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Spetsnaz Missions

Whereas spetsnazovtsi of the spetssluzhbi are operational in times of peace and war, military spetsnazovtsi perform their functions only during periods of full scale war and low intensity conflict (that is, during operations other than war (OOTW)).

While the special service spetsnaz forces have primarily peacetime missions of law enforcement, anti-terrorism, crowd control, and security operations, military spetsnazovtsi perform vital strategic missions of long-range reconnaissance, destruction of important weapons and command facilities, the elimination of key bridges and transportation routes, and the kidnaping and assassination of important military and political leaders.

Although military spetsnazovtsi may train and conduct strategic reconnaissance missions during peacetime, they do not become completely operational until a conflict is in its developmental stages or erupts into a full scale war. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, all reconnaissance and spetsnaz units were maintained at full strength. Subsequent to the collapse, most spetsnaz units are now maintained at 50% or better of full strength. As a result, the typical military spetsgruppa, the smallest basic operational unit, will not be at full strength until deployed.

The Soviets defined unconventional warfare as a variety of military and paramilitary operations which include partisan warfare, subversion and sabotage (conducted during both peace and war), assassination, and other covert or clandestine special operations. These missions are assigned to special units of the Committee of State Security (KGB--Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopusnosti), to the Soviet General Staff's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU-Glavnoe Razvedyvatelnoe Upravienie), and to airborne, ground, and naval forces, all of which possess Spetsnaz forces.

UW activities are managed at the highest level of government authority. The Committee for State Security (KGB) and the Main Intelligence Division (GRU) of the General Staff are the most likely agencies to screen, recruit, select, and train UW personnel. These agencies also can be assumed to plan and execute Soviet UW operations. UW activities are protected by stringent security measures. Unconventional warfare (UW) consists of a variety of military and paramilitary operations. UW includes partisan warfare, subversion, and sabotage, conducted during periods of peace and war. It also includes other operations of a coven or clandestine nature.

Past Examples of Unconventional Warfare -

  • Bolsheviks employed partisan guerrilla units against the Czarists and other opponents during the Russian Civil War of 1917-20.
  • Soviet partisan forces were used extensively against the Germans during World War II.
  • Special purpose troops were used to crush resistance to Soviet domination over Eastern Europe.
  • Soviet special purpose forces were used in the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 to arrest Czech leadership and secure key objec-tives in Prague.
  • Soviet special purpose forces played an important role in the invasion of Afghanistan and the elimination of President Amin.

Unconventional warfare (UW) was a key element of Soviet doctrine. Soviet UW capabilities constitute a formidable threat. UW forces conduct reconnaissance, espionage, sabotage, assassination, and interdiction of lines of communications. Unconventional warfare is designed primarily to support a surprise attack Before the start of hostilities, clandestine operations in the target area increase the probability of destructionof key targets well before enemy rear area security measures are heightened. The Soviets also appreciated the important role that UW can play in support of a main offensive. Even if there is success in only part of the planned UWopera-tions, it may be enough to disorganize the enemy and to insure that Soviet forces can seize and maintain the initiative.

Unconventional warfare missions are divided into three basic categories: strategic, operational, and tactical. The principal differences in the missions are the level of command and control used and the nature of the targets engaged. The overall objectives are similar: weaken military capabilities of target country, and support follow-on conventional military operations.

Strategic UW missions were controlled by the KGB, now the FSB. UW forces conduct strategic missions in the enemy's heartland to reduce the enemy's ability to continue the war. Selected regular airborne forces also may perform strategic UW missions. These are not normal airborne missions which generally require coordination with front-line operations. Rather, small elite airborne groups operate at great depths behind enemy lines.

Operational UW missions in support of the front and subordinate armies are carried out under the control of the fron commander. Airborne forces GRU special purpose units, and army sabotage or reconnaissance units may perform these missions. their primary objective is to destroy or neutralize enemy nuclear means within the front's area of operation, to a depth of 350 to 1,000 kilometers. Tactical UW missions are conducted in support of divisions and are similar to the operational missions described. Tactical missions are carried out on a smaller scale and directed at targets in the division's area. The divisional reconnaissance battalion has a limited capability to perform raids to a depth of 100 kilometers.

The regular Armed Forces maintain elite air-borne units, special sabotage and reconnaissance units, and special long-range reconnaissance units for UW missions. The most powerful and numerous are the airborne troops under the direct control of the General Staff in Moscow. Some of these airborne units are designated as "special purpose" troops. They operate in small groups against key political, military, command and control, and transportation and indus-trial targets in the enemy rear area.

The potential for UW is not limited to special FSB and elite airborne units. The General Staff's GRU maintains a number of small special purpose units. These units are concerned primarily with UW activities in direct support of combat operations. Their main tasks include preparing for the landing of airborne units behind enemy lines, recon-naissance and intelligence reporting on nuclear delivery means and other vital military targets, sabotage, disruption, neutralization of keypolitical and military personnel, and possibly the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

A Soviet special purpose brigade was assigned to and controlled at front level. Soviet armies and divisions also had groups within their reconnaissance units that are capable of conducting long-range UW operations.

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Page last modified: 04-06-2014 19:08:09 ZULU