Spetsnatz (III) by Victor Suvorov (1987)
Spetsnatz (III) by Victor Suvorov (1987)
The dropping of a spetsnaz unit can be carried out at any time of the day or night. Every time has its advantages and its problems. Night-time is the spetsnaz soldier's ally, when the appearance of a group of spetsnaz deep in the enemy's rear may not be noticed at all. Even if the enemy were aware of the group's arrival, it is never easy to organise a full-scale search at night, especially if the exact landing place is not known and may be somewhere inaccessible where there are forests and hills or mountains with few roads and no troops on the spot. But at night there are likely to be casualties among the parachutists as they land. The same problems of assembly and orientation which face the pursuit troops face the spetsnaz unit too.
During the day, obviously, there are fewer accidents on landing; but the landing will be seen. Deliberate daytime landings may sometimes be carried out for the simple reason that the enemy does not expect such brazen behaviour at such a time.
In many cases the drop will be carried out early in the morning while there are still stars in the sky and the sun has not risen. This is a very good time if large numbers of soldiers are being dropped who are expected to go straight into battle and carry out their mission by means of a really sudden attack. In that case the high command does its best to ensure that the groups have as much daylight as possible for active operations on the first, most important day of their mission.
But every spetsnaz soldier's favourite time for being dropped is at sunset. The flight is calculated so that the parachutists' drop is carried out in the last minutes before the onset of darkness. The landing then takes place in the twilight when it is still light enough to avoid landing on a church spire or a telegraph pole. In half an hour at the most darkness will conceal the men and they will have the whole night ahead of them to leave the landing area and cover their tracks.
On its own territory spetsnaz has a standard military structure4: section, platoon, company, battalion, brigade; or section, platoon, company, regiment. This organisation simplifies the control, administration and battle training of spetsnaz. But this structure cannot be used on enemy territory.
4 See Appendices for precise organisation of spetsnaz at different levels.
The problem is, firstly, that every spetsnaz operation is individual and unlike any other; a plan is worked out for each operation, which is unlike any other. Each operation consequently requires forces organised, not in a standard fashion, but adapted to the particular plan.
Secondly, when it is on enemy territory, a spetsnaz unit is in direct communication with a major headquarters, at the very least the headquarters of an all-arm or tank army, and orders are received in many cases directly from a high-level HQ. A very long chain of command is simply not needed.
On operations a simple and flexible chain of command is used. The organisational unit on enemy territory is known officially as the reconnaissance group of spetsnaz (RGSN). A group is formed before the beginning of an operation and may contain from two to thirty men. It can operate independently or as part of a detachment (ROSN), which consists of between thirty and 300 or more men. The detachment contains groups of various sizes and for various purposes. The names `detachment' and `group' are used deliberately, to emphasise the temporary nature of the units. In the course of an operation groups can leave a detachment and join it again, and each group may in turn break up into several smaller groups or, conversely, come together with others into one big group. Several large groups can join up and form a detachment which can at any moment split up again. The whole process is usually planned before the operation begins. For example: the drop may take place in small groups, perhaps fifteen of them altogether. On the second day of the operation (D+1) eight of the groups will join up into one detachment for a joint raid, while the rest operate independently. On D+2 two groups are taken out of the detachment to form the basis of a new detachment and another six groups link up with the second detachment. On D+5 the first detachment splits up into groups and on D+6 the second group splits up, and so on. Before the beginning of the operation each group is informed where and when to meet up with the other groups and what to do in case the rendezvous is not kept.
Having landed in enemy territory spetsnaz may go straight into battle. Otherwise, it will hide the equipment it no longer needs -- boats, parachutes, etc -- by either burying them in the ground or sinking them in water. Very often it will then mine the drop area. The mines are laid where the unwanted equipment has been buried. The area is also treated with one of a number of substances which will confuse a dog's sense of smell. After that, the group (of whatever size) will break up into little sub-groups which depart quickly in different directions. A meeting of the sub-groups will take place later at a previously arranged spot or, if this proves problematic, at one of the several alternative places which have been agreed.
The drop area is usually the first place where casualties occur. However good the parachute training is, leg injuries and fractures are a frequent occurrence, and when the drop takes place in an unfamiliar place, in complete darkness, perhaps in fog, over a forest or mountains, they are inevitable. Even built-up areas provide their own hazards. Spetsnaz laws are simple and easy to understand. In a case of serious injury the commander cannot take the wounded man with him; doing so would greatly reduce the group's mobility and might lead to the mission having to be aborted. But the commander cannot, equally, leave the wounded man alone. Consequently a simple and logical decision is taken, to kill the wounded man. Spetsnaz has a very humane means of killing its wounded soldiers -- a powerful drug known to the men as `Blessed Death'. An injection with the drug stops the pain and quickly produces a state of blissful drowsiness. In the event that a commander decides, out of misguided humanity, to take the wounded man with him, and it looks as if this might jeopardise the mission, the deputy commander is under orders to dispatch both the wounded man and the commander. The commander is removed without recourse to drugs. It is recommended that he be seized from behind with a hand over his mouth and a knife blow to his throat. If the deputy does not deal with his commander in this situation, then not just the commander and his deputy, but the entire group may be regarded as traitors, with all the inevitable consequences.
As they leave the area of the drop the groups and sub-groups cover their tracks, using methods that have been well known for centuries: walking through water and over stones, walking in each other's footsteps, and so forth. The groups lay more mines behind them and spread more powder against dogs.
After leaving the drop zone and having made sure that they are not being followed, the commander gives orders for the organisation of a base and a reserve base, safe places concealed from the view of outsiders. Long before a war GRU officers, working abroad in the guise of diplomats, journalists, consuls and other representatives of the USSR, choose places suitable for establishing bases. The majority of GRU officers have been at some time very closely familiar with spetsnaz, or are themselves spetsnaz officers, or have worked in the Intelligence Directorate of a district or group of forces. They know what is needed for a base to be convenient and safe.
Bases can be of all sorts and kinds. The ideal base would be a hiding place beneath ground level, with a drainage system, running water, a supply of food, a radio set to pick up the local news and some simple means of transport. I have already described how spetsnaz agents, recruited locally, can establish the more elaborate bases which are used by the professional groups of athletes carrying out exceptionally important tasks. In the majority of cases the base will be somewhere like a cave, or an abandoned quarry, or an underground passage in a town, or just a secluded place among the undergrowth in a dense forest.
A spetsnaz group can leave at the base all the heavy equipment it does not need immediately. The existence of even the most rudimentary base enables it to operate without having to carry much with it in the way of equipment or supplies. The approaches to the base are always guarded and the access paths mined -- the closest with ordinary mines and the more distant ones with warning mines which explode with much noise and a bright flash, alerting any people in the base of approaching danger.
When the group moves off to carry out its task, a few men normally remain behind to guard the base, choosing convenient observation points from which to keep an eye on it. In the event of its being discovered the guard leaves the location quietly and makes for the reserve base, leaving warnings of the danger to the rest of the group in an agreed place. The main group returning from its mission will visit the reserve base first and only then go to the main base. There is a double safeguard here: the group may meet the guards in the reserve base and so avoid falling into a trap; otherwise the group will see the warning signals left by the guards. The craters from exploded mines around the base may also serve as warnings of danger. If the worst comes to the worst, the guards can give warning of danger by radio.
A spetsnaz group may also have a moving base. Then it can operate at night, unhampered by heavy burdens, while the guards cart all the group's heavy equipment along by other routes. Each morning the group meets up with its mobile base. The group replenishes its supplies and then remains behind to rest or to set off on another operation, while the base moves to another place. The most unexpected places can be used by the mobile bases. I once saw a base which looked simply like a pile of grass that had been thrown down in the middle of a field. The soldiers' packs and equipment had been very carefully disguised, and the men guarding the base were a kilometre away, also in a field and camouflaged with grass. All around there were lots of convenient ravines overgrown with young trees and bushes. That was where the KGB and MVD units were looking for the spetsnaz base, and where the helicopters were circling overhead. It did not occur to anybody that a base could be right in the middle of an open field.
In some cases a spetsnaz group may capture a vehicle for transporting its mobile base. It might be an armoured personnel carrier, a truck or an ordinary car. And if a group is engaged in very intensive fighting involving frequent changes of location, then no base is organised. In the event of its being pursued the group can abandon all its heavy equipment, having firstremoved the safety pin from the remaining mines.
In order to destroy a target it has first to be located. In the overwhelming majority of cases a spetsnaz operation includes the search for the target. This is understandable, since targets whose location is known and which are not movable can be destroyed easily and quickly with missiles and aircraft. But a great number of targets in present-day fighting are mobile. On the eve of a war or just after it has broken out, government offices are moved out of a country's capital for secret command posts whose location is known to very few people. New communications centres and lines are brought into operation. Aircraft are removed from stationary aerodromes and dispersed to airfields established in places unknown to the enemy. Many missile installations are moved to new concealed, and carefully guarded, locations. Troops and headquarters are also relocated.
In these circumstances the search for targets acquires paramount significance for spetsnaz. To be able to find a target of special importance, to identify it, and to know how to distinguish real targets from false ones, become the most important tasks for spetsnaz, more important even than the destruction of the targets. Once a target has been discovered it can be destroyed by other forces -- missiles, aircraft, marines, airborne troops. But a target that has not been discovered cannot be destroyed by anyone.
Because the business of identifying targets is the most important task for spetsnaz it cannot be a separate and independent organisation. It can carry out this task only if it relies on all the resources of the GRU, and only if it can make use of information obtained by agents and from all the various kinds of razvedka -- satellite, aircraft, naval, electronic, and so forth.
Every form of razvedka has its good and its bad side. A complete picture of what is happening can be obtained only by making use of all forms of razvedka in close interaction one with another, compensating for the weaknesses of some forms with the advantages of the others.
Every officer in charge of razvedka uses spetsnaz only where its use can give the very best result. When he sends a spetsnaz group behind enemy lines the officer in command already knows a good deal about the enemy from other sources. He knows exactly what the unit is to look for and roughly where it has to look. The information obtained by spetsnaz groups (sometimes only fragmentary and uncertain) can in turn be of exceptional value to the other forms of razvedka and be the starting point for more attentive work in those areas by agents and other services.
Only with a union of all forces and resources is it possible to reveal the plans and intentions of the enemy, the strength and organisation of his forces, and to inflict defeat on him.
But let us return to the commander of the spetsnaz group who, despatching it to a particular area, already knows a good deal about the area, the specially important targets that may be found there, and even their approximate location. This information (or as much of it as concerns him) is passed on to the commander of the group and his deputy. The group has landed safely, covered its tracks, established a base and started its search. How should it set about it?
There are several tried and tested methods. Each target of special importance must have a communications centre and lines of communication leading to it. The group may include experts at radio razvedka. Let us not forget that spetsnaz is the 3rd department and radio razvedka the 5th department of the same Directorate (the Second) at the headquarters of every front, fleet, group of forces and military district. Spetsnaz and radio razvedka are very closely connected and often help each other, even to the point of having radio razvedka experts in spetsnaz groups. By monitoring radio transmissions in the area of important targets it is possible to determine quite accurately their whereabouts.
But it is also possible to discover the target without the aid of radio razvedka. The direction of receiving and transmitting aerials of tropospheric, radio-relay and other communication lines provides a lot of information about the location of the terminal points on lines of communication. This in turn leads us right up to the command posts and other targets of great importance.
Sometimes before a search begins the commander of the group will decide by the map which, in his opinion, are the most likely locations for particular targets. His group will examine those areas first of all.
