carried out to the country of the pyramids through Czechoslovakia.
Rearming the army, Nasser announced in 1956 the nationalization of the Suez Canal, which was actually controlled by the financial circles of France and Great Britain. It is noteworthy that such a radical decision by the Egyptian President was the feat of the US refusing to finance the construction of the Aswan Dam, which is vital for Egypt.
In response, Britain, France and Israel signed an agreement on the operation, code-named "Musketeer." An attempt to implement it caused a protest of the USSR and the displeasure of the United States - the European powers did not inform their overseas ally about the upcoming hostilities against Egypt.
In the end, by diplomatic efforts of the Kremlin and the White House, aggression against Egypt was stopped, and Israeli troops were withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula occupied by them.
However, after a decade, relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv became aggravated again: in June 1967, a war broke out between the two countries. The Israelites defeated the Egyptians and re-occupied Sinai. The Kremlin reacted extremely harshly, breaking off 10 on June 1967, diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv and sending an operational squadron of the Black Sea and Northern fleets to the shores of Egypt.
Soviet amphibious ships entered Port Said, a separate 309 Battalion of the Black Sea Fleet Marine Corps landed with them, took up defenses in the second echelon of the Egyptian army, significantly strengthening its position: the Israelis stopped firing on the territory adjacent to Port Said.
From 1967 of the year until the end of the Arab-Israeli war in 1973, Port Said was the main location of the Soviet Navy in this region. The Soviet marines faced the task: to cover Port Said, Port Fuad and the Suez Canal from the sea. In addition, in the event of the defeat of the Egyptian army (and in terms of its fighting qualities it was inferior to the Israel Defense Forces), the “black berets” were supposed to guard and evacuate Soviet military advisers.
Not even ten years had passed before the smoldering conflict in the Middle East flared up with renewed vigor: in 1973, the Doomsday War began. Israeli Tanks crossed the Suez Canal, this time the units of the Soviet Marines were not in the combat zone - the regiment intended for landing in the Port Said area was at that time in Sevastopol.
In this situation, the commander-in-chief of the Navy gave the order to form volunteer detachments for operations ashore on the ships of the 5 of the Mediterranean operational squadron. However, the landing of improvised units of the “black berets” on the west coast of the Suez Canal was not needed - already on October 21 because of the unconditional defeat of the Arabs, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat turned to the Soviet leadership with a request for mediation for a truce.
Operations in Mogadishu and Massawa
Four years after the events described, the war began between Ethiopia and Somalia. The paradox of the situation is that both warring parties were allies of the USSR. In Somalia, President Siad Barre decided to build socialism through a bizarre combination of Marxist ideas with Islam. Quaint also because socialism, at least in theory, arises on the ruins of capitalism and represents the conquest of political power by the working class.
The proletariat in Somalia was practically absent, and the majority of the population led a nomadic lifestyle. However, theory was the theory, and in practice, decisive and energetic Barre achieved considerable economic success, especially in the light industry traditional for Somalia, the course was taken to eradicate illiteracy, and smallpox was defeated.
In the field of foreign policy, Barre actively cooperated with the USSR, especially in the military sphere, in 1972-m Mogadishu visited the chairman of the KGB Yuri Andropov and Defense Minister Marshal Andrei Grechko. The negotiations resulted in the lease of a naval base to Moscow in the area of the city of Berbera, the strategic importance of which is difficult to overestimate - it is located close to the main oil-producing countries.
Soviet specialists built an up-to-date aerodrome in Berber capable of receiving heavy ultra-long airplanes. In addition, a communications center, a tracking station, and a storage for tactical missiles appeared in the port. In the same year, Barre paid a return visit to Moscow.
And the cooperation between the Kremlin and Mogadishu would continue to develop further, if not for the revolution in neighboring Ethiopia, which led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the seizure of power by the military led by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, who also expressed a desire to build socialism.
This is where the problem arose. The fact is that Barre was a supporter of the idea of the Great Somalia and claimed the province of Ogaden, which was part of Ethiopia. Like any revolution, the Ethiopian was accompanied by a turmoil and internecine war, which the Somali leadership decided to take advantage of, seizing the coveted province.
The Kremlin faces a difficult dilemma: who to help? The positions of Mariam in Ethiopia were initially not so strong, his opponent was General Abate Atnafu, a consistent supporter of the United States. Of course, Moscow supported Mariama and at the same time tried to reconcile Somalia and Ethiopia. Barre verbally was “for” with both hands, but based on the principle of self-determination of nations formulated by Vladimir Lenin, he said that Addis Ababa is obliged to give the right to Ogaden residents to decide their own destiny.
