How Putin Tightened His Military Grip
Russian President Vladimir Putin in late June signed into law the creation of the Russian Federation National Guard Forces. The National Guard, or Rosgvardiya, is thus institutionalized -- it was first officially formed on April 5. Much like the American Department of Homeland Security combines various government agencies and branches dealing with internal security, border protection, transportation security, and response to various emergencies, Rosgvardiya now includes Interior Ministry troops, SWAT, and riot police forces, as well as the Center for Special Rapid Reaction Force and the Interior Ministry Aviation, along with government agencies dealing with government-sanctioned arms trafficking and the provision of private security services. The law regulating the activities of the National Guard was adopted by the Russian State Duma on June 22, and approved by the Federation Council on June 29.
According to the official document, the main objectives of Rosgvardiya will be "protection of public order, combating terrorism and extremism, participation in territorial defense, the protection of important state facilities and special cargo." The law also opens up the possibility of using National Guard troops in international operations "to restore and maintain peace." Rosgvadriya now picks up all official paramilitary duties of the Ministry of the Interior, whose forces were designed to maintain order across Russia, with varying results. Unlike DHS, the Ministry had its own heavy military equipment, including armored vehicles and air support, which were used extensively in domestic conflicts, most notably in the 1994-1996 war in Chechnya, which Russia lost to the Chechen rebels. In that war, MVD forces displayed numerous deficiencies, including lack of discipline and an inability to effectively engage in counterinsurgency warfare, leading to numerous civilian and military casualties.
Rosgvardiya's critics point to the fact that Putin has created a large armed formation subordinate directly to him -- a formation that could target Russian society. Indeed, Putin appointed one of his bodyguards as head of the force.
Meanwhile, Russia is hoping to match Western advances in unmanned aerial systems and platforms. Russia recently created several strategic unmanned aerial vehicle prototypes, according to the country's Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov: "We have very good, competitive samples of tactical, operational and even strategic-level UAVs, with both information-gathering and attack functions."
The deputy minister pointed as well to new developments in the field of robotics and small arms developments, which will be made public in September at the Army 2016 military-technical forum outside of Moscow. Russian UAVs tend to be on the smaller and simpler side, and its armed forces lack the equivalent of the American Reaper, Global Hawk, and Predator drones, which are used for long-range, long-duration ground-attack and reconnaissance missions. Seeking to close this gap, Russian domestic manufacturers are experimenting with various possible breakthroughs in UAV developments -- in October 2015, Rostech announced its intention to develop a supersonic strategic UAV after 2020, and several longer-range and multi-purpose models are slated for development, testing, and potential integration into the armed forces in 2017. This year, Rostech intends to deliver three different drones to the Ministry of Defense.
Last year, during their Center-2015 military exercises, Russian forces trained with 50 different unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the Tachyon, the Zastava, the Orlan-10 and the Forpost, which were used mostly for surveillance. In fact, Forpost is a licensed copy of an Israeli UAV.
During the exercise, the Russian military combined its actions with UAV detachments while performing offensive and defensive actions, and simulating reconnaissance, communications, radiochemical, and biological missions. Troops also utilized drones in precision artillery exercises, including target detection and fire adjustment.