If the targets are moved, then the roads, bridges, tunnels and mountain passes where they may be seen are put under observation.
The search for a particular target can be carried out simultaneously by several groups. In that case the officer in charge divides the territory being searched into squares in each of which one group operates.
Each group searching a square usually spreads out into a long line with tens or even hundreds of metres between each man. Each man moves by the compass, trying to keep in sight of his neighbours. They advance in complete silence. They choose suitable observation points and carefully examine the areas ahead of them, and if they discover nothing they move on to another hiding place. In this way relatively small groups of well trained soldiers can keep quite extensive areas under observation. Unlike razvedka conducted from outer space or the air, spetsnaz can get right up to targets and view them, not from above, but from the ground. Experience shows that it is much more difficult to deceive a spetsnaz man with false targets than it is a man operating an electronic intelligence station or an expert at interpreting pictures taken from the air or from space.
Spetsnaz groups have recently begun to make ever greater use of electronic apparatus for seeking their targets. They now carry portable radar, infra-red and acoustic equipment, night-vision sights, and so forth. But whatever new electronic devices are invented, they will never replace the simplest and most reliable method of establishing the location of important targets: questioning a prisoner.
It may be claimed that not every prisoner will agree to answer the questions put to him, or that some prisoners will answer the questions put by spetsnaz but give wrong answers and lead their interrogators astray. To which my reply is categorical. Everybody answers questions from spetsnaz. There are no exceptions. I have been asked how long a very strong person can hold out against questioning by spetsnaz, without replying to questions. The answer is: one second. If you don't believe this, just try the following experiment. Get one of your friends who considers himself a strong character to write on a piece of paper a number known only to himself and seal the paper in an envelope. Then tie your friend to a post or a tree and ask him what number he wrote on the paper. If he refuses to answer, file his teeth down with a big file and count the time. Having received the answer, open the envelope and check that he has given you the number written on the paper. I guarantee the answer will be correct.
If you perform such an experiment, you will have an idea of one of spetsnaz's milder ways of questioning people. But there are more effective and reliable ways of making a person talk. Everyone who falls into the hands of spetsnaz knows he is going to be killed. But people exert themselves to give correct and precise answers. They are not fighting for their lives but for an easy death. Prisoners are generally interrogated in twos or larger groups. If one seems to know less than the others, he can be used for demonstration purposes to encourage them to talk. If the questioning is being done in a town the prisoner may have a heated iron placed on his body, or have his ears pierced with an electric drill, or be cut to pieces with an electric saw. A man's fingers are particularly sensitive. If the finger of a man being questioned is simply bent back and the end of the finger squashed as it is bent, the pain is unendurable. One method considered very effective is a form of torture known as `the bicycle'. A man is bound and laid on his back. Pieces of paper (or cotton wool or rags) soaked in spirit, eau-de-cologne, etc., are stuck between his fingers and set alight.
Spetsnaz has a special passion for the sexual organs. If the conditions permit, a very old and simple method is used to demonstrate the power of spetsnaz. The captors drive a big wedge into the trunk of a tree, then force the victim's sexual organs into the opening and knock out the wedge. They then proceed to question the other prisoners. At the same time, in order to make them more talkative, the principal spetsnaz weapon -- the little infantryman's spade -- is used. As spetsnaz asks its questions the blade of the spade is used to cut off ears and fingers, to hit the victims in the liver and perform a whole catalogue of unpleasant operations on the person under interrogation.
One very simple way of making a man talk is known as the `swallow', well known in Soviet concentration camps. It does not require any weapons or other instruments, and if it is used with discretion it does not leave any traces on the victim's body. He is laid face down on the ground and his legs are bent back to bring his heels as close as possible to the back of his neck. The `swallow' generally produces a straight answer in a matter of seconds.
Of course, every method has its shortcomings. That is why a commander uses several methods at the same time. The `swallow' is not usually employed in the early stages of an operation. Immediately after a landing, the commander of a spetsnaz group tries to use one really blood-thirsty device out of his arsenal: cutting a man's lips with a razor, or breaking his neck by twisting his head round. These methods are used even when a prisoner obviously has no information, the aim being to prevent any possibility of any of the men in the group going over to the enemy. Everyone, including those who have not taken part in the torture, knows that after this he has no choice: he is bound to his group by a bloody understanding and must either come out on top or die with his group. In case of surrender he may have to suffer the same torture as his friends have just used.
In recent years the KGB, GRU and spetsnaz have had the benefit of an enormous training ground in which to try out the effectiveness of their methods of questioning: Afghanistan. The information received from there describes things which greatly exceed in skill and inventiveness anything I have described here. I am quite deliberately not quoting here interrogation methods used by the Soviet forces, including spetsnaz, in Afghanistan, which have been reported by thoroughly reliable sources. Western journalists have access to that material and to living witnesses.
Once it has obtained the information it needs about the targets of interest to it, the spetsnaz group checks the facts and then kills the prisoners. It should be particularly noted that those who have told the truth do have an easy death. They may be shot, hanged, have their throats cut or be drowned. Spetsnaz does not torture anybody for the sake of torture. You come across practically no sadists in spetsnaz. If they find one they quickly get rid of him. Both the easier and the tougher forms of questioning in spetsnaz are an unavoidable evil that the fighting men have to accept. They use these methods, not out of a love of torturing people, but as the simplest and most reliable way of obtaining information essential to their purpose.
Having discovered the target and reported on it to their command,
spetsnaz will in most cases leave the target area as quickly as possible.
Very soon afterwards, the target will come under attack by missiles,
aircraft or other weapons. In a number of cases, however, the spetsnaz group
will destroy the target it has discovered itself. They are often given the
mission in that form: `Find and destroy'. But there are also situations when
the task is given as `Find and report', and the group commander takes an
independent decision about destroying the target. He may do so when, having
found the target, he discovers suddenly that he cannot report to his
superior officers about it; and he may also do so when he comes across a
missile ready for firing.
Robbed of the chance or the time to transmit a report, the commander
has to take all possible steps to destroy the target, including ordering a
suicide attack on it. Readiness to carry out a suicide mission is maintained
in spetsnaz by many methods. One of them is to expose obvious sadists and
have them transferred immediately to other branches of the forces, because
experience shows that in the overwhelming majority of cases the sadist is a
coward, incapable of sacrificing himself.
The actual destruction of targets is perhaps the most ordinary and
prosaic part of the entire operation. VIPs are usually killed as they are
being transported from one place to another, when they are at their most
vulnerable. The weapons include snipers' rifles, grenade-launchers or mines
laid in the roadway. If a VIP enjoys travelling by helicopter it is a very
simple matter. For one thing, a single helicopter is a better target than a
number of cars, when the terrorists do not know exactly which car their
victim is travelling in. Secondly, even minor damage to a helicopter will
bring it down and almost certainly kill the VIP.
Missiles and aircraft are also attacked with snipers' rifles and
grenade-launchers of various kinds. One bullet hole in a missile or an
aircraft can put it out of action. If he cannot hit his target from a
distance the commander of the group will attack, usually from two sides. His
deputy will attack with one group of men from one side, trying to make as
much noise and gunfire as possible, while the other group led by the
commander will move, noiselessly, as close to the target as it can. It is
obvious that an attack by a small spetsnaz group on a well defended target
is suicide. But spetsnaz will do it. The fact is that even an unsuccessful
attack on a missile ready for firing will force the enemy to re-check the
whole missile and all its supporting equipment for faults. This may delay
the firing for valuable hours, which in a nuclear war might be long enough
to alter the course of the conflict.
Chapter 12. Control and Combined Operations
If we describe the modern infantryman in battle and leave it at that,
then, however accurate the description, the picture will be incomplete. The
modern infantryman should never just be described independently, because he
never operates independently. He operates in the closest co-operation with
tanks; his way forward is laid by sappers; the artillery and air force work
in his interests; he may be helped in his fighting by helicopter gunships;
ahead of him there are reconnaissance and parachute units; and behind him is
an enormous organisation to support and service him, from supplying
ammunition to evacuating the wounded quickly.
To understand the strength of spetsnaz one has to remember that
spetsnaz is primarily reconnaissance, forces which gather and transmit
information to their commanders to which their commanders immediately react.
The strength of those reconaissance forces lies in the fact that they have
behind them the whole of the nuclear might of the USSR. It may be that
before the appearance of spetsnaz on enemy territory, a nuclear blow will
already have been made, and despite the attendant dangers, this greatly
improves the position of the fighting groups, because the enemy is clearly
not going to bother with them. In other circumstances the groups will appear
on enemy territory and obtain information required by the Soviet command or
amplify it, enabling an immediate nuclear strike to follow. A nuclear strike
close to where a spetsnaz group is operating is theoretically regarded as
the salvation of the group. When there are ruins and fires all round, a
state of panic and the usual links and standards have broken down, a group
can operate almost openly without any fear of capture.
Similarly, Soviet command may choose to deploy other weapons before
spetsnaz begins operations or immediately after a group makes its landing:
chemical weapons, air attacks or bombardment of the coastline with naval
artillery. There is a co-operative principle at work here. Such actions will
give the spetsnaz groups enormous moral and physical support. And the
reverse is also true -- the operations of a group in a particular area and
the information it provides will make the strike by Soviet forces more
accurate and effective.
In the course of a war direct co-operation is the most dependable form
of co-operation. For example, the military commander of a front has learnt
through his network of agents (the second department of the 2nd Directorate
at front headquarters) or from other sources that there is in a certain area
a very important but mobile target which keeps changing its position. He
appoints one of his air force divisions to destroy the target. A spetsnaz
group (or groups) is appointed to direct the division to the target. The
liaison between the groups and the air force division is better not
conducted through the front headquarters, but directly. The air division
commander is told very briefly what the groups are capable of, and they are
then handed over to his command. They are dropped behind enemy lines and,
while they are carrying out the operation, they maintain direct contact with
their divisional headquarters. After the strike on the target the spetsnaz
group -- if it has survived -- returns immediately to the direct control of
the front headquarters, to remain there until it needs to be put under the
command of some other force as decided by the front commander.
Direct co-operation is a cornerstone of Soviet strategy and practised
widely on manoeuvres, especially at the strategic level1, when spetsnaz
groups from regiments of professional athletes are subordinated to
commanders of, for example, the strategic missile troops or the strategic
1 See Appendix D for the organisation of spetsnaz at strategic level.
For the main principle governing Soviet strategy is the concentration
of colossal forces against the enemy's most vulnerable spot. Soviet troops
will strike a super-powerful, sudden blow and then force their way rapidly
ahead. In this situation, or immediately before it, a mass drop of spetsnaz
units will be carried out ahead of and on the flanks of the advancing force,
or in places that have to be neutralised for the success of the operation on
the main line of advance.
Spetsnaz units at army level2, on the other hand, are dropped in the
areas of operations of their own armies at a depth of 100 to 500 kilometres;
and spetsnaz units under the command of the fronts3 are dropped in the area
of operations of their fronts at a depth of between 500 and 1000 kilometres.
2 See Appendix A.
3 See Appendix B.
The headquarters to which the group is subordinated tries not to
interfere in the operations of the spetsnaz group, reckoning that the
commander on the spot can see and understand the situation better than can
people at headquarters far from where the events are taking place. The
headquarters will intervene if it becomes necessary to redirect it to attack
a more important target or if a strike is to take place where it is located.
But a warning may not be given if the group is not going to have time to get
away from the strike area, since all such warnings carry the risk of
revealing Soviet intentions to the enemy.
Co-operation between different groups of spetsnaz is carried out by
means of a distribution of territories for operations by different groups,
so that simultaneous blows can be struck in different areas if need be.
