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Russia’s National Guard – Reasons and Consequences

The formation of Russia’s National Guard simultaneously addresses a range of political and organisational problems.

Gordon Hahn

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On April 5th Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a series of presidential decrees “transforming” the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) into a new “Federal Service of the Troops of the National Guard” (Federal’naya sluzhba Voisk Natsional’noi Gvardii or FSVNG) and transferring the MVD’s 187,571 Internal Troops to the FSVNG and renaming them the National Guard or NG (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648 andhttp://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1742654-echo/). Putin appointed his long-time associate Viktor Vasilievich Zolotov as FSVNG director (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51646). He appointed Zolotov to head the MVD’s Internal Troops in October 2014. Although the formal transfer of these troops to the new FSVNG will not be completed until the beginning of 2018, the transfer is de facto already taking place with the formation of the new federal service and the requirement that the MVD coordinate with Zolotov as the transition proceeds and Zolotov now reporting directly to the president rather than through MVD chief.

In making this reorganization, Putin has addressed several problems facing him this year. I emphasize ‘several’ problems, since many analysts tend to focus on one cause to explain events, falling into a bias trap formed by their area of specialization  of study or political or interpretative prejudices or both. In particular, Putin has acquired some robust insurance against political threats both from above and from below.

Putin’s move accomplishes at least six tasks.

First, Putin both consolidated and thus strengthened the troops responsible for ensuring domestic law and order. This reduces the potential for inter-departmental tension, violent conflict, and armed clashes possible in conditions of potential greater instability.

Second, Putin has garnered more capacity to suppress any possible unrest or ‘color revolution’ being hatched around the September Duma elections. He now has more direct control for operations that might be necessary to contain public protests. Opposition forces might attempt to repeat the protests of winter 2011 against the results of the December 2011 Duma election results and spark a ‘color revolution.’ The West’s ‘dual-use’ technology of democracy-promotion aims to create critical masses within non-democratic societies capable of engineering regime change. Whether regime change occurs by way of reform ‘from above’, negotiated ‘transition’, or revolution is of secondary to no concern. Therefore, the color revolution threat in Russia is real. One can expect that in times of near catastrophic U.S.-Russian relations, the desire of many in Washington and Brussles for a color revolution in Russia is even greater. Putin knows this and is preparing to act accordingly. Of course, there is also the possibility that the Kremlin would be faced by a genuinely indigenous revolt not tied to Western patrons or models.

Third, in the FSVNG and NG Putin also has an instrument to protect himself and his loyalists from a less likely, albeit, palace coup. The pressures on the Russian economy, real and perceived foreign policy threats requiring high defense and security expenditures, massive corruption, and the resulting, slightly growing potential for a decline in Putin’s authority inside the regime could split the regime. The guard is added insurance against a regime split, palace coup, or other elite machinations.

Fourth, Putin’s reorganization wrested all siloviki located in Chechnya from the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s hands. Putin likely conditioned his renewal of support for Kadyrov’s re-election was probably conditioned on the latter’s willingness to surrender to Moscow full control over all MVD, now NG troops and Chechen presidential guard units. Although the MVD transitioned mostly federal control with Putin’s formation of federal districts in 2004 and to full federal control with Medvedev’s reforms, the reality is that in Chechnya and to perhaps some extent in some other powerful Russian regions the local authorities retained considerable control over the MVD branches in their regions. In Chechnya, Kadyrov appeared to have nearly full control over the MVD bodies there. The Kremlin had little choice to at least contain Kadyrov’s ambitions in this way, if it cannot risk attempting to remove him, given Kadyrov’s audacity, volatility, unpredictability, likely crimes, and yet stabilizing role not only in Chechnya but in many ways across much of the North Caucasus. Instability in Chechnya would likely to destabilize other regions of the North Caucasus, especially if the instability in question is jihadist or otherwise religious or supra-ethnic.

Ironically, one upshot of Putin’s move is that it might reduce stability in Chechnya. The reform could entail a purge of former Chechen militants who were brought into the MVD’s Internal Troops in Chechnya, including those brought in when the Chechen MVD incorporated into its internal troops in Chechnya some of the battalions consisting of former militants organized by Kadyrov and ostensibly subordinated to the MVD. Will some of these return to militant or criminal activity, destabilizing the region? Will Kadyrov’s removal from full control over the deployment of internal troops in Chechnya and the need to communicate with Moscow slow down deployment in an emergency counter-terrorism operation? Will Kadyrov’s weakened position allow Moscow to arrest the suspected organizer of Boris Nemtsov’s murder – Ruslan Geremeev, the head of the ‘Sever’ (North) Battalion, formerly subordinated to Kadyrov through the Chechen MVD? If so, how will local Chechens, including Kadyrov, react?

Another irony is that with the NG’s formation and MVD’s reorganization, Putin has acquired a loyal presidential guard not unlike that Kadyrov has possessed.

