WILL THE RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES FULFILL POLICE FUNCTIONS?

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On October 28, President Vladimir Putin announced the determination of Russia to use all available military means against terrorists. During his meeting with government members President Putin announced, “If somebody even attempts to use means comparable to mass destruction weapons against our country, Russia will respond with measures adequate to the threat.” He explained, “The relevant orders regarding changing of plans of use of the Armed Forces will be given to the General Staff today.” He says that, “International terrorism is getting more impudent and is behaving increasingly cruelly. Here and there in the world, terrorists threaten to use means comparable to mass destruction weapons.”

Proceeding from the speech of the President, some mass media hurried to draw a conclusion that police functions would be laid on the Armed Forces by law. Already now in Chechnya the main role in provision of security, law enforcement and work with the population is laid upon the Commandants’ Offices being under complete control of the General Staff. It is known that Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin proposed such a scheme of administrative control over the situation in Chechnya in September. On October 4, President Putin approved the special temporary provisions on the military commandants’ offices in Chechnya, according to which such right was given to the military commandants of the districts.

Meanwhile, analysis shows that police functions will hardly be given to the Armed Forces by the law. Preparation of bills is a long process. Such ideas will be used as a pretext for criticism of opponents on the eve of the parliamentary elections. It is much simpler to approve a kind of plan and to amend it, that is, to do what Putin has told about during the recent meeting. This plan may have a classified nature and the main political circles will hardly know about it. On the one hand, secrecy inherent to the incumbent authorities justifies itself. On the other hand, it allows criticism of the Kremlin for authoritarian methods of governance. Which corrections can Putin make in the plans for use of the Armed Forces?

First, these plans will obviously deal not only with the Armed Forces, but also with other security agencies like the Federal Security Service, Federal Service for Protection of State Officials, and the Interior Ministry. The press already reported about the oncoming structural transformations in the system of the Interior Ministry. It is planned to organize a National Guard, which will probably be subordinated either to the President personally or to special services and will become the main force in the struggle against terrorists. It is possible that the General Staff will coordinate the struggle against terrorists. Other security agencies may be subordinated to it operationally. In this case, the General Staff will become the main coordinator of all troops, which is one of the main goals of military reform.

Second, these plans may include broadening of geography of use of the Russian Armed Forces, including their operations abroad. We remember the statements of Putin made in September that, should Georgia fail to combat the terrorists independently, Russia would help her; of course, already on her territory. In a similar way, Russia may struggle against terrorists in other “hot spots” of the CIS and non-CIS countries.

Third, the plan for use of the Armed Forces may include the use of a broader range of weapons that are forbidden by international conventions because of their inhuman nature. These may be various non-lethal psychotropic and nerve gases, which were recently used for release of the hostages by the special services. We also cannot rule out use of aerosol ammunition, powerful bombs, and projectiles destroying everything in big areas.

Thus, the Kremlin responds to the challenges of terrorists adequately and decisively. Time will show if this approach will have a result. At any rate, the following trend is already noticeable: every year Putin is getting firmer and firmer in the struggle against terrorists. The policy aimed at giving of police functions to the Armed Forces and broadening of the methods and means of armed struggle is a confirmation of this trend.

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