Co-operation can also be carried out by forward headquarters at battalion,
regiment and brigade level, dropped behind the lines to co-ordinate major
spetsnaz forces in an area. Because spetsnaz organisation is so flexible, a
group which has landed by chance in another group's operational area can
quickly be brought under the latter's command by an order from a superior
In the course of a war other Soviet units apart from spetsnaz will be
operating in enemy territory:
Deep reconnaissance companies from the reconnaissance battalions of the
motor-rifle and tank divisions. Both in their function and the tactics they
adopt, these companies are practically indistinguishable from regular
spetsnaz. The difference lies in the fact that these companies do not use
parachutes but penetrate behind the enemy's lines in helicopters, jeeps and
armoured reconnaissance vehicles. Deep reconnaissance units do not usually
co-operate with spetsnaz. But their operations, up to 100 kilometres behind
the front line, make it possible to concentrate spetsnaz activity deeper in
the enemy's rear without having to divert it to operations in the zone
nearer the front.
Air-assault brigades at front level operate independently, but in some
cases spetsnaz units may direct the combat helicopters to their targets. It
is sometimes possible to have joint operations conducted by men dropped from
helicopters and to use helicopters from an air-assault brigade for
evacuating the wounded and prisoners.
Airborne divisions operate in accordance with the plans of the
commander-in-chief. If difficulties arise with the delivery of supplies to
their units, they switch to partisan combat tactics. Co-operation between
airborne divisions and spetsnaz units is not normally organised, although
large-scale drops in the enemy's rear create a favourable situation for
operations by all spetsnaz units.
Naval infantry are commanded by the same commander as naval spetsnaz:
every fleet commander has one brigade of the latter and a brigade (or
regiment) of infantry. Consequently these two formations, both intended for
operations in the enemy's rear, co-operate very closely. Normally when the
naval infantry makes a landing on an enemy coastline, their operation is
preceded by, or accompanied by, spetsnaz operations in the same area. Groups
of naval spetsnaz can, of course, operate independently of the naval
infantry if they need to, especially in cases where the operations are
expected to be in remote areas requiring special skills of survival or
There are two specific sets of circumstances in which superior
headquarters organises direct co-operation between all units operating in
the enemy rear. The first is when a combined attack offers the only
possibility of destroying or capturing the target, and the second is when
Soviet units in the enemy rear have suffered substantial losses and the
Soviet command decides to make up improvised groups out of the remnants of
the ragged units that are left.
In the course of an advance spetsnaz groups, as might be expected,
co-operate very closely with the forward detachments.
A Soviet advance -- a sudden break through the defences of the enemy in
several places and the rapid forward movement of masses of troops, supported
by an equal mass of aircraft and helicopters -- is always co-ordinated with
a simultaneous strike in the rear of the enemy by spetsnaz forces, airborne
troops and naval infantry.
In other armies different criteria are applied to measure a commander's
success -- for example, what percentage of the enemy's forces have been
destroyed by his troops. In the Soviet Army this is of secondary importance,
and may be of no importance at all, because a commander's value is judged by
one criterion only: the speed with which his troops advance.
To take the speed of advance as the sole measure of a commander's
abilities is not so stupid as it might seem at first glance. As a guiding
principle it forces all commanders to seek, find and exploit the weakest
spots in the enemy's defences. It obliges the commander to turn the enemy's
flank and to avoid getting caught up in unnecessary skirmishes. It also
makes commanders make use of theoretically impassable areas to get to the
rear of the enemy, instead of battering at his defences.
To find the enemy's weak spots a commander will send reconnaissance
groups ahead, and forward detachments which he has assembled for the
duration of the advance. Every commander of a regiment, division, army and,
in some cases, of a front will form his own forward detachment. In a
regiment the detachment normally includes a motor-rifle company with a tank
platoon (or a tank company with a motor-rifle platoon); a battery of
self-propelled howitzers; an anti-aircraft platoon; and an anti-tank platoon
and sapper and chemical warfare units. In a division it will consist of a
motor-rifle or tank battalion, with a tank or motor-rifle company as
appropriate; an artillery battalion; anti-aircraft and anti-tank batteries;
and a company of sappers and some support units. In an army the scale is
correspondingly greater: two or three motor-rifle battalions; one or two
tank battalions; two or three artillery battalions, a battalion of
multi-barrelled rocket launchers; a few anti-aircraft batteries; an
anti-tank battalion; and sappers and chemical warfare troops. Where a front
makes up its own forward detachment it will consist of several regiments,
most of them tank regiments. The success of each general (i.e. the speed at
which he advances) is determined by the speed of his very best units. In
practice this means that it is determined by the operations of the forward
detachment which he sends into battle. Thus every general assembles his best
units for that crucial detachment, puts his most determined officers in
command, and puts at their disposal a large slice of his reinforcements. All
this makes the forward detachment into a concentration of the strength of
the main forces.
It often happens that very high-ranking generals are put in command of
relatively small detachments. For example, the forward detachment of the 3rd
Guards Tank Army in the Prague operation was commanded by General I. G.
Ziberov, who was deputy chief of staff. (The detachment consisted of the
69th mechanised brigade, the 16th self-propelled artillery brigade, the 50th
motorcycle regiment, and the 253rd independent penal company).
Every forward detachment is certainly very vulnerable. Let us imagine
what the first day of a war in Europe would be like, when the main
concentration of Soviet troops has succeeded in some places in making very
small breaches in the defences of the forces of the Western powers. Taking
advantage of these breaches, and of any other opportunities offered --
blunders by the enemy, unoccupied sectors and the like -- about a hundred
forward detachments of regiments, about twenty-five more powerful forward
detachments of divisions, and about eight even more powerful forward
detachments from armies have penetrated into the rear of the NATO forces.
None of them has got involved in the fighting. They are not in the least
concerned about their rear or their flanks. They are simply racing ahead
without looking back.
This is very similar to the Vistula-Oder operation of 1945, on the eve
of which Marshal G. K. Zhukov assembled all sixty-seven commanders of the
forward detachments and demanded of each one: 100 kilometres forward
progress on the first day of the operation. A hundred kilometres,
irrespective of how the main forces were operating, and irrespective of
whether the main forces succeeded in breaking through the enemy's defences.
Every commander who advanced a hundred kilometres on the first day or
averaged seventy kilometres a day for the first four days would receive the
highest award -- the Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union. Everybody in
the detachment would receive a decoration, and all the men undergoing
punishment (every forward detachment has on its strength anything from a
company to a battalion's worth of such men riding on the outside of the
tanks) would have their offences struck out.
Say what you like about the lack of initiative in Soviet soldiers and
officers. Just imagine giving men from a penal battalion such a task. If you
succeed in not getting involved in the fighting, and if you manage to
outflank the enemy and keep moving, we will strike out all your offences.
Get involved in fighting and you will not only shed your blood, you will die
a criminal too.
Operations by Soviet forward detachments are not restrained by any
limitations. `The operations of forward detachments must be independent and
not restricted by the dividing lines,' the Soviet Military Encyclopaedia
declares. The fact that the forward detachments may be cut off from the main
force should not deter them. For example, on the advance in Manchuria in
1945 the 6th Guards Tank Army advanced rapidly towards the ocean, having
crossed the desert, the apparently impregnable Khingan mountain range and
the rice fields, and covering 810 kilometres in eleven days. But ahead of it
were forward detachments, operating continually, which had rushed 150 to 200
kilometres ahead of the main force. When the officer in command of the front
learnt of this spurt ahead (by quite unprotected detachments, which really
had not a single support vehicle with them), he did not order the
detachments to slow down; on the contrary, he ordered them to increase their
speed still further, and not to worry about the distance separating them,
however great it was. The more the forward detachments were separated from
the main force, the better. The more unsuspected and strange the appearance
of Soviet troops seems to the enemy, the greater the panic and the more
successful the operations of both the forward detachments and the main
Forward detachments were of enormous importance in the last war. The
speed at which our troops advanced reached at times eighty to a hundred
kilometres a day. Such a speed of advance in operations on such an enormous
scale causes surprise even today. But it must always be remembered that this
terrible rate of advance was to a great extent made possible by the
operations of the forward detachments. These are the words of Army-General
I.I. Gusakovsky, the same general who from January to April 1945, from the
Vistula to Berlin itself, commanded the forward detachment of the 11th
Guards Tank Corps and the whole of the 1st Guards Tank Army.
In the last war the forward detachments pierced the enemy's defences
with dozens of spearheads at the same time, and the main body of troops
followed in their tracks. The forward detachments then destroyed in the
enemy's rear only targets that were easy to destroy, and in many cases moved
forward quickly enough to capture bridges before they were blown up. The
reason the enemy had not blown them up was because his main forces were
still wholly engaged against the main forces of the Red Army.
The role played by forward detachments has greatly increased in modern
warfare. All Soviet military exercises are aimed at improving the operations
of forward detachments. There are two very good reasons why the role of the
forward detachments has grown in importance. The first is, predictably, that
war has acquired a nuclear dimension. Nuclear weapons (and other modern
means of fighting) need to be discovered and destroyed at the earliest
possible opportunity. And the more Soviet troops there are on enemy
territories, the less likelihood there is of their being destroyed by
nuclear weapons. It will always be difficult for the enemy to make a nuclear
strike against his own rear where not only are his own forces operating, and
which are inhabited but where a strike would also be against his own
A forward detachment, rushing far ahead and seeking out and destroying
missile batteries, airfields, headquarters and communication lines resembles
spetsnaz both in character and in spirit. It usually has no transport
vehicles at all. It carries only what can be found room for in the tanks and
armoured transporters, and its operations may last only a short time, until
the fuel in the tanks gives out. All the same, the daring and dashing
actions of the detachments will break up the enemy's defences, producing
chaos and panic in his rear, and creating conditions in which the main force
can operate with far greater chances of success.
In principle spetsnaz does exactly the same. The difference is that
spetsnaz groups have greater opportunities for discovering important
targets, whereas forward detachments have greater opportunities than
spetsnaz for destroying them. Which is why the forward detachment of each
regiment is closely linked up with the regiment's reconnaissance company
secretly operating deep inside the enemy's defences. Similarly, the forward
detachments of divisions are linked directly with divisional reconnaissance
battalions, receiving a great deal of information from them and, by their
swift reactions, creating better operating conditions for the reconnaissance
The forward detachment of an army, usually led by the deputy army
commander, will be operating at the same time as the army's spetsnaz groups
who will have been dropped 100 to 500 kilometres ahead. This means that the
forward detachment may find itself in the same operational area as the
army's spetsnaz groups as early as forty-eight hours after the start of the
operation. At that point the deputy army commander will establish direct
contact with the spetsnaz groups, receiving information from them, sometimes
redirecting groups to more important targets and areas, helping the groups
and receiving help from them. The spetsnaz group may, for example, capture a
bridge and hold it for a very short time. The forward detachment simply has
to be able to move fast enough to get to the bridge and take over with some
of its men. The spetsnaz group will stay at the bridge, while the forward
detachment runs ahead, and then, after the main body of Soviet forces has
arrived at the bridge the spetsnaz group will again, after briefing, be
dropped by parachute far ahead.
Sometimes spetsnaz at the front level will operate in the interests of
the army's forward detachments, in which case the army's own spetsnaz will
turn its attention to the most successful forward detachments of the army's
Forward detachments are a very powerful weapon in the hands of the
Soviet commanders, who have great experience in deploying them. They are in
reality the best units of the Soviet Army and in the course of an advance
will operate not only in a similar way to spetsnaz, but in very close
collaboration with it too. The success of operations by spetsnaz groups in
strategic warfare depends ultimately on the skill and fighting ability of
dozens of forward detachments which carry out lightning operations to
overturn the enemy's plans and frustrate his attempts to locate and destroy
the spetsnaz groups.
