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Intelligence


Russian Guard - Rosguard - Formation

Liberal commentators at Gazeta.ru suggested that the new service would provide the president with extensive leverage over the country's security forces. At the same time, the paper speculated, the reorganization was meant to accommodate Zolotov, who had bouts of bureaucratic infighting with Internal Affairs Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev in the past.

Moscow-based online newspaper Lenta.ru offered another perspective, suggesting that the formation of the new force may be connected with the Russia's military doctrine of 2014, which saw the introduction of a number of new threats to national security, associated with internal and external factors aimed at the country's destabilization. "It's obvious that given a major restructuring of the range of threats, new specific steps [were] needed to create a system capable of compensating for these threats," the online paper noted, adding that until now, apart from counterterrorism tools, which are highly effective, but limited in terms of applicability, the state "simply did not have the tools" necessary to counter the perceived new dangers.

The president's "announcement on the creation of a separate 'internal army'," Lenta.ru suggested, indicates the seriousness with which the Kremlin has approached the problem. "The terrorist threat is discussed directly and can be interpreted very widely, for example, in the spirit of the now popular concept of 'hybrid warfare', in which the main role is played by mobile paramilitary forces systematically destabilizing a large state from within." Ultimately, the paper suggested, in its pursuit of combating destabilization and civil disturbances, as well as resolving problems of social unrest following natural or man-made disasters, "the National Guard is not unlike its American counterpart, which works in disaster areas, and in areas of major civil unrest."

Finally, Lenta.ru notes, "questions remain about the functions of the newly created security service – in particular, its possible acquisition of the powers of investigation, motivated by its tasks of fighting terrorism and extremism. [If this were to occur,] Russia, factually, will receive not only a new security agency, but also a new, full-fledged intelligence agency."

The National Guard would not perform field investigation activities, but they would be involved in fighting terrorism within the country, he added. It was not yet clear, however, whether these troops would be taking part in counter-terrorism operations abroad.

A spokesman for the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, said that the creation of the National Guard, which would replace the Russian Interior Ministry troops, was not related to the crisis of confidence to other power structures. Creating a National Guard under does not mean a crisis of confidence to other law enforcement agencies. Peskov also said that Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev was not going to resign against the backdrop of a new power structure. "Minister Kolokoltsov resignation did not ask," the president's press secretary said.

The head of the Moscow police union Mikhail Pashkin noted that the National Guard functions would overlap with the functions of the FSB, in particular to combat the problems of terrorism. He noted that the fight against terrorism was now legislated as a prerogative of the FSB. To connect to the National Guard under counter-terrorism, it needs to change the law. However, it was unclear why the new structure should duplicate the powers of the FSB, stressed Pashkin. "Does this mean that the FSB has doen a bad job in the fight against terrorism? And whether in addition to the security functions in the National Guard under still operational and search, without which it was impossible to fight terrorism?

There are more questions than answers, "- Pashkin said. "If the National Guard under the power will only perform tasks that are put in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, FSB, customs and others, the problems should not occur", - added Pashkin.

Retired FSB Major General Vasily Eremenko suggested that the National Guard took over the function of internal troops would carry out large-scale operations in the country. "If the FSB is struggling with individual, holding terrorists that train attack in the subway or train station, the new army unit will face a major terrorist groups, such as, for example, the Islamic State Group, banned in Russia" - said Eremenko.

Some analysts in Russia and the West claimed the creation of the National Guard was timed with the country's parliamentary elections, set for 18 September 2016. When asked, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said he could not explain the timing. Putin’s supporters praised the move. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said creation of the force would "strengthen the combat readiness of units," while Irina Yarovaya, chairwoman of the Duma's committee on defense and anti-corruption, called it “an absolutely timely, adequate and systemic answer to modern challenges and threats.”

Mark Simakovsky, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former country director for Russia at the Pentagon, said Kremlin authorities were taking precautions in the run-up to the September 2016 parliamentary elections, as well as the 2018 presidential elections. “Although Putin remains very popular, the regime has concerns with economic decline in the country, as well as issues related to sanctions,” Simakovsky said. He added that the Russian president "wants to make sure that any and all domestic dissent will be suppressed rapidly."

With a nearly unlimited mandate, the National Guard may not simply discourage large-scale demonstrations but may also send a clear message to the West. “The Russian president has always been paranoid about Western interference in Russia. This decision sends a signal to Western powers that there will be no 'Maidans' in Russia,” Simakovsky told VOA, referring to the protests in Ukraine that led to the ouster of that country's Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014.

Tens of thousands of Russians participated in protests in late 2011 after parliamentary elections were marred by allegations of unfairness and fraud. Many people, including some opposition leaders, were jailed. As recently as February 2016, Putin said “enemies abroad” were trying to interfere with the parliamentary elections and tasked his security services to prevent any such actions.

“This looks to be Putin’s personal army. Basically, you have a person who can declare his own wars on countries with small armies,” said Anna Borchshevskaya, Russia expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Given its proposed “peacekeeping” function, Borchshevskaya said, the Kremlin will be able to use the National Guard to intervene in neighboring countries. “Officially, Putin said that the National Guard was created to fight terrorism. The new bills that are coming up in the Duma at the moment expand the definition of terrorism. So all this is very vague,” Borchshevskaya said. “When it comes to peacekeeping … we should be watching Ukraine, Georgia, Russia’s 'near abroad' and to some extent Syria.”

Mark Galeotti noted "As with so many crucial decisions, this came essentially unheralded, underlining the extent to which policy comes from a small, tight circle around Putin. It is not just that they have good operational security; they also clearly see no reason to prepare the public in advance.... There is no real reason for creating the NG out of the Interior Troops (VV) and other forces unless you have a serious worry about public unrest. Let’s be clear, whatever Putin says the militarised security forces of the VV and now NG have little real role fighting crime or terrorism; they are public security forces, riot and insurrection control and deterrence assets. ... The NG, as a federal agency, will be directly subordinated to the government, without a minister in the way. With Zolotov at its head, then it is even more clearly a personal, presidential Praetorian force, under a maximalist loyalist. This may not only be a force to keep the masses in check, but also the elite."




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Page last modified: 30-07-2021 18:08:10 ZULU