Fifth, by removing the Internal Troops so it might concentrate on standard police functions, Putin has taken another step in reforming the MVD first begun during Dmitrii Medvedev’s reforms, which have produced a slight improvement in the conduct of police in relation to citizens. Indeed, according to Novaya gazeta, the currently ongoing recertification of MVD personnel will be completed by 2018, whereupon all remaining personnel will be transferred permanently to the FSVNG (www.novayagazeta.ru/politics/72605.html). Simultaneously, Putin compensates the MVD by abolishing the Federal Migration Service (FMC) and Federal Service for State Control of Narcotics and transferring their functions to the MVD. This also involves a certain streamlining, since the MVD staff managing state control of narcotics will be 30 percent less than that under the abolished department (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51649). Transferring the migration control to the MVD also makes sense since monitoring immigrants and visitiors to Russia has long been a function shared by the MVD and FMS.

Sixth, by promoting Zolotov, one of his most faithful and long-time associates, into the very top ranks of the siloviki organs, Putin further consolidated his control over the siloviki and overall state apparatus. In 1991 Zolotov worked in the personal protection service in the Kremlin under Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin and can be seen wearing the dark jacket standing behind and above Yeltsin’s chief bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov in the famous photograph of Yeltsin atop a tank declaring national resistance to the August 1991 hardline Soviet coup against USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev.

parked-russian-federation-picture-410

Zolotov then served in the body guard service of then St. Petersburg mayor and Putin mentor Anatolii Sobchak before becoming St. Petersburg deputy mayor Putin’s bodyguard. The well-informed editor-inchief of Ekho Moskvy radio, Aleksei Venediktov describes Zolotov as “extremely influential, extremely”—a person who “is not simply a member of his (Putin’s ) team but one who is personally loyal to him,… with whom (Putin) spends his free time, personal time. They played pool and went to meetings about which no one is to know, and answered directly for (Putin’s) safety in particular when he flew to Chechnya” (http://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1742654-echo/).

Putin not only appointed Zolotov to head the new FSVNG and NG, but he also signed a decree making Zolotov a permanent member of Russia’s powerful Security Council (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51647). This was a personal, not an ‘ex officio’ appointment—that is, Zolotov was appointed to the Security Council; the position or officeholder of FSVNG director will not have the automatic status as a Security Council permanent member that several other high-ranking positions have. In addition, the FSVNG and Zolotov will be working closely with MVD and its chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and Zolotov now reports directly to Putin without, even just in theory, having to go through Kolokoltsev. Among the the FSVNG’s functions are the preservation of public order and security and implementing emergency situations. The decree stipulates that these two functions are to be carried out jointly with the MVD. Also, “operational subordination” involving the deployment of the mobile special OMON forces, the rapid response forces, special operations forces and aviation formerly belonging to the MVD will now be “established by the MVD with the agreement of the FSVNG director” (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648). Two years ago there were Moscow rumors and Western analysts predicting that Kolokoltsev, who is considered a moderate reformer, was soon to be fired and replaced by Zolotov. Thus, Putin has moved one of his most loyal clients into the important Security Council and simulataneously into functions where he can keep an eye on MVD chief Kolokoltsev, a functionary who is not from Putin’s Petersburg and siloviki circles.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Details from the Decrees on the FSVNG and NG

The presidential decree transfers the Internal Troops from the MVD to the FSVNG. These Internal Troops are now called the National Guard or NG. The FSVNG is part of the executive branch, which is headed by the president of Russia. It is led by a “Director,” and the service’s director is simultaneously the commander of the NG’s troops. The director will have six deputy directors, including a first deputy director who will simultaneously be Chief of Staff of the NG and a “state secretary/deputy director (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

The NG comprises just a part of the FSVNG and its troop formations. Also transferred under the FSVNG are the departments of the MVD formerly carrying out the functions now transferred to the FSVNG, including: the rapid reaction forces of the MVD’s territorial sununits; the MVD’s OMON (mobile special forces); the MVD’s Center for special operational response forces and aviation; the MVD administrations and other sub-departments exercising federal oversight over weapons trafficking, personal protection and government personnel security guard service, including the MVD’s Center for Specially Designated Government Personnel Security Protection, and the federal state unitary enterprise ‘Okhrana.’ The rapid reaction forces and special operational forces and aviation remain under the MVD’s operational command, however. The FSVNG’s functions include: preserving public and security and implementing emergency situations jointly with the MVD; counter-terrorism and securing the legal regime counter-terrorist operations; counter-extremism; territorial defense; protection of important state sites and special convoys; assisting the Border Troops of the FSB in protecting the Russia’s borders; monitoring compliance with Russian laws on weapons, private security activity, and extra-departmental protection (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

More information on the new service and Guard should be forthcoming once the Cabinet of Ministers determines the number of national guardsmen and drafts a statute as it has been instructed to do in Putin’s decree (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

Submitted by Russian and Eurasian Politics Gordon M. Hahn
https://gordonhahn.com/2016/04/14/putins-golden-ticket-the-new-national-guard/

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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