Chapter 13. Spetsnaz and Deception
Secrecy and disinformation are the most effective weapons in the hands
of the Soviet Army and the whole Communist system. With the aim of
protecting military secrets and of disinforming the enemy a Chief
Directorate of Strategic Camouflage (GUSM) was set up within the Soviet
General Staff in the 1960s. The Russian term for `camouflage' -- maskirovka
-- is, like the word razvedka, impossible to translate directly. Maskirovka
means everything relating to the preservation of secrets and to giving the
enemy a false idea of the plans and intentions of the Soviet high command.
Maskirovka has a broader meaning than `deception' and `camouflage' taken
The GUSM and the GRU use different methods in their work but operate on
the same battlefield. The demands made of the officers of both organisations
are more or less identical. The most important of these demands are: to be
able to speak foreign languages fluently; and to know the enemy. It was no
coincidence that when the GUSM was set up many senior officers and generals
of the GRU were transferred to it. General Moshe Milshtein was one of them,
and he had been one of the most successful heads the GRU had had; he spent
practically the whole of his career in the West as an illegal1. Milshtein
speaks English, French and German fluently, and possibly other languages as
well. He is the author of a secret textbook for GRU officers entitled An
Honourable Service. I frequently attended lectures given by him about
operations by Soviet `illegals' and the theory upon which the practice of
disinformation is based. But even the briefest study of the writings of this
general in Soviet military journals, in the Military-Historical Journal
(VIZ) for example, reveals that he is one of the outstanding Soviet experts
in the field of espionage and disinformation.
1 See Viktor Suvorov, Soviet Military Intelligence (London, 1984).
The GUSM is vast. It is continually gathering a colossal number of
facts on three key subjects:
1. What the West knows about us.
2. What the West shows us it does not know.
3. What the West is trying to find out.
The GUSM has long-term plans covering what must be concealed and what
must have attention drawn to it in the Soviet Army and armaments industry.
The experts of the GUSM are constantly fabricating material so that the
enemy should draw the wrong conclusions from the authentic information in
The extent of the powers given to the GUSM can be judged from the fact
that at the beginning of the 1970s REB osnaz (radio-electronic warfare) was
transferred from the control of the KGB to the control of the GUSM, though
still preserving the name osnaz.
There are very close links existing between the GUSM and the GRU and
between spetsnaz and the REB osnaz. In peacetime the REB osnaz transmits by
radio `top-secret' instructions from some Soviet headquarters to others. In
time of war spetsnaz operations against headquarters and centres and lines
of communications are conducted in the closest co-operation with the REB
osnaz, which is ready to connect up with the enemy's lines of communication
to transmit false information. An example of such an operation was provided
in the manoeuvres of the Ural military district when a spetsnaz company
operated against a major headquarters. Spetsnaz groups cut the communication
lines and `destroyed' the headquarters and at the same time an REB osnaz
company hooked into the enemy's lines and began transmitting instructions to
the enemy in the name of the headquarters that had been wiped out.
Even in peacetime the GUSM operates in a great variety of ways. For
example, the Soviet Union derives much benefit from the activities of
Western pacifists. A fictitious pacifist movement has been set up in the
Soviet Union and Professor Chazov, the personal physician of the General
Secretary of the Communist Party, has been made head of it. There are some
who say that the movement is controlled by the Soviet leadership through the
person of Chazov. Chazov, in addition to being responsible for the health of
the General Secretary, is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist
Party, i.e. one of the leaders who has real power in his hands. There are
very few people who can manipulate him.
The mighty machinery of the GUSM was brought into operation in order to
give this Communist leader some publicity. General Moshe Milshtein himself
arrived in London in April 1982 to attend a conference of doctors opposed to
nuclear warfare. There were many questions that had to be put to the
general. What did he have to do with medicine? Where had he served, in what
regiments and divisions? Where had he come by his genuine English accent?
Did all Soviet generals speak such good English? And were all Soviet
generals allowed to travel to Great Britain and conduct pacifist propaganda,
or was it a privilege granted to a select few?
The result of this publicity stunt by the GUSM is well known -- the
`pacifist' Chazov, who has never once been known to condemn the murder of
children in Afghanistan or the presence of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia,
and who persecutes opponents of Communism in the USSR, received the Nobel
`But,' as Stalin said, `in order to prepare new wars pacifism alone is
not enough.'2 That is why the Soviet leaders are preparing for another war
not only with the aid of the pacifists but with the help of many other
people and organisations which, knowingly or unwittingly, spread information
which has been `made in the GUSM'.
2 Leningradskaya Pravda, 14 July 1928.
One of the sources spreading Soviet military disinformation is the
GRU's network of agents, and in particular the agents of spetsnaz.
In the preparation of a strategic operation the GUSM's most important
task is to ensure that the operation is totally unexpected by the enemy,
particularly the place where it is to take place and the time it is due to
start; its nature, and the weapons the troops will be using; and the number
of troops and scope of the operation. All these elements must be planned so
that the enemy has not prepared to resist. This is achieved by many years of
intensive effort on the part of the GUSM at concealment. But concealment is
twofold: the GUSM will, for example, conceal from the enemy advances in
Soviet military science and the armaments industry, and at the same time
demonstrate what the enemy wants to see.
This would provide material for a separate and lengthy piece of
research. Here we are dealing only with spetsnaz and with what the GUSM does
in connection with spetsnaz. GUSM experts have developed a whole system
aimed at preventing the enemy from being aware of the existence of spetsnaz
and ensuring that he should have a very limited idea of its strength and the
nature of the operations it will conduct. Some of the steps it takes we have
already seen. To summarise:
1. Every prospective member of spetsnaz is secretly screened for his
general reliability long before he is called into the Army.
2. Every man joining spetsnaz or the GRU has to sign a document
promising not to reveal the secret of its existence. Any violation of this
undertaking is punished as spying -- by the death sentence.
3. Spetsnaz units do not have their own uniform, their own badges or
any other distinguishing mark, though it very often uses the uniform of the
airborne troops and their badges. Naval spetsnaz wear the uniform of the
naval infantry although they have nothing in common with that force.
Spetsnaz units operating midget submarines wear the usual uniform of
submariners. When they are in the countries of Eastern Europe the spetsnaz
units wear the uniform of signals troops.
4. Not a single spetsnaz unit is quartered separately. They are all
accommodated in military settlements along with airborne or air-assault
troops. In the Navy spetsnaz units are accommodated in the military
settlements of the naval infantry. The fact that they wear the same uniform
and go through roughly the same kind of battle training makes it very
difficult to detect spetsnaz. In Eastern Europe spetsnaz is located close to
important headquarters because it is convenient to have them along with the
signals troops. In the event of their being moved to military settlements
belonging to other branches of the forces spetsnaz units immediately change
Agent units in spetsnaz are installed near specially well-defended
targets -- missile bases, penal battalions and nuclear ammunition stores.
5. In the various military districts and groups of forces spetsnaz
troops are known by different names -- as reidoviki (`raiders') in East
Germany, and as okhotniki (`hunters') in the Siberian military district.
Spetsnaz soldiers from different military districts who meet by chance
consider themselves as part of different organisations. The common label
spetsnaz is used only by officers among themselves.
6. Spetsnaz does not have its own schools or academies. The officer
class is trained at the Kiev Higher Combined Officers' Training School
(reconnaissance faculty) and at the Ryazan Higher Airborne School (special
faculty). It is practically impossible to distinguish a spetsnaz student
among the students of other faculties. Commanding officers and officers
concerned with agent work are trained at the Military-Diplomatic Academy
(the GRU Academy). I have already mentioned the use made of sports sections
and teams for camouflaging the professional core of spetsnaz.
There are many other ways of concealing the presence of spetsnaz in a
particular region and the existence of spetsnaz as a whole.
In spetsnaz everyone has his own nickname. As in the criminal
underworld or at school, a person does not choose his own nickname, but is
given it by others. A man may have several at the outset, then some of them
are dropped until there remains only the one that sounds best and most
pleases the people he works with. The use of nicknames greatly increases the
chances of keeping spetsnaz operations secret. The nicknames can be
transmitted by radio without any danger. A good friend of mine was given the
nickname Racing Pig. Suppose the head of Intelligence in a district sent the
following radiogram, uncyphered: `Racing Pig to go to post No. 10.' What
could that tell an enemy if he intercepted it? On the other hand, the
commander of the group will know the message is genuine, that it has been
sent by one of his own men and nobody else. Spetsnaz seldom makes use of
radio, and, if the head of Intelligence had to speak to the group again he
would not repeat the name but would say another name to the deputy commander
of the group: `Dog's Heart to take orders from Gladiolus,' for example.
Before making a jump behind enemy lines, in battle or in training, a
spetsnaz soldier will hand over to his company sergeant all his documents,
private letters, photographs, everything he does not need on the campaign
and everything that might enable someone to determine what unit he belongs
to, his name, and so on. The spetsnaz soldier has no letters from the
Russian alphabet on his clothes or footwear. There may be some figures which
indicate the number he is known by in the Soviet armed forces, but that is
all. An interesting point is that there are two letters in that number, and
for the spetsnaz soldier they always select letters which are common to both
the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets -- A, K, X, and so forth. An enemy coming
across the corpse of a spetsnaz soldier will find no evidence that it is
that of a Soviet soldier. One could, of course, guess, but the man could
just as easily be a Bulgar, a Pole or a Czech.
Spetsnaz operates in exceptionally unfavourable conditions. It can
survive and carry out a given mission only if the enemy's attention is
spread over a vast area and he does not know where the main blow is to be
With this aim, drops of large numbers of spetsnaz troops are not
carried out in a single area but in smaller numbers and in several areas at
the same time. The dropping zones may be separated from each other by
hundreds of kilometres, and apart from the main areas of operation for
spetsnaz other, subsidiary areas are chosen as well: these are areas of real
interest to spetsnaz, so as to make the enemy believe that that is the area
where the main spetsnaz threat is likely to appear, and they are chosen as
carefully as the main ones. The decision as to which area will be a prime
one and which a subsidiary is taken by the high command on the very eve of
the operation. Sometimes circumstances change so rapidly that a change in
the area of operation may take place even as the planes are over enemy
The deception of the enemy over the main and subsidiary areas of
operation begins with the deception of the men taking part in the operation.
Companies, battalions, regiments and brigades exist as single fighting
units. But during the period of training for the operation, groups and
detachments are formed in accordance with the actual situation and to carry
out a specific task. The strength and armament of each group is worked out
specially. Before carrying out an operation every detachment and every group
is isolated from the other groups and detachments and is trained to carry
out the operation planned for that particular group. The commander and his
deputy are given the exact area of operations and are given information
about enemy operations in the given area and about operations there by
spetsnaz groups and detachments. Sometimes this information is very detailed
(if groups and detachments have to operate jointly), at others it is only
superficial, just enough to prevent neighbouring commanders getting in each
Sometimes the commander of a group or detachment is told the truth,
sometimes he is deceived. A spetsnaz officer knows that he can be deceived,
and that he cannot always detect with any certainty what is true and what is
Commanders of groups and detachments who are to take part in operations
in reserve areas are usually told that their area is the main one and the
most important, that there is already a large force of spetsnaz operating
there or that such a force will soon appear there. The commander of a group
that is operating in the main area may be told, on the contrary, that apart
from his groups there are very few groups operating in the area.
