Wednesday, March 11, 2009

GRU Unit Protests Moscow's Decision to Close it Down

The above article is by Paul Goble and entitled, “GRU Unit Protests Moscow’s Decision to Close it Down.” Some highlights of the article follow:

“A GRU unit that participated in the attack on Grozny in 1994 staged a demonstration yesterday denouncing Moscow’s decision to disband it . . . More than 1,000 people, including officers of the 67th Brigade of GRU Special Assignment Forces GRU Forces slated to be disbanded, staged a protest in Berdsk, a city of 90,000 people near Novosibirsk. . .

“But all sources agree that the protesters demanded that Moscow reverse its order to disband the unit, stop its current effort at military reform, and fire Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov who demonstrators suggested was implementing the plans of the Chechen separatists rather than meeting the needs of the country’s national defense. . . the unit’s personnel enjoy the support not only of the local authorities, including the city council, but also of their Duma deputy, Anatoly Lokot’ (KPRF), who promises to present their complaints and demands to President Dmitry Medvedev and other senior officials in Moscow.

Earlier this year, military personnel and their families protested the closure of an aviation training center in Irkutsk, and many had reacted angrily online and in commentaries in the regional press once it became known that the 67th was to be disbanded, something that will create hardships not only for uniformed personnel but also for their families and communities.

“. . . perhaps the primary reason people are so angry about what Moscow has done in this case is that this unit performed heroically in the first post-Soviet Chechen war, took heavy losses, and was highly decorated, so the decision of the authorities to close it down in the name of saving money has outraged many.

“As one commentator pointed out, this unit was among the first to enter Grozny in December 1994 and the last to leave in October 1996. For these efforts, which cost 45 of its members their lives, more than 3,000 men were given medals, including six who were named Heroes of the Russian Federation . . . “experts believe that the geography of protest of this kind will increase.”

“. . . protests like the one yesterday near Novosibirsk must be a matter of concern to Moscow elite in the current climate for at least two reasons. . . such GRU special forces are among the regime’s first shock troops to be used against demonstrators and thus constitute the last line of defense in the event of real unrest. Consequently, the level of anger in them that such protests point to could lead some in the government not to issue orders that might not be obeyed. . . And . . . the willingness of the KPRF and local officials to line up with the military against Moscow could represent the kind of threat to Moscow’s control of some of its regions, and the danger of that could provoke the kind of response from the center that would lead to clashes among the regime’s supporters rather than between them and the population.”


My first reaction was not one that Paul Goble would expect: I thought that what is going on in Russia with base closures and cuts in military forces presents a very different point of view than the sword rattling I’ve heard from Michael Kuznetsov recently. Russia does not seem to me to be interested in fighting in any wars, whether local or more general. Russia is taking the same sort of action any nation would take that doesn’t expect to need its military in any big way any time soon. Which isn’t to say that Russia wouldn’t take military action if it decided it was necessary. It just isn’t looking for trouble. We would do the same things.

When a base closure occurs in the US, whoever represents in congress the state where the base is located is sure to protest, but I don’t recall any protests in regard to cuts in the military services. Those who are “lifers” probably don’t make up a huge percentage of any of our military branches; so when the others, those just in for one or two terms, leave after their terms are up, the decision can be made not to replace them. This is less painful, it seems to me, than the Russian approach described in the article.

Also interesting was that the comment “such GRU special forces are among the regime’s first shock troops to be used against demonstrators.” We haven’t had good luck using military forces against demonstrators. In 1970, our National Guard acted against demonstrators at Kent State University. Four students were killed. Leftists and the American media were outraged. Our media, as Paul Anderson wrote in the article quoted yesterday implied that the American media is influential in the US in the same way intellectuals are in Italy. That observation puts Americans in a rather poor light, but I agree with him. No American politician can with impunity defy the American press.

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