This article was written for the Unz Review: http://www.unz.com/tsaker/putin-creates-a-russian-national-guard/
The recent announcement by President Putin of the creation of a Russian National Guard has triggered a flurry of wild speculations about the reasons behind this important move. Some experts saw that as a way to prepare a bloody crackdown against an insurrection, others have speculated that Putin needed a new force to deal with protests and riots, while others have even suggested that this National Guard would become “Putin’s army”. In reality, the matter is both much simpler and much more complicated.
First, let’s look at the forces and units which will be brought together into this National Guard:
- Troops of the Interior Ministry (about 170’000 soldiers)
- Personnel from the Ministry of Emergency Situations
- The OMON riot police forces (about 40’000 soldiers)
- The SOBR rapid-reaction forces (about 5000+ soldiers)
- The Special Designation Center of the Operational Reaction Forces and Aviation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs including the Special Forces units “Zubr”, “Rys’” and “Iastreb” (about 700+ operators)
So we are talking of a total force of about 250’000 soldiers which will probably reach the 300’000 men figure in the near future. By any measure, this is an impressive and powerful force which can deal with the full array of possible internal threats. Furthermore, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, it will now include the Federal Migration Service (FMS) and the Federal Drug Service (FSKN). This consolidation is important because it ties in practically all the internal security forces of the Russian Federation with the exception of the high-threat Federal Security Service (FSB). What is even more impressive is the list of tasks given to this new National Guard. It will include:
- The protection of public order and security
- Anti-terrorist operations
- Operations against extremism groups
- The territorial defense of the Russian Federation;
- The protection of important state facilities and special cargoes
- The protection on a contractual basis of the property of citizens and organizations approved by the Russian Government;
- Assistance to the Border Troops of the Federal Security Service in protecting the state border of the Russian Federation;
- Law enforcement in he field of arms trafficking
- The command of the troops of the national guard of the Russian Federation
- Providing social and legal protection of servicemen of the Russian National Guard
That is an impressive list which only confirms that the entire spectrum of internal security missions will now be entrusted to the National Guard. What is even more striking is the name of the person whom Vladimir Putin has appointed as the new Commander in Chief of the National Guard: General Viktor Zolotov, a “pure” security man who used to be the head of the Presidential Security Service and who is considered very close to Vladimir Putin. Does that mean, as some have speculated, that Putin is afraid for his security and that he is building himself a personal Praetorian guard?
But what this does, indeed, mean is that Putin is taking personal and direct control of what he sees are top-priority tasks to deal with major security threats for Russia. We are talking exactly about those capabilities with the European Union so badly needs and lacks:
- The ability close down the borders to a massive flow of refugees
- The ability to filtrate a large flow of refugees
- The ability to deal with large-scale violence and riots
- The ability to deal with terrorism even on a large scale
- The ability to centralize the intelligence about internal threats
- The ability to impose a state of emergency on an entire region
- The ability to crush any insurgency, including one supported from abroad
- The ability to seek out and destroy extremist and terrorist groups
- The ability to interdict flows of weapons and narcotics used to finance all of the above
and, most importantly, the ability to do all this without using the regular armed forces.
What this shows is that the Russians have learned important organizational and operational lessons from the wars in Chechnia and that they are now preparing to defend Russia from the threat coming from the West (the Ukraine) and the South (Daesh) without dumping these security tasks in the armed forces which are fundamentally different from internal security/police forces.
Of course, this will be a way too powerful force to trust it to a less than 100% reliable man, but the fact that Putin chose a man he fully trusts does not mean that he fears for himself, or the next elections or any of the other nonsense spewed by the corporate media. Putin’s popularity is still sky-high and that protects him much more than any force or high ranking ally. Besides, protecting Putin will remain the task for the FSO and the FSB.
One topic which the official documents do not mention is the issue of the intelligence support of this new National Guard. The most logical solution would be to create a new National Guard intelligence service and my guess is that is exactly what the Kremlin will do. Finally, some experts have suggested that this new National Guard might have an international peacekeeping function. I would agree with this only if we are talking about a cross border peacekeeping operation, such as in the Donbass or in Central Asia. The rest of the peacekeeping mission will probably remain under the control of the armed forces (which have several specialized units dedicated to such missions).
The creation of this National Guard is an excellent idea which will give Russia the means to defend herself against the most likely threats to her territory and people in the foreseeable future.