Irrespective of what the comander is told he is given quite specific tasks,
for whose accomplishment he answers with his head in the most literal sense.
In any operation the GRU high command keeps a spetsnaz reserve on its
own territory. Even in the course of the operation some groups may receive
an order to withdraw from the main areas into the reserve areas. Spetsnaz
reserves may be dropped into the reserve areas, which then become main areas
of operations. In this way the enemy obtains information about spetsnaz
simultaneously in many areas, and it is exceptionally difficult to determine
where the main areas and where the reserve ones are. Consequently the
enemy's main forces may be thrown against relatively small groups and
detachments which are conducting real military operations but which are none
the less a false target for the enemy. Even if the enemy establishes which
are the main areas of spetsnaz operations the enemy may be too late. Many
spetsnaz groups and detachments will already be leaving the area, but those
that remain there will be ordered to step up their activity; the enemy thus
gets the impression that this area is still the main one. So as not to
dispel this illusion, the groups remaining in the area are ordered by the
Soviet high command to prepare to receive fresh spetsnaz reinforcements, are
sent increased supplies and are continually told that they are doing the
main job. But they are not told that their comrades left the area long ago
for a reserve area that has now become a main one.
At the same time as the main and reserve areas are chosen, false areas
of operations for spetsnaz are set. A false, or phoney, area is created in
the following way. A small spetsnaz group with a considerable supply of
mines is dropped into the area secretly. The group lays the mines on
important targets, setting the detonators in such a way that all the mines
will blow up at roughly the same time. Then automatic radio transmitters are
fixed up in inaccessible places which are also carefully mined. This done,
the spetsnaz group withdraws from the area and gets involved in operations
in a quite different place. Then another spetsnaz group is dropped into the
same area with the task of carrying out an especially daring operation.
This group is told that it is to be operating in an area of special
importance where there are many other groups also operating. At an agreed
moment the Soviet air force contributes a display of activity over the
particular area. For this purpose real planes are used, which have just
finished dropping genuine groups in another area. The route they follow has
to be deliberately complicated, with several phoney places where they drop
torn parachutes and shroud-lines, airborne troops' equipment, boxes of
ammunition, tins of food, and so forth.
Next day the enemy observes the following scene. In an area of dense
forest in which there are important targets there are obvious traces of the
presence of Soviet parachutists. In many places in the same area there had
been simultaneous explosions. In broad daylight a group of Soviet terrorists
had stopped the car of an important official on the road and brutally
murdered him and got away with his case full of documents. At the same time
the enemy had noted throughout the area a high degree of activity by
spetsnaz radio transmitters using a system of rapid and super-rapid
transmission which made it very difficult to trace them. What does the enemy
general have to do, with all these facts on his desk?
To lead the enemy further astray spetsnaz uses human dummies, clothed
in uniform and appropriately equipped. The dummies are dropped in such a way
that the enemy sees the drop but cannot immediately find the landing place.
For this purpose the drop is carried out over mountains or forests, but far
away from inhabited places and places where the enemy's troops are located.
The drops are usually made at dawn, sunset or on a moonlit night. They are
never made in broad daylight because it is then seen to be an obvious piece
of deception, while on a dark night the drop may not be noticed at all.
The enemy will obviously discover first the dummies in the areas which
are the main places for spetsnaz operations. The presence of the dummies may
raise doubts in the enemy's mind about whether the dummies indicate that it
is not a false target area but the very reverse.... The most important thing
is to disorient the enemy completely. If there are few spetsnaz forces
available, then it must be made to appear that there are lots of them
around. If there are plenty of them, it should be made to appear that there
are very few. If their mission is to destroy aircraft it must look as if
their main target is a power station, and vice versa. Sometimes a group will
lay mines on targets covering a long distance, such as oil pipelines,
electricity power lines, roads and bridges along the roads. In such cases
they set the first detonators to go off with a very long delay and as they
advance they make the delay steadily shorter. The group then withdraws to
one side and changes its direction of advance completely. The successive
explosions then take place in the opposite direction to the one in which the
group was moving.
Along with operations in the main, reserve and false areas there may
also be operations by spetsnaz professional groups working in conditions of
special secrecy. The Soviet air force plays no part in such operations. Even
if the groups are dropped by parachute it takes place some distance away and
the groups leave the drop zone secretly. Relatively small but very carefully
trained groups of professional athletes are chosen for such operations.
Their movements can be so carefully concealed that even their acts of
terrorism are carried out in such a way as to give the enemy the impression
that the particular tragedy is the result of some natural disaster or of
some other circumstances unconnected with Soviet military intelligence or
with terrorism in general. All the other activity of spetsnaz serves as a
sort of cover for such specially trained groups. The enemy concentrates his
attention on the main, reserve and false target areas, not suspecting the
existence of secret areas in which the organisation is also operating:
secret areas which could very easily be the most dangerous for the enemy.
Chapter 14. Future Prospects
Spetsnaz continues to grow. In the first place its ranks are swelling.
In the next few years spetsnaz companies on the army level are expected to
become battalions, and there is much evidence to suggest that this process
has already begun. Such a reorganisation would mean an increase in the
strength of spetsnaz by 10,000 men. But that is not the end of it. Already
at the end of the 1970s the possibility was being discussed of increasing
the number of regiments at the strategic level from three to five. The
brigades at front level could, without any increase in the size of the
support units, raise the number of fighting battalions from three or four to
five. The possibilities of increasing the strength of spetsnaz are entirely
realistic and evoke legitimate concern among Western experts.1
1 See Appendices for notes on organisation.
The principal direction being taken by efforts to improve the quality
of the spetsnaz formations is mechanisation. No one disputes the advantages
of mechanisation. A mechanised spetsnaz soldier is able to withdraw much
more quickly from the dropping zone. He can cover great distances much more
quickly and inspect much larger areas than can a soldier on foot. And he can
get quickly into contact with the enemy and inflict sudden blows on him, and
then get quickly away from where the enemy may strike him and pursue him.
But the problem of mechanisation is a difficult one. The spetsnaz
soldier operates in forests, marshland, mountains, deserts and even in
enormous cities. Spetsnaz needs a vehicle capable of transporting a spetsnaz
soldier in all these conditions, and one that enables him to be as silent
and practically invisible as he is now.
There have been many scientific conferences dealing with the question
of providing spetsnaz with a means of transport, but they have not yet
produced any noticeable results. Soviet experts realise that it will not be
possible to create a single machine to meet spetsnaz needs, and that they
will have to develop a whole family of vehicles with various features, each
of them intended for operations in particular conditions.
One of the ways of increasing the mobility of spetsnaz behind enemy
lines is to provide part of the unit with very lightweight motorcycles
capable of operating on broken terrain. Various versions of the snow-tractor
are being developed for use in northern regions. Spetsnaz also uses
cross-country vehicles. Some of them amount to no more than a platform half
a metre high, a metre and a half wide and two or three metres long mounted
on six or eight wheels. Such a vehicle can easily be dropped by parachute,
and it has considerable cross-country ability in very difficult terrain,
including marshland and sand. It is capable of transporting a spetsnaz group
for long distances, and in case of necessity the group's base can be moved
around on such vehicles while the group operates on foot.
The introduction of such vehicles and motorcycles into spetsnaz does
more than increase its mobility; it also increases its fire-power through
the use of heavier armament that can be transported on the vehicles, as well
as a larger supply of ammunition.
The vehicles, motorcycles and snow-tractors are developments being
decided today, and in the near future we shall see evidence that these ideas
are being put into practice. In the more distant future the Soviet high
command wants to see the spetsnaz soldier airborne. The most likely solution
will be for each soldier to have an apparatus attached to his back which
will enable him to make jumps of several tens or even hundreds of metres.
Such an apparatus could act as a universal means of transport in any
terrain, including mountains. Since the beginning of the 1950s intensive
research has been going on in the Soviet Union on this problem. It would
appear that there have so far been no tangible achievements in this field,
but there has been no reduction in the effort put into the research, despite
The same objective -- to make the spetsnaz soldier airborne, or at
least capable of big leaps -- has also been pursued by the Kamov design
office, which has for several decades, along with designing small
helicopters, been trying to create a midget helicopter sufficient for just
one man. Army-General Margelov once said that `an apparatus must be created
that will eliminate the boundary between the earth and the sky.' Earth-bound
vehicles cannot fly, while aircraft and helicopters are defenceless on the
ground. Margelov's idea was that they should try to create a very light
apparatus that would enable a soldier to flit like a dragon-fly from one
leaf to another. What they needed was to turn the Soviet soldier operating
behind enemy lines into a sort of insect capable of operating both on the
ground and in the air (though not very high up) and also of switching from
one state to the other without effort.
Every farmer knows that it is easier to kill a wild buffalo that is
ruining his crops than to kill a mass of insects that have descended on his
plants at night. The Soviet high command dreams of a day when the
neighbour's garden can be invaded not only by buffaloes but by mad elephants
too, and swarms of voracious insects at the same time. On a more practical
basis for now, intensive research is being conducted in the Soviet Union to
develop new ways of dropping men by parachute. The work is testing out a
variety of new ideas, one such being the `container drop', in other words
the construction of a container with several men in it which would be
dropped on one freight parachute. This method makes it possible to reduce
considerably the amount of time set aside for training soldiers how to jump
by parachute: training time which can be better spent on more useful things.
The container enables the people in it to start firing at targets as they
are landing and immediately afterwards. The container method makes it much
easier to keep the men together in one spot and solves the problem of
assembling a group after it has been dropped. But there are a whole lot of
technical problems connected with the development of such containers for air
drops, and I am not competent to judge when they may be solved.
Another idea being studied is the possibility of constructing
parachutes that can glide; hybrid creations combining the qualities of the
parachute and the hang-glider. This would make it possible for the transport
aircraft to fly along the least dangerous routes and to drop the
parachutists over safe areas far from the target they are making for. A man
using his own gliding parachute can descend slowly or remain at one level or
even climb higher. Since they are able to control the direction of their
flight the spetsnaz groups can approach their targets noiselessly from
The hang-glider, especially one equipped with a very light motor, is
the subject of enormous interest to the GRU. It makes it possible not only
to fly from one's own territory to the enemy's territory without using
transport planes, but also to make short flights on the enemy's territory so
as to penetrate to targets, to evade any threat from the enemy and to
perform other tasks.
The hang-glider with a motor (the motodeltoplan) is the cheapest flying
machine and the one easiest to control. The motor has made it possible to
take off from quite small, even patches of ground. It is no longer necessary
to clamber up a hillside in order to take off. But the most important
feature of the motorised hand-glider is, of course, the concealment it
provides. Experiments show that very powerful radar systems are often quite
unable to detect a hang-glider. Its flight is noiseless, because the motor
is used only for taking off and gaining height. By flying with the motor
shut off the man on the hang-glider is protected from heat-seeking means of
detection and attack.
The distance that motorised hang-gliders can fly is quite sufficient
for spetsnaz. It is enough to allow a man to take off quite a long way
behind the frontier, cross it and land deep in the enemy's rear. Flight in a
dangerous area can be carried out at very low altitudes. They are now
developing in the Soviet Union a piece of equipment that will make it
possible for motorised hang-gliders to fly at very low altitudes following
the contours of the ground. Flights will have to take place at night and in
conditions of bad visibility, and a simple, lightweight but reliable
navigation aid is being developed too.
The motorised hang-glider can be used for other purposes apart from
transporting spetsnaz behind the enemy's lines. It can be used for
identifying and even for destroying especially important enemy targets.
