Bypassing rules: does Russia need a private army?

Military action in Eastern Ukraine, combined with reports of the involvement of Russian volunteers in the fighting in Syria has led to an intensification of the debate on the prospects of Russian private military companies and talks about the appearance in Russia of “private armies”.

Lobbyists PMC

The term “private army” implies a full-fledged combat operations. But even proponents of Russian private military companies regulated by a separate law (not subject to the law on private security, laws do not assume anything of the sort. In the last of the bill on private military security activities, submitted to the Duma Deputy Gennady Nosovka gives the following definitions of military works and services: “training of personnel of the armed forces, the police and other security forces of the territorial state”; “maintenance and repair of military equipment and weapons”; “consulting services to the military”; “the supply of military uniforms and equipment,” etc.

In addition, it is expected that the PMC will be promising to provide security services (protection of objects and individuals, support columns and vessels, etc.). The need for private security Russian facilities, businesses and citizens operating in unstable countries with weak and inefficient state apparatus, the police forces, is obvious. Similar security structure and create the Western countries, and large developing countries such as China. And has been for many years, such services are provided in a number of Russian private security companies operating in volatile parts of the world such as Iraq, Sri Lanka, several countries in Africa. For the regulation of such work is enough existing legislation.

The current surge of interest in this subject is closely linked with the constant discussion in the press of another phenomenon — a “hybrid war”, a supposedly new form of warfare practised by Russia in Eastern Ukraine and in Syria. The idea of creation of the Russian PMC regulated by a special law, has the support of several major Russian politicians and officials, starting with Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Vladimir Putin, being Prime Minister in 2012 and speaking at the State Duma, noted that PMCs are the instrument for implementing national interests without the direct involvement of the state” and therefore the question of their creation would be worth studying.

Thus, the idea of creating a separate from the security industry of PMCs is to obtain a tool that can be used for military support to friendly governments without showing direct Russian involvement in the conflict. But why is “study” of this issue for the last four years so to anything and did not lead?

The experience of “hybrid war”

The Russian army, intelligence agencies and their predecessors of the Soviet era quite successfully engaged in conducting a “hybrid war” before there was this strange term. Among them, RAID dressed in Afghan clothes Vitaly Primakov cavalry at Mazar-I-Sharif in 1929, the actions of the Soviet “volunteers” in Spain and China in the 1930s; the operation of the “Altai volunteer army” from the white guard dressed in soldiers uniform of the NKVD in Xinjiang, Soviet fighter air corps in world war II with pilots in the form of Chinese and Chinese markings on the aircraft; Soviet air force and air defense in Vietnam and the middle East.

Arsenal of covert intervention in a foreign war were very wide and could range from consulting, logistics and training before sending “volunteers” and direct invasion of the whole formations of regular troops, disguised in another form. The USSR was the only great power practicing like this: in the same us agencies during the cold war record is much more extensive.

The same set of methods — secret consulting, training and logistics, supported special services, volunteerism and direct intervention — was used by Russia to protect its interests and security in conflicts in the former Soviet Union. Among the most famous examples already almost forgotten era of the 1990s war in Abkhazia and the civil war in Tajikistan.

Democratic obstacles

Engaging in covert wars with even more enthusiasm than the Soviet Union, and later Russia, the US and its allies among the developed countries had and have to deal with a whole set of specific challenges. These include development of (especially since the late 1960s) anti-war movement, which in Europe is complemented by a powerful left-wing parties, as well as an efficient system of parliamentary control over the armed forces.

The presence of such a control system, however, does not affect the basic fact: “war by proxy”, support uprisings or, conversely, counterinsurgency operations abroad, other forms of covert military intervention is inevitable, an indispensable instrument of foreign policy of any major country, existing in an unstable environment. The only real alternative to this tool are the open military intervention, accompanied by unacceptable costs.

Consequently, Western governments have since the 1960s been faced with the necessity of systematic bypass provided for in their constitutions checks and balances. Otherwise, they would lose opportunities for effective assistance to its numerous allies in the third world, iznemogayu in combat supported by the USSR and China national liberation movements. From the late 1960s to the late 1980s is the rapid growth of PMCs that provide military services to various third world governments with the tacit consent of their own authorities.

In 1990-e years on the market PMC was influenced by two new factors: the massive reduction of the armed forces and of military budgets and the release of large numbers of military professionals. Governments were increasingly difficult to find funds for the necessary military operations and presence abroad; but such funds could be found under other articles of the budget or raised from non-budgetary sources. The Iraq war, the destabilization of the Middle East and some African countries has led to significant growth of the PMC business and attract to them public attention.

Western PMCs, and spreading wider transmission system functions in the sphere of defense and security to private subcontractors, are the product of specific conditions prevailing in USA, UK and some other Western countries but rare in the rest of the world.

Whether PMCs in Russia?

In large developing countries, such as Russia, Iran or China, while security forces do not face the above problems. Decades they conduct their covert operations abroad without any private military companies — just look at post-Soviet unrecognized States”, the Shiite movement in the middle East and some rebel groups in the North of Myanmar.

Therefore, the involvement of the private sector rather they see a potential source of a headache than the additional benefits. The output of Russian PMCs in the international market, might create some opportunities for the promotion of national interests. Probably the PMC can be more flexible and to respond promptly to requests from friendly foreign governments on the provision of military services than the state can do. Perhaps they will be able to create a new, albeit small, sector of the economy with thousands of jobs, as well as to promote arms exports. But the development of PMC definitely put before the authorities and very difficult questions about control of these structures. Therefore, the fate of bills on the private military business, and remains so vague. At a recent meeting of the Duma postponed a first reading of the bill Nosovka, leaving him a legacy following the lower house.

The authors ‘ point of view, articles which are published in the section “Opinions” may not coincide with ideas of editorial.