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Ria Novosti, Russia

The Russian Military Police Will
Be Like That of the Americans,
but with Some Special Features

By Constantine Bogdanov

Several Russian generals are firmly committed to the creation of the nation’s military police, ... But an automatic transfer of the American experience to Russian soil is not possible.

Translated By Dagny Dukach

10 July 2012

Edited by Tom Proctor

Russia - Ria Novosti - Original Article (Russian)

Several Russian generals are firmly committed to the creation of the nation’s military police, having handed over to it a portion of the secondary support functions previously executed by military personnel. In its capacity as one type of military police force, the military police of the U.S. Army is being considered. But an automatic transfer of the American experience to Russian soil is not possible. With the different set of problems facing the armies of these two nations, subtleties and nuances of implementation are bound to arise.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Ministry of Defense

The notion of creating a military police within the national army has been around for quite some time (almost since late Soviet times). But the Ministry of Defense has only now begun the implementation of this decision with its demand for the formation of this service before the end of 2012.

The main task of the military police will be to maintain order in the sundry military units of the Defense Ministry. In addition, the military police is also going to shoulder the responsibility of the protection of military facilities and will receive all the services of the commandant under its control.

During his visit to the U.S., Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov discussed the fact that the Russian military police is being created with the support of foreign experience.

“Today we are actively creating within our armed forces a new structure: the military police. In this sphere, the experience of the U.S. is useful. …Therefore we are interested in learning from the experience of trainers who would have been training personnel for the military police within the system of military education of the Russian Ministry of Defense, obviously adapting this experience to concrete Russian realities,” said Makarov.

The American military police deals with precisely the issues listed above, and furthermore, it regulates the movements of military convoys. Incidentally, during WWII and the Korean War, the military police received another task (and one not so unimportant for the 1940s and 1950s): the fight against speculation and the theft of military property from the army.

Military Hazing Police

But of course, the main focus of the newly created agency will be confined to the restoration of order within many sections of the military. As far as we can tell, after the reduction of terms of service to one year, hazing was essentially crushed, but all sorts of semi-criminal activities, as well as other forms of bullying, continue to flourish within the framework of “fellow countrymen” associations. How could the introduction of a military police influence the situation in the military?

One of the greatest sources of hazing was in part (both in the USSR and in the Russian Army) the leniency of the officer corps, with their huge burden of daily responsibilities.

The long overdue washing out from army’s ranks of sergeants and petty officers of the 1960s in favor of conventionally trained conscripts (mostly in their second year of service – i.e. the “grandpas”* and “shovels”*) has led to some trouble. [*Translator’s Note: These are military slang terms for older officers prone to bullying]

First, the absence of a stable and experienced sergeant corps within the armed forces, combined with the leniency of the officers, has led to an increase in hazing

Second, a fair amount of disciplinary work and the monitoring of the service have been formally shifted to the junior officers (platoon leaders and some company commanders). Those of them that approached these additional duties conscientiously held the old-timers in tight control, using their knowledge to train lop-eared** youths. [**Translator’s Note: This is a slang term for simple-minded.]

Those who prove to be weaker, more cowardly or simply more careless dumped control of personnel onto the “grandpas,” acting in accordance with the “I don’t want to know anything, but I want everything to happen” principle, and consequences ensued. It is not difficult to guess that for such a commander, it is vital to sweep every outward trace of hazing in the unit under the rug. Indeed, he is also supported in this by his higher-ups who, in general, operate according to the same “I want to know nothing” principle.

Therefore, the creation of a parallel structure outside the command of the army and endowed with the authority to supervise the maintenance of order in the sundry military units is deserving of nothing but warm welcomes.

The extent to which this will eliminate the hazing that still remains will become clear with the passing of time and the formation of interactive practices between the military police and the army.

Subtle Special Features

An exact copy of the American military police is not feasible anyhow. In the course of its operations, goals and objectives will quickly arise that are specific to the inhabitants of our eighth of the globe.

The first of these national features will most likely become the issue of the prosecution of draft dodgers. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has already been hinting for several years that it is utterly uninterested in chasing draftees who have gone on the run. They are, strictly speaking, completely harmless from the point of view of the criminal situation on the streets, and working on such issues only distracts the police from real work.

Now, let’s say the senior department officials suggest that these issues are dealt with by the freshly formed national military police. There is logic in this, but let us note that those Americans’ military police has extremely limited influence in general civil spheres. The military police is simply inapplicable in areas for which the state police are responsible, for example. The only exceptions are situations of martial law and emergencies, and even then the authority of the military police is very limited.

Giving the military police the completely concrete function of persecuting draft dodgers will entail the creation of another power structure that will have the right to check documents on the streets and invade private homes. The extent to which this is justified, given the significant level of corruption within law enforcement structures and the utterly inadequate judicial protection for citizens against illegal acts committed by government agencies, is hard to tell.

The second special feature appears purely hypothetical, but it has already become a source of some worry. Recent information regarding the acquisition and equipping of Moscow’s 130th special motorized infantry brigade (in fact, this is a military police brigade) incited an outpouring of conspiracy theories. People are asking, “What’s up with the hasty formulation of penal agencies created to suppress domestic unrest in the capital?” And the equipment of the 130th special motorized infantry brigade is certainly a sight to be seen – it includes BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, “Bumblebee” flamethrowers and even a team of divers.

It is clear that the amount of military and government facilities that might at some point need to be protected (or repelled) within the complex conditions of urban development demands both manpower and equipment, including specialized heavy weaponry such as the “Bumblebee.” With its thermobaric technology, the “Bumblebee” was designed specifically for work within confined spaces – be it a pillbox or a building.

But the case before us is, to an extent, a duplication of the Ministry of Internal Affairs troops (the same division as that of Dzerzhinsky). The idea of converting the troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs into a separate power structure, complete with “presidential,” “republican” and “national” guards, has been around already for quite some time. These guards are essentially a means of riot control. But in countries of incompletely established internal political consensus and weak political systems, they act further as insurance for heads of state against military coups.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see what path will be taken by the creators of the frankly military set of powers and resources of this new agency, which is intended as an instrument for the maintenance of order in the armed forces.

Employment Along the Way

We must also not forget another specific circumstance. Many experts believe that a state with a military police can become a haven for reductions in military officers.

Indeed, such experiences are extremely common in Russia. Sometimes entire power structures completely change direction and begin working in fundamentally new areas. For example, the Federal Drug Control Service was created with the extensive involvement of personnel from regional offices of the dissolved tax police. In addition, there is the department of the notorious “E” Center (working in the fight against extremism). The Ministry of Internal Affairs inducted quite a few people from departments that were engaged in the fight against organized crime and were dissolved around the same time.

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? It is an age-old question, and it must be resolved anew in each case. We must further note that if the decision is made to create a parallel structure unincorporated with the military caste, then it will be impossible to equip this structure with “managers” that are directly connected to the troops. Among them will be the exact same percentage of people who are directly responsible for the outrages that the military police itself must fight.

In this case, it is inevitable that the “class bond” between police officers and troops might become fertile ground for the concealment of violations, hazing and even the theft of property.

As of yet, it is still unclear whether the Ministry of Defense will be able to establish an effective filter through which people will be chosen from the ranks of retired military staff in order to prevent the compromising of this new service.



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