Experiments show that the deltoplan can carry light machine-guns,
grenade-launchers and rockets, which makes it an exceptionally dangerous
weapon in the hands of spetsnaz. The main danger presented by these
`insects' is of course not to be found in their individual qualities but in
their numbers. Any insect on its own can easily be swatted. But a swarm of
insects is a problem which demands serious thought: it is not easy to find a
way of dealing with them.
The officers commanding the GRU know exactly the sort of deltoplan that
spetsnaz needs in the foreseeable future. It has to be a machine that needs
no more than twenty-five metres to take off, has a rate of climb of not less
than a metre per second, and has a motor with a power of not more than 30
kilowatts which must have good heat isolation and make a noise of not more
than 55 decibels. The machine must be capable of lifting a payload of 120 to
150 kilograms (reconnaissance equipment, armaments, ammunition). Work on its
development, like the work carried out in the 1930s on the first midget
submarines, is being carried on simultaneously and independently by several
groups of designers.
The GRU realises that hang-gliders can be very vulnerable in daytime
and that they are also very sensitive to changes in the weather. There are
three possible ways of overcoming these difficulties: improving the
construction of the machines themselves and improving the professional
skills of the pilots; employing them suddenly and in large numbers on a wide
front, using many combinations of direction and height; and using them only
in conjunction with many other weapons and ways of fighting, and the use of
a great variety of different devices and tricks to neutralise the enemy.
At the same time as developing ways of dropping people in the enemy's
rear, work is being done on methods for returning spetsnaz units to their
own territory. This is not as important as the business of dropping them;
nevertheless there are situations when it is necessary to find some way of
transporting someone from a group, or a whole group, back to Soviet
territory. For many years now this has sometimes been done with low-flying
aircraft, but this is a risky method which has yet to be perfected. Better
methods are needed for evacuating men from territories where there is no sea
nearby, where the helicopter cannot be used and where an aircraft cannot
A Soviet general named Meshcheryakov opened up a vast area for study
and research when he made the proposal that the armed forces should `create
for spetsnaz the kind of conditions in which no one should interfere with
its work'. There are many problems here which Soviet science is
concentrating on trying to solve. Who interferes with the work of spetsnaz?
Primarily the enemy's radar system. Radar installations interfere with the
activity of the entire Soviet Army. In order to open the way for the Soviet
Army into the territory of the enemy it is necessary first of all to `blind'
the enemy's radar system. That is always one of spetsnaz's principal tasks.
But to carry it out, the radars obstructing spetsnaz itself have somehow to
be put out of action. One solution to this problem is, prior to dropping the
main spetsnaz force, to send small groups behind the enemy's lines who will
clear the way for spetsnaz which will in turn clear the way for the whole
Soviet Army. Such a solution can be regarded as satisfactory only because no
other solution has so far been found. But terrific effort is being put into
the work of finding some other solution. The Soviet high command needs a
technical solution, some method that would make it possible, even for a
short period, simultaneously to `blind' the enemy's radar over a fairly wide
area, so as to give the first wave of spetsnaz the opportunity to carry out
Anti-aircraft systems are the main killers of spetsnaz. The soldier in
a transport aircraft is utterly defenceless. One quite small missile, or
even a shell, can kill spetsnaz troops in whole groups. What can be done to
put out of action the anti-aircraft defence systems at least on a narrow
sector before the arrival of the main force of spetsnaz on the enemy's
territory? Much thought is being devoted to this. The solution may be
technical. GRU's spies may help. But spetsnaz can help itself by recruiting
an agent long before the war begins and teaching him what to do on receipt
of a sign from the centre.
Once it has arrived in enemy territory spetsnaz is vulnerable from the
moment of landing to the moment of meeting up with its own troops.
In order to increase its effectiveness and create conditions in which
`no one should interfere with its work' intensive work is being done on the
development of jamming stations to be used in areas where spetsnaz is
operating, to prevent the enemy's electronic devices (radio receivers and
transmitters, radars, optical-electronic devices, computers and any other
instruments) from working normally so as to interfere with the co-ordination
of the various enemy forces operating against spetsnaz.
Aircraft and helicopters cause a great deal of trouble for spetsnaz.
Spetsnaz already has fairly impressive means of its own for defending itself
from air attacks, but work is now going on to provide spetsnaz groups with a
reliable anti-helicopter weapon, and to develop a weapon capable of covering
considerable areas or even of establishing zones free of all air activity by
Finally, weapons systems are being developed of which the main purpose
will be to isolate fairly large areas from penetration by the enemy's ground
forces. This involves the use of mines and automatic guns mounted and hidden
near bridges, crossroads, tunnels and so forth, which operate automatically
and destroy the enemy trying to transfer reinforcements into the area where
spetsnaz is operating and so to interfere with its work.
The process of seeking out especially important targets in the enemy's
territory will in future be carried out not so much by spetsnaz men on foot
or even `jumping' as by automatic machines of a fairly simple (not by
today's standards perhaps, but certainly by tomorrow's) and reliable
Work has been going on for quite a long time on the development of
light (up to 100 kilograms) cross-country vehicles with remote control. The
vehicles tested have mostly been driven by electricity. They have been
steered by remote control with the aid of television cameras installed
inside them, similar to some modern bomb-disposal equipment. Apart from
using them to find the targets, experiments have been conducted into using
them to destroy targets by means of a grenade-launcher mounted in the
vehicle or an explosive charge that detonates on contact with the target.
The rapid advances in electronics open up enormous possibilities for the
development of light remote-controlled vehicles capable of covering large
areas quickly and noiselessly and of destroying targets in enemy territory.
Pilotless aircraft have long been used for identifying targets over
large areas, and the Soviet Union is a leader in this field. Take, for
example, the Soviet strategic high-flying pilotless rocket-driven plane
known as the `Yastreb'. A tremendous amount of work is being done on the
development of relatively small pilotless spy-planes. In the future such
planes will take off not only from Soviet territory but from enemy territory
as well. Soviet airborne troops and spetsnaz have for long been very keenly
interested in the possibility of developing a very light pilotless aircraft
that could be put together and launched on enemy territory, survey vast
areas and transmit a picture to Soviet troops. The ideal aircraft would be
one carrying not only the equipment for carrying out reconnaissance but an
explosive charge as well. Once it discovered the target and transmitted a
picture of it, it could attack it independently. There is nothing fantastic
about this plan. Modern technology is quite capable of building such an
aircraft. The problem is simply to make the aircraft sufficiently light,
cheap, reliable and accurate.
Advances in spetsnaz follow the usual paths. While this research goes
on at the cutting edge of Soviet military power: improvements are being made
to the familiar weapons and increases in the range, accuracy and fire-power
of grenade-launchers, rifles and other armament; improvements in the quality
of footwear, clothes, soldiers' equipment and means of communication of all
kinds; and reductions in the weight of weapons like mines along with an
increase in their destructive potential.
Chapter 15. Spetsnaz's First World War
I was standing on the top of an enormous skyscraper in New York when I
saw King Kong. The huge gorilla surveyed Manhattan triumphantly from a dizzy
height. Of course I knew it wasn't real. But there was something both
frightening and symbolic in that huge black figure.
I learnt later that the gorilla was a rubber one, that it had been
decided to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the showing of the first
film about King Kong by creating a gigantic inflatable model of the beast
and placing it high above New York. The rubber monster was hauled up and
swayed about in the wind. From the technical point of view the operation had
been a real triumph by the engineers and workmen who had taken part in it.
But it was not an entire success. The monster turned out to be too huge,
with the result that holes appeared in its body through which the air could
escape. So the gigantic muscular frame quickly collapsed into a shapeless
bag. They had to pump more air into it, but the harder they pumped the
bigger the holes became and the quicker the air escaped from the monster. So
they had to keep on pumping....
The Communist leaders have also created a rubber monster and have
hauled it up to a dizzy height. The monster is known as the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics, and the Soviet leaders are faced with a dilemma: to
expand or to decline rapidly and become a flabby sack. It is interesting to
note that the Soviet Union became a superpower in the course of the most
destructive war in the history of civilisation, in spite of the fact that it
suffered the greatest loss of life and the greatest destruction on its own
territory. It has become a military superpower and perhaps war is essential
for its existence.
I do not know how or when World War Three will start. I do not know
exactly how the Soviet high command plans to make use of spetsnaz in that
war: the first world war in which spetsnaz will be a major contributor. I do
not wish to predict the future. In this chapter I shall describe how
spetsnaz will be used at the beginning of that war as I imagine it. It is
not my task to describe what will happen. But I can describe what might
The last month of peace, as in other wars, has an almost palpable air
of crisis about it. Incidents, accidents, small disasters add to the
tension. Two trains collide on a railway bridge in Cologne because the
signalling system is out of order. The bridge is seriously damaged and there
can be no traffic over it for the next two months.
In the port of Rotterdam a Polish supertanker bursts into flames.
Because of an error by the captain the tanker is far too close to the oil
storage tanks on the shore, and the burning oil spreads around the harbour.
For two weeks fire brigades summoned from practically the whole country
fight an heroic battle with the flames. The port suffers tremendous losses.
The fire appears to have spread at a quite incredible speed, and some
experts are of the opinion that the Polish tanker was not the only cause of
the fire, that the fire broke out simultaneously in many places.
In the Panama Canal the Varna, a Bulgarian freighter loaded with heavy
containers, rams the lock gates by mistake. Experts reckoned that the ship
should have remained afloat, but for some reason she sinks there and then.
To reopen the canal could well take many months. The Bulgarian government
sends its apologies and declares itself ready to pay for all the work
In Washington, as the President's helicopter is taking off, several
shots are fired at it from sniper's rifles. The helicopter is only slightly
damaged and the crew succeed in bringing it down again safely. No one in the
craft is hurt. Responsibility for the attack is claimed by a previously
unknown organisation calling itself `Revenge for Vietnam'.
There is a terrorist explosion at Vienna airport.
A group of unidentified men attack the territory of the British
military base in Cyprus with mortars.
A serious accident takes place on the most important oil pipeline in
Alaska. The pumping stations break down and the flow of oil falls to a
In West Germany there are several unsuccessful attempts on the lives of
In the North Sea the biggest of the British oil rigs tips over and
sinks. The precise reason for this is not established, although experts
believe that corrosion of main supports is the culprit.
In the United States an epidemic of some unidentified disease breaks
out and spreads rapidly. It seems to affect port areas particularly, such as
San Francisco, Boston, Charleston, Seattle, Norfolk and Philadelphia.
There are explosions practically every day in Paris. The main targets
are the government districts, communication centres and military
headquarters. At the same time terrible forest fires are raging in the South
All these operations -- because of course none of these events is an
accident -- and others like them are known officially in the GRU as the
`preparatory period', and unofficially as the `overture'. The overture is a
series of large and small operations the purpose of which is, before actual
military operations begin, to weaken the enemy's morale, create an
atmosphere of general suspicion, fear and uncertainty, and divert the
attention of the enemy's armies and police forces to a huge number of
different targets, each of which may be the object of the next attack.
The overture is carried by agents of the secret services of the Soviet
satellite countries and by mercenaries recruited by intermediaries. The
principal method employed at this stage is `grey terror', that is, a kind of
terror which is not conducted in the name of the Soviet Union. The Soviet
secret services do not at this stage leave their visiting cards, or leave
other people's cards. The terror is carried out in the name of already
existing extremist groups not connected in any way with the Soviet Union, or
in the name of fictitious organisations.
The GRU reckons that in this period its operations should be regarded
as natural disasters, actions by forces beyond human control, mistakes
committed by people, or as terrorist acts by organisations not connected
with the Soviet Union.
