GRU Spetsnaz - Special Purpose Detachments
A major source of information on spetsnaz up to the 1980's is the little book "Spetsnaz: The Inside Story of the Soviet Special Forces" (1987). Much of what was known about military spetsnaz units came from the former spetsnaz officer who identified himself as Viktor Suvorov. Having come out of the shadows, Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun, aka "Viktor Suvorov," was responsible for much of the factual and the misleading information about the recruitment, training and operation of military spetsnaz personnel. Suffice it to say that much of the author's books contain a fair amount of fiction, open-source material, and suppositions that were later proven false. Subsequent writers and spetsnaz members have written more definitively on the subject of spetsnaz and have corrected some of the earlier presupposed beliefs.
The first official Soviet mention of GRU SOF — despite earlier Western knowledge of their existence and capabilities — appeared in the late 1980s. Since that time, the brigades and otherGRU detachments, teams, and units of “special designation” (spetsnaz in the Russian acronym) have become well known to those who follow Russian military activities. These military forces are very roughly comparable to US Special Forces.
The staff of each military district, group of forces and fleet also included an intelligence directorate [Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie RU], which is subordinated to the GRU. In turn, lower echelons, such as an Army or Flotilla are also supported by an Intelligence Department [RO]. Within ground forces armies, each division includes a reconnaissance battalion, which includes scout and electronic intelligence elements.
Originally intended when formed in the 1960s for special reconnaissance, direct action, and other missions against NATO and external enemies, they were widely employed in counter-insurgency (COIN) actions in Afghanistan and central in actions against Chechen guerrillas in roles that emphasize special combat actions against insurgents far more than the originalspetsnaz model.
As of 1992, GRU special-operations groups remained trained to operate in 3-7 man groups for intelligence-gathering and directaction missions in enemy rear areas. They likely are assigned missions in interethnic conflict areas, as well. Their prominent role in the new Russian mobile force components now being planned (comprising largely airborne, naval infantry, air assault and transport aviation) seems assured.
Because of the types of missions conducted by military spetsnaz: deep reconnaissance missions, diversionary tactics, sabotage and kidnapping/assassination of military and political leaders, their very deployment would constitute and act of war. If successful, the spetsgruppa would accomplish its missions before the enemy could react.
During recent conflicts, spetsnaz units have deployed to various hot spots to perform a variety of functions. While in Afghanistan, spetsnaz units performed deep reconnaissance and sabotage missions against the Mujahadeen supply and communication networks, and so-called pacification missions against villages reputed to have supported Afghan rebels.
There are also reports that spetsnaz troops have been used in riot suppression roles in Armenia, Georgia and the Baltic States. It is difficult to know precisely what units were active in these areas since both MVD and army airborne units were observed and reported to have engaged in operational activities during ethnic unrest in these locales.
It was reported that both army and naval spetsnaz units took part in hostilities during the Chechen crisis. While it is certain that MVD spetsnaz and osnaz units participated in military operations in the region, it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which military special operations units (other than the botched raid perpetrated by FSK units at the outset) participated in the war in Chechnya.
According to various sources, by 2014 the number of units and Spetsnaz GRU currently stood at 6,000 to 15,000 people. In addition to units and special forces, there were subordinate to the GRU general purpose forces numbering about 25,000 people.
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