Less familiar with the works of the classics of Marxism, Mariam did not agree with such a fair proposal. Then in Mogadishu decided to resort to force. And in view of the fact that the Somalis were the aggressive side, Moscow found it necessary to support Ethiopia. The grateful Mariam placed at the disposal of the USSR a naval base in Massawa.
Of course, this caused displeasure to Barre, who demanded Soviet citizens to leave Somalia as soon as possible. The town where our compatriots and their families lived was surrounded by an angry mob. The Somali military did not guarantee the safety of Soviet citizens, who needed not only to be protected, but also to be evacuated.
Barre forbade Soviet ships to approach the coast of Somalia, but the command of the 8 th operational squadron, which served in the Indian Ocean, ignored this ban, moreover, the ships were put on alert in front of the Somali army units, and the marines began to openly prepare for landing.
In the meantime, electricity was turned off in the town, our compatriots refused to sell food to the shops, and when Soviet planes were ready to land at the Moscow airport, the Somalis turned off the landing lights. And then the Marine Corps was deployed in Mogadishu with one PT-76 amphibious tank and two BTR-60 armored personnel carriers: the forces were insignificant, but they turned out to be sufficient for the safe evacuation, without casualties and serious incidents.
However, this should not be surprising, because, according to the historian of the Soviet Navy, Alexander Rozin, “the command of the Somali army knew what the Soviet marines were capable of, not by hearsay. Back in September-October 1972, during joint exercises near the port of Bulyakhar (west of Berbera), the Soviet Pacific Fleet marched straight after the assault landing of Somali troops and, making an 80-kilometer march in the desert, went to Berbera port. The exercise was also attended by the Minister of Defense of Somalia, General Samantar. Therefore, in November 1977, after the landing in Mogadishu, the Somalis did not try to counteract our sailors and did not interfere in anything. ”
The Soviet property confiscated by Somalis was also safely evacuated. Thus, a small unit of marines did not allow numerically superior forces of the Somali army and an angry crowd of local residents to bring the matter to bloodshed and seize expensive equipment.
With Massawa, everything was more difficult - the “black berets” had to enter combat contact with the enemy. The essence of the problem was as follows: in addition to the territorial dispute with Somalia, the Ethiopian leadership had to deal with the Eritrean separatists, who were in favor of creating an independent state and considered the port at the disposal of the Soviet Navy to be their territory. Taking advantage of the Ethiopian war with Somalia, in the summer of 1978, detachments of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Eritrea approached Massawa.
The Soviet command decided to land in this port a reinforced company of the 55 th division of the Pacific Fleet marines under the command of Vyacheslav Ushakov. She had to engage in battle with the rebels, while our amphibious ships were in the zone of action of the Eritrean fire. This did not allow to unload additional equipment on the coast. Nevertheless, due to the high level of combat training and coordination of actions, there was again no loss on our part and the port was retained. It should be noted that marines not only from the Pacific (8-I operational squadron consisted of its ships), but also from the Baltic Fleet took part in the defense of Massawa.
Teaching as a warning to Beijing
In 1979, another conflict broke out between the socialist countries: the PRC launched a war against Vietnam. Well-trained and had enormous combat experience gained in the course of long wars with the French and Americans, equipped with Soviet weapons, the Vietnamese army stopped the aggressor, not allowing it to advance in the direction of Hanoi and Haiphong.
Soon Beijing went to the conclusion of a truce. One of the reasons for such a move by the Chinese leadership was the tough position of the USSR, which put the missile forces and 44 divisions deployed on the 4500-kilometer border with Celestial Empire on alert.
For us, it is important that on the border with China a tactical exercise was conducted with live firing of the 390 th regiment of the marines of the 55 division deployed in wartime. In other words, in the event of a further escalation of the Sino-Vietnamese conflict, the “black berets” were ready to take part in hostilities on the side of the latter.
Seychelles: promptly and efficiently
In 1981, on the friendly and strategically important for the USSR - due to their location between India and Africa - Seychelles, an unsuccessful coup attempt was made under the leadership of South African intelligence services. Immediately after that, Soviet warships entered the capital of the port of Victoria, carrying marine units ready to disembark if necessary and support the Seychelles army - there was a threat that Pretoria would make another attempt to overthrow the government of France-Albert Rene.