The terrorist acts carried out in the course of the `overture' require
very few people, very few weapons and little equipment. In some cases all
that may be needed is one man who has as a weapon nothing more than a
screwdriver, a box of matches or a glass ampoule. Some of the operations can
have catastrophic consequences. For example, an epidemic of an infectious
disease at seven of the most important naval bases in the West could have
the effect of halving the combined naval might of the Soviet Union's
The `overture' could last from several weeks to several months,
gradually gathering force and embracing fresh regions. At the same time the
GUSM would become involved. Photographs compromising a NATO chief appear on
the front pages of Western newspapers. A scandal explodes. It appears that
some of the NATO people have been having meetings with high-ranking Soviet
diplomats and handing over top secret papers. All efforts to refute the
story only fuel the fire. The public demands the immediate dismissal of
NATO's chiefs and a detailed enquiry. Fresh details about the affair are
published in the papers and the scandal increases in scope. At that moment
the KGB and GRU can take out and dust off a tremendous quantity of material
and put it into circulation. The main victims now are the people whom the
Soviets had tried to recruit but failed. Now carefully edited and annotated
materials get into the hands of the press. Soviet Intelligence has tried to
recruit thousands, even tens of thousands, of people in its time. They
include young lieutenants who have now become generals and third secretaries
who have now become ambassadors. All of them rejected Soviet efforts to
recruit them, and now Soviet Intelligence avenges their refusal. The number
of scandalous affairs increases. The nations discover to their surprise that
there are very few people to be trusted. The Soviet intelligence service has
nothing to lose if the press gets hold of material showing that it tried to
recruit a French general, without saying how the attempt ended. It has even
less to lose on the eve of war. That is why the newspapers are full of
demands for investigations and reports of resignations, dismissals and
suicides. The best way of killing a general is to kill him with his own
There is a marked increase in the strength of the peace movement. In
many countries there are continual demands to make the country neutral and
not to support American foreign policy, which has been discredited. At this
point the `grey terror' gathers scope and strength and in the last days of
peace reaches its peak.
From the first moment of the first day of war the main forces of
spetsnaz go into action. From then on the terror is conducted in the name of
the Soviet Union and of the Communist leadership: `red terror'.
But between the `grey' and the `red' terror there may be an
intermediate period -- the `pink' terror, when active military operations
have not yet begun and there is still peace, but when some of the best
spetsnaz units have already gone into action. The situation is complicated
by the fact that, on the one hand, Soviet fighting units are already in
battle, but that, on the other hand, they are not yet operating in the name
of the Soviet Union. This is an exceptionally risky moment for the Soviet
high command. But he who risks nothing gains nothing. The Soviet commanders
want to gain a great deal, and so are ready to risk a lot. A great deal has
of course been done to reduce the level of risk. Only a relatively small
number of spetsnaz troops take part in the `pink' terror, but they are the
best people in spetsnaz -- professional athletes of Olympic class.
Everything has been done to make sure that not one of them should fall into
the hands of the enemy before the outbreak of war. A great deal has also
been done to ensure that, if one of them should fall into enemy hands at
that moment, it would be very difficult to establish his connection with any
The `pink' terror may continue for no more than a few hours. But those
are the most important hours and minutes -- the very last hours and minutes
of peace. It is very important that those hours and minutes should be spoilt
for the enemy and used for the maximum advantage to the Soviet side. It must
be pointed out that the `pink' terror may not be carried out at all. It is
used only when there is absolute certainty of the success of the operations
and equal certainty that the enemy will not be able in the remaining hours
and minutes to assess the situation correctly and strike the first
For Soviet Communists the month of August has a special significance.
It was in August that the First World War began, which resulted in
revolutions in Russia, Germany and Hungary. In August 1939 Georgi Zhukov
succeeded in doing something that no one before him had managed to do: with
a sudden blow he routed a group of Japanese forces in the Far East. It is
possible that that blow had very far-reaching consequences: Japan decided
against attacking the Soviet Union and chose to advance in other directions.
Also in August 1939 a pact was signed in the Kremlin which opened the flood
gates for the Second World War, as a result of which the USSR became a
super-power. In August 1945 the Soviet Union carried out a treacherous
attack on Japan and Manchuria. In the course of three weeks of intensive
operations huge territories roughly equal in area and population to Eastern
Europe were `liberated'. In August 1961 the Soviet Union built the Berlin
Wall, in violation of international agreements it had signed. In August 1968
the Soviet Army `liberated' Czechoslovakia and, to its great surprise, did
not meet with any opposition from the West. Suppose the Soviet Communists
again choose August for starting a war....
On 12 August, at 0558 local time, a van comes to a halt on the vast
empty parking lot in front of a supermarket in Washington. Three men open
the doors of the van, roll out the fuselage of a light aircraft and attach
its wings. A minute later its motor bursts into life. The plane takes off
and disappears into the sky. It has no pilot. It is controlled by radio with
the aid of very simple instruments, only slightly more complicated than
those used by model aircraft enthusiasts. The plane climbs to about 200
metres and immediately begins to descend in the direction of the White
House. A minute later a mighty explosion shakes the capital of the United
States. The screaming of sirens on police cars, fire engines and ambulances
fills the city.
Three minutes later a second plane sweeps across the centre of the city
and there is a second explosion in the place where the White House once
stood. The second plane has taken off from a section of highway under
construction, and has a quite different control system. Two cars with radio
beacons in them have been left earlier in the middle of the city. The
beacons have switched on automatically a few seconds before the plane's
take-off. The automatic pilot is guided by the two beacons and starts to
descend according to a previously worked-out trajectory. The second plane
has been sent off by a second group operating independently of the first
It was a simple plan: if the first plane did not destroy the White
House the second would. If the first plane did destroy the White House then
a few minutes later all the heads of the Washington police would be near
where the explosion had taken place. The second plane would kill many of
At 0606 all radio and television channels interrupt their normal
programmes and report the destruction of the White House and the possible
death of the President of the United States.
At 0613 the programme known as Good Morning America is interrupted and
the Vice-President of the USA appears. He announces a staggering piece of
news: there has been an attempt to seize power in the country on the part of
the leaders of the armed forces. The President of the United States has been
killed. The Vice-President appeals to everyone in the armed forces to remain
where they are and not to carry out any orders from senior officers for the
next twenty-four hours, because the orders would be issued by traitors
shortly to be removed from their posts and arrested.
Soon afterwards many television channels across the country cease
The Soviet military leaders know that if it doesn't prove possible to
destroy the President of the United States in peacetime, it will be
practically impossible to do so at a time of crisis. The President will be
in an underground, or airborne, command post, somewhere extremely
inaccessible and extremely well guarded.
Consequently the leaders, while not abandoning attempts to kill the
President (for which purpose several groups of assassins with every kind of
weapon, including anti-aircraft missiles, have been dropped in the country),
decide to carry out an operation aimed at causing panic and confusion. If it
proves impossible to kill the President then they will have to reduce his
capacity to rule the country and its armed forces at the most critical
To carry out this task the Soviets have secretly transferred to
Washington a spetsnaz company from the first spetsnaz regiment at the
strategic level. A large part of the company is made up of women. The entire
complement of the company is professional athletes of Olympic standard. It
has taken several months to transfer the whole company to Washington. The
athletes have arrived in the guise of security men, drivers and technicians
working in the Soviet embassy and other Soviet establishments, and their
weapons and equipment have been brought in in containers covered by
diplomatic privilege. The company has been split into eight groups to carry
out its mission. Each group has its own organisation, structure, weapons and
equipment. To carry out their tasks some of the groups will have to make
contact with secret agents recruited a long time previously by the GRU
On 11 August the GRU rezident in Washington, a major-general known by
the code-name of `Mudry' (officially a civilian and a high-ranking diplomat)
receives an encyphered telegram consisting of one single word -- `Yes'. On
the rezident's orders the spetsnaz company leave their places of work. Some
of them simply go back home. Some are transported secretly in the boots of
their cars by GRU officers and dropped in the woods round the city, in empty
underground garages and other secluded places.
The group commanders gather their groups together in previously agreed
places and set about carrying out their tasks.
Group No. 1 consists of three men and the group is backed up by one
secret agent. The agent works as a mechanic at an airport. In his spare time
he builds flying models of aircraft of various sizes. This particular model
was designed by the best Soviet aircraft designers and put together in
America from spares bought in the open market. The agent himself does not
play any part in the operation. A van containing a light radio-guided
aircraft and its separate wings has been standing in his garage for some
months. What the aircraft is for and to whom it belongs the agent does not
know. He only knows that someone has the keys to the garage and that that
person can at any moment come and take the van along with the aircraft. In
the middle of the night the spetsnaz group drives the van out into the
forest where they take the explosive charges from a secret hiding place and
prepare the plane for flight. At dawn the van is standing in the deserted
Group No. 2 is doing roughly the same at that time. But this group has
three agents working for it, two of whom have left their cars with radio
beacons parked in precisely defined spots in the centre of the city.
Group No. 3 consists of fifteen spetsnaz men and five experts from the
REB osnaz. They are all wearing police uniforms. At night the group kidnaps
the director of a television company and his family. Leaving the family at
home as hostages guarded by three spetsnaz men, the rest of the group make
their way to the studios, capturing two more highly placed officials on
their way, also as hostages, but without giving cause for noise or panic
among the staff. Then, with guns threatening them and supervised by Soviet
electronics experts, the director and his assistants insert, instead of the
usual advertising programme, a video cassette which the commander of the
group has given him. The video cassette has been made up in advance in the
Soviet Union. The role of the Vice-President is played by an actor.
The Soviet high command knows that it is very difficult to cut into
American military channels. If it is at all possible, then at best it will
be possible to do no more than overhear conversations or interrupt them. It
is practically impossible to use them for transmitting false orders at the
strategic level. That is why it is decided to make use of the civilian
television network: it is difficult to get into a television studio, but it
is possible and there are many to choose from. Operations are carried out
simultaneously in several different cities against various TV companies. If
the operation succeeds in only one city it will not matter -- millions of
people will be disoriented at the most critical moment.
The operational plan has provided that, just after the `Vice-President'
has spoken several retransmitters will be destroyed by other spetsnaz groups
and one of the American communication satellites will be shot down `by
mistake' by a Soviet satellite. This is intended to deprive the President
and the real Vice-President of the opportunity to refute the false
But events do not go entirely according to plan. The President succeeds
in addressing the people and issuing a denial of the report. After the
television network throughout America has suffered such major damage, the
radio immediately becomes the principal means of communication. Radio
commentators produce different commentaries about what is happening. The
majority of them report that it is difficult to say which report is genuine
and which was false, but that the only fact about which there is no doubt is
that the White House has been destroyed.
At the moment when all these events are taking place in Washington
another spetsnaz company from the same regiment is ordered by the GRU
rezident in New York to carry out the same operation but on a much larger
scale. They do not make use of radio-guided aircraft, but seize two
television studios and one radio studio which they use for transmitting the
same false report. Five other spetsnaz groups emerge from official Soviet
offices and make open, armed attacks on underground cables and some radio
and TV transmitting and receiving aerials. They manage to damage them and
also some transformer stations, as a result of which millions of TV screens
A few hours later spetsnaz detachment I-M-7 of 120 men lands in New
York harbour from a freighter sailing under a Liberian flag. Using its
fire-power the detachment makes its way to the nearest subway station and,
splitting into small groups and seizing a train with hostages, sets about
destroying the underground communications of the city.
In the area around the berths of America's huge aircraft-carriers and
nuclear submarines in Norfolk, several mini-subs are discovered, as well as
underwater saboteurs with aqualungs.
In Alaska eighteen different places are recorded where small groups
have tried to land from Soviet naval vessels, submarines and aircraft. Some
of the groups have been destroyed as they landed, others have managed to get
back to their ships or, after landing successfully, hidden in the forests.
Spetsnaz detachment I-S-7 consisting of eighty-two men lands on the
coast of Mexico, immediately commandeers private cars, and the next night,
using their fire-power and new mobility, cross the United States border.
Small spetsnaz groups land and use routes and methods employed by
illegal immigrants, while others make use of paths and methods used by drug
Islands and the military installations on them are more vulnerable to
sabotage operations, and at the same moment spetsnaz groups are landing on
Okinawa and Guam, on Diego Garcia, in Greenland and dozens of other islands
on which the West has bases.
Spetsnaz group 2-S-13 has spent three weeks aboard a small Soviet
fishing vessel fishing close to the shores of Ireland. On receiving the
signal `393939' the ship's captain gives the order to cut the nets, switch
off the radio, radar and navigation lights and set course at top speed for
the shores of Great Britain.
In darkness two light speed-boats are lowered from the side of the
ship. They are big enough to take the whole group. In the first boat is the
group commander, a lieutenant with the code-name of `Shakespeare', a radio
operator, a machine-gunner and two snipers. In the second boat is the deputy
group commander, a junior lieutenant with the code-name `Poet', two soldiers
with flame-throwers and two snipers. Each man has a supply of food for three
days, which is supposed to be used only in the event of being pursued for a
long period. For general purposes the group has to obtain its food
independently, as best it can. The group also includes two huge German
After landing the group the little fishing vessel, still without lights
or radio, puts out into the open sea. The ship's captain is hoping to hide
away in a neutral port in Ireland. If the vessel is stopped at sea by a
British naval patrol the captain and his crew have nothing to fear: the
dangerous passengers have left the fishing boat and all traces of their
presence on it have already been removed.
`Shakespeare's' group lands on a tiny beach close to Little Haven. The
landing place has been chosen long ago, and very well chosen: the beach is
shut in on three sides by huge cliffs, so that even in daytime it is
impossible to see from a distance what is going on on the beach itself.
At the same time as `Shakespeare' four other spetsnaz groups are going
ashore in different places two or three kilometres apart. Operating
independently of each other, these four groups arrive by different routes at
the little village of Brawdy and at 3.30 in the morning they make a
simultaneous attack from different directions on a large building belonging
to the United States Navy. According to reports received by the GRU,
hundreds, and possibly thousands, of acoustic listening posts have been set
up in the region of the Atlantic Ocean. The underwater cables from these
posts come together at Brawdy where hundreds of American experts analyse
with the aid of a computer a huge amount of information about the movement
of submarines and surface ships all over the North Atlantic. According to
the GRU's information similar establishments have been set up in Antigua in
the Azores, in Hofn and Keflavik in Iceland, in Hawaii and on Guam. The
GRU's commanding officers are aware that their information about Brawdy may
not be accurate. But the decision has been taken to attack and destroy the
Brawdy monitoring station and all the others as well. The four attacking
groups have been given the task of killing as many as possible of the
technical staff of the station and of destroying as much as possible of the
electronic apparatus, and everything that will burn must be burnt. Mines
must be laid at the approaches to the building. All four groups can then
depart in different directions.
The `Shakespeare' group takes no part in the raid. Its task, beginning
with the following night, is to lay the mines at the approaches to the
building. Apart from that, with sniper fire and open attacks, the group has
to make it difficult for anyone to attempt to save or restore the station.
The group commander knows that the four neighbouring groups which are taking
part in the attack are nearby and are doing the same. But the group
commander does not know everything. He does not know that spetsnaz
detachment 2-S-2, under the command of a major known as `Uncle Kostya', has
landed in the area of St David's. Detachment 2-S-2 consists of fifty-six
men, fifteen lightweight motorcycles and six small cars with a considerable
supply of ammunition. The detachment's task is to move rapidly, using
secondary and forest roads and in some cases even the main roads, and reach
the Forest of Dean to organise a base there. The Forest of Dean is a
wonderful place for spetsnaz operations. It is a hilly area covered with
dense forest. At one time it was an important industrial region. There are
still the remains of the abandoned coal mines and quarries and railway
tunnels, although it is a long time since there was any railway there. Once
firmly established in that forest `Uncle Kostya' can strike out in any
direction: nearby there is a nuclear power station, the Severn bridge, a
railway tunnel beneath the river Severn, the port of Bristol, the GCHQ
government communications centre at Cheltenham, very important military
factories also at Bristol and a huge munitions dump at Welford. The GRU
believes that it is somewhere in this area that the Royal Family would be
sent in the event of war, and that would be a very important target.
The four spetsnaz groups which have taken part at the outset in the
operation against Brawdy depart immediately after the attack and make their
different ways to the Forest of Dean where they can join up with Uncle
Kostya's detachment. Shakespeare knows nothing about this. The large-scale
raid on Brawdy and Shakespeare's continued activity in the following days
and nights ought to give the enemy the impression that this is one of the
main areas of operation for spetsnaz.
Meanwhile spetsnaz group 2-C-41, of twelve men, has been landed at
night near the port of Felixstowe from the catamaran Double Star. The boat
is sailing under the Spanish flag. The group has left the catamaran in the
open sea and swum ashore in aqualungs. There it has been met by a spetsnaz
agent recruited some years previously. He has at the GRU's expense bought a
small motorcycle shop, and his shop has always had available at least
fifteen Japanese motorcycles all ready for the road, along with several sets
of leather jackets, trousers and crash helmets. The group (containing some
of the best motorcyclists in the Soviet Union) changes its clothes, its
weapons are wrapped in tarpaulin, the spetsnaz agent and his family are
killed and their bodies hidden in the cellar of their house, and the
motorcycle gang then rushes off at a great speed along the A45 in the
direction of Mildenhall. Its task is to set up automatic Strela-Blok
anti-aircraft missiles in the area of the base and knock out one of the most
important American air bases in Europe, used regularly by F-111s. Afterwards
the group is to make for the nearest forest and link up with spetsnaz
The group commander does not know that at the same time and not far
away from him ten other spetsnaz groups, each working independently, are
carrying out similar operations against the American military bases at
Woodbridge, Bentwaters and Lakenheath.
The motor yacht Maria was built in Italy. In the course of a decade she
has changed owners several times and visited the oceans of the world until
she was sold to some wealthy person, after which she has not been seen for
several years in any port in the world. But when the international situation
takes a turn for the worse the Maria appears in the North Sea sailing under
a Swedish flag. After some modernisation the appearance of the yacht has
changed somewhat. On receiving the signal `393939' the Maria travels at full
speed towards the coast of Great Britain. When it is inside British
territorial waters and within range of Fylingdales Moor the yacht's crew
removes hatch covers to reveal two BM-23 Katusha-like multi-barrelled
missile-launchers. The sailors quickly aim the weapon at the gigantic
spheres and fire. Seventy-two heavy shells explode around the installation,
causing irreparable harm to the early warning system. The sailors on the
yacht put on their aqualungs and jump overboard. For two hours the yacht
drifts close to the shore without a crew. When the police clamber aboard,
she explodes and sinks.
For operations against NATO forces in Central Europe the Soviet high
command has concentrated an immensely powerful collection of forces
consisting of the 1st and 2nd Western Fronts in East Germany, the 3rd
Western Front in Poland, the Central Front in Czechoslovakia and the Group
of Tank Armies in Belorussia. This makes fifteen armies altogether,
including the six tank armies. On the right flank of this collection of
forces there is the combined Baltic Fleet. And deep in Soviet territory
another five fronts are being built up (fifteen armies altogether) for
On 12 August at 2300 hours spetsnaz battalions drawn from the seven
armies of the first echelon cross the frontier of Western Germany on
motorised hang-gliders, ordinary gliders and gliding parachutes. Operating
in small groups, each battalion strikes at the enemy's radar installations,
concentrating its efforts on a relatively narrow sector so as to create a
sort of corridor for its planes to fly through. Apart from these seven
corridors, another one of strategic importance is created. It was for this
purpose that back in July the 13th spetsnaz brigade arrived in East Germany
from the Moscow military district on the pretext that it was a military
construction unit and based itself in the Thuringer Wald. The brigade is now
split into sixty groups scattered about the forests of the Spessart and
Odenwald hills, and faced with the task of destroying the anti-aircraft
installations, especially the radar systems. In the first wave there are
altogether 130 spetsnaz groups dropped with a total of some 3300 troops.
Two hours after the men have been dropped, the Soviet air force carries
out a mass night raid on the enemy's anti-aircraft installations. The
combined blow struck by the air force and spetsnaz makes it possible to
clear one large and several smaller corridors through the anti-aircraft
defence system. These corridors are used immediately for another mass air
attack and a second drop of spetsnaz units.
Simultaneously, advance detachments of the seven armies cross the
frontier and advance westwards.
At 0330 hours on 13 August the second wave of spetsnaz forces is
dropped from Aeroflot aircraft operating at very low heights with heavy
The Central Front drops its spetsnaz brigade in the heavily wooded
mountains near Freiburg. The brigade's job is to destroy the important
American, West German and French headquarters, lines of communication,
aircraft on the ground and anti-aircraft defences. This brigade is, so to
speak, opening the gates into France, into which will soon burst several
fronts and a further wave of spetsnaz.
The 1st and 2nd Western Fronts drop their spetsnaz brigades in Germany
to the west of the Rhine. This part of West Germany is the furthest away
from the dangerous eastern neighbour and consequently all the most
vulnerable targets are concentrated there: headquarters, command posts,
aerodromes, nuclear weapon stores, colossal reserves of military equipment,
ammunition and fuel.
The spetsnaz brigade of the 1st Western Front is dropped in the Aachen
area. Here there are several large forests where bases can be organised and
a number of very tempting targets: bridges across the Rhine which would be
used for bringing up reserves and supplying the NATO forces fighting to the
east of the Rhine, the important air bases of Bruggen and Wildenrath, the
residence of the German government and West Germany's civil service in Bonn,
important headquarters near München-Gladbach, and the Geilenkirchen air base
where the E-3A early-warning aircraft are based. It is in this area that the
Soviet high command plans to bring into the battle the 20th Guards Army,
which is to strike southwards down the west bank of the Rhine. The spetsnaz
brigade is busy clearing the way for the columns of tanks which are soon to
The spetsnaz brigade of the 2nd Western Front has been dropped in the
Kaiserslautern area with the task of neutralising the important air base and
the air force command posts near Ramstein and Zweibrücken and of destroying
the nuclear weapons stores at Pirmasens. The place where the brigade has
been dropped is where, according to the plan of the Soviet high command, the
two arms of the gigantic pincer movement are to close together: the 20th
Guards Army advancing from the north and the 8th Guards Tank Army striking
from Czechoslovakia in the direction of Karlsruhe. After this the second
strategic echelon will be brought into action to inflict a crushing defeat
At the same time the Soviet high command inderstands that to win the
war it has to prevent the large-scale transfer of American troops, arms and
equipment to Western Europe. To solve the problem the huge Soviet Northern
Fleet will have to be brought out into the Atlantic and be kept supplied
there. The operations of the fleet will have to be backed up by the Air
Force. But for the fleet to get out into the Atlantic it will have to pass
through a long corridor between Norway and Greenland and Iceland. There the
Soviet fleet will be exposed to constant observation and attack by air
forces, small ships and submarines operating out of the fjords and by a huge
collection of radio-electronic instruments and installations.
Norway, especially its southