Strategic utility of the Russian Spetsnaz
Borer, Douglas A.
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The Russian annexation of Crimea stimulated the author's interest in researching the little green men (allegedly the Russian Spetsnaz) that appeared at a decisive point in the coup de main. The intent here is to understand the capabilities and limitations of the Russian special operations forces (SOF) and the level of threat they present to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members and Russia's neighbors. This study uses Colin Gray's strategic utility theory to understand why Russian leaders choose unconventional warfare over conventional warfare, and how well the Spetsnaz execute assigned missions. Soviet and Russian military doctrines constitute a baseline for the evolution of Russian strategy and of Spetsnaz in parallel. Three case studies—Operation Danube in Czechoslovakia, the first and the second Chechen wars, and the annexation of Crimea—contribute to this research. Russian Spetsnaz per se are competent enough to fulfill their duties; however, they do not make up for poor planning, weak strategy, and general incompetence. When Russia has vigorous plans and a strong strategy, the Spetsnaz become an indispensable element. Thus, it behooves the decision makers of concerned countries to remain vigilant and take precautions and countermeasures to ensure the Spetsnaz will not surface in their nations' capitals out of the blue.
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