Let us dwell in more detail on the reasons for the Kremlin’s close attention to a small island nation. The port of Massawa in Ethiopia, as we have already seen, due to the military conflict with Somalia and the struggle against the Eritrean rebels was not a reliable home base and the logistical requirements of the 8 th operational squadron. Crews of ships and vessels needed a more reliable base. And the Seychelles in this regard fit perfectly.
The introduction of Soviet troops in Afghanistan led to a new round of the Cold War. This was also expressed in the 1980-th maneuvers in the Indian Ocean, conducted by the Americans in the spring, with the participation of the Marine Corps.
Of course, the Soviet leadership decided to adequately respond to the challenge of the likely enemy and ordered the commander of the 8 th operational squadron Rear Admiral Mikhail Chronopulo to conduct exercises with the participation of black berets, which was already carried out in May 1980. According to the Typhoon All-Russian public organization of marines, Lieutenant-General Pavel Shilov, two reinforced amphibious groups of 700 people were landed on Socotra Island, and another two weeks later with the support of helicopters and amphibious tanks under the command of Pavel Shilov young lieutenant.
From a strategic point of view it is difficult to overestimate the importance of this doctrine: our sailors and marines demonstrated the ability to quickly and effectively solve the most complex tasks far from the Soviet shores. The Americans were convinced: despite the power of their Navy, they are far from being masters in the Indian Ocean.
And once again we return to the Middle and ever-hot East. Immediately before the next Arab-Israeli war of 1982, the Soviet marines visited Syria - as part of the 5 of the Mediterranean squadron. In the course of the Soviet-Syrian exercises, the tactical group of the Marine Corps of the USSR Navy under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Abashkin successfully conducted a landing of troops in an unfamiliar area - in the area of the city and the basing station of the Syrian Latakia Navy. And then our “black berets” advanced deep into the territory and suppressed the resistance of the conditional enemy.
And again the Middle East
These exercises demonstrated the readiness and ability of the USSR, like decades ago in Egypt, to defend its strategic interests in the region with the help of small, but well-trained units. It seemed that soon they would have to fight again: 6 June 1982 of the year, Israeli forces invaded southern Lebanon, on the territory of which the detachments of the Palestine Liberation Organization were stationed.
After the outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon, American marines landed. In turn, the Syrian President Hafez Asad appealed to the Soviet leadership with a request to transfer to the Beirut units of the Soviet marines. However, for several reasons this did not happen, however, Soviet diplomats told American colleagues that they would not allow the balance of forces in the region to change in favor of the United States and Israel. And the prospects of landing in the Lebanese capital of the Soviet "black berets", I think, were a weighty argument in this dialogue. One way or another, but in 1983, the Israeli troops left Lebanon.
In 1986, a short-lived but bloody civil war in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen flared up, very painfully perceived in the USSR, which is not surprising. First, the Democratic Republic of Yemen was the most reliable ally of the Kremlin in the Arab world. It was not for nothing that after the loss of airfields in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Korea carried all the equipment, and the radio center (space communications) evacuated from Berbera was placed on the Small Aden Peninsula.
Secondly, the Soviet leadership had ambitious plans for military cooperation with the president of this country, Ali Nasser Mohammed. In particular, it was planned to build three floating berths for nuclear submarines in the Gulf of Aden, which would significantly strengthen the position of the 8 th operational squadron, and also allow the strategic interests of the USSR in the Horn of Africa to be more rigidly set aside. However, all these plans collapsed with the beginning of perestroika.
At the same time, in 1986, the marines had to take part in the search and evacuation of Soviet specialists and their families from Yemen. The task was hampered by chaos in the country and the fact that many of our compatriots escaped on their own, moreover under the fire of the opposing sides. But again, thanks to the high proficiency, the “black berets” did not suffer losses (unfortunately, there were victims among the specialists and military advisers).
So, we touched upon only some, but the most striking operations of the Soviet marines during the Cold War. Since then, much has changed, but there is still no peace in the Horn of Africa. And the Arab Spring, which burst into flames from the civil war in Syria and Libya, and the political chaos and unrest in Egypt, turned the Mediterranean into a powder magazine. Under these conditions, if we seriously want to return our military presence in the oceans, we simply need well-trained and mobile units of the marines, just as it is necessary to study the experience of their operations - almost always brilliant and almost always without loss.