The Russian Special Forces: The New Millennium

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

The Russian Armed Forces are undergoing a profound renewal process, adapting to future scenarios, gaining projection power, counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism.

In this context the Spetsnaz they play a primary role, however, in the past years, they have been the subject of a power play among the various Armed Services and Commands.

During the brief conflict with Georgia in the summer of 2008, they played a decisive role but shortly after they lost their status of special forces (until then formally depended on the main information directorate, GRU), being assigned to the regional commands of all weapons.

In part, this new situation reflects a policy attack on the GRU but, paradoxically, the growing awareness of the importance of Spetsnaz in future scenarios, and the willingness to use them in the major operations.

This hierarchical mutation follows a widespread conception in recent years, which has always played a role strictly military espionage for GRU, while Spetsnaz - as tools for reconnaissance on the battlefield - had to be directly subordinate to field commands.

However, more recently, thanks to Georgian experience, it has begun to assess the possibility of greater integration of forces in the field.

In the 2010 it was announced that the brigades Spetsnaz would be transferred to the IV Military District, in the process of becoming an operational Command in war time.

At the same time, the training and operations center Senezh Solnechnogorsk should be excluded from the GRU and report back to the Chief of Defense.

Senezh - by the name of a lake northwest of Moscow - has become the basis of a new one Special Operations Command (KSO, Command Spetsialnogo naznacheniya), including a opSn (Independent Regiment for Special Purposes) outside the structure of a regular brigade; a Squadron of attachment and transport helicopters (equipped with Kamov ka-52 Alligator and Mil Mi 8 Hip), deployed at the Torzhok air base; one of the Aircraft Squadron Il-76 Candid. The KSO's tasks range from counterterrorism operations in peace-time to sabotage and targeted assassins in war.

An initial deployment of the new Command was carried out during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, and the proximity to the North Caucasus turbulent recommended its use, along with the 346 ° brigade and the 25 ° Independent Regiment.

The KSO has been officially operational since the beginning of the 2013 and, according to the plans of the State Defense Staff, it should be destined primarily to missions outside the national territory, which may be peacekeeping in the UN area rather than unilateral interventions.

The birth of this new Special Command follows the new strategic vision imposed by President Putin on 'establishment Russian military, still tied to the old Soviet military doctrine - centered on the danger of a pitched war with NATO or China - favoring the acceptance of radical military reforms. The aim is to create a more flexible and independent structure capable of fighting in a variety of different operational scenarios.

The Russian divisions are replaced by the smallest brigades, as constituent elements of the Army. The focus thus begins to shift from traditional heavy armored units (of Soviet tradition) to lighter and more specialized structures (such as mountain troops).

Moreover, a renewed effort has been undertaken to increase the number of career volunteers.


Units Spetsnaz of Russia include regular 7 brigades of various sizes, for a total of 19 battalions with independent special detachments. From the administrative point of view, they have come back to depend on the GRU's (operative recruitment) directorate, although they remain subordinate to operational commanders in the field.

The four independent naval departments (omrpSpn, similar to the brigades) are also part of the V's, but are still closely related to the Fleet of Membership.

Also exists the 45 ° Independent Special Regiment of the guard belonging to the VDV (Vozdúšno Desá Vojská, airborne troops) as well as three other units of Spesnaz. One of these, the 100a independent brigade, is often used for experimentation and evaluation of new equipment and armaments that could come into service even at other conventional wards.

During the 2012 two more units were created Spetsnaz - as part of the security apparatus set up by the Russian Federation for the 2014 Winter Olympics - the 25 ° independent regiment (opSn), used in operations in the Caucasus and the 346a brigade - which should have the dimensions of a regiment - which was to constitute the operative element of the KSO.

(photo: MoD Russian Federation)

Also read "The Russian Special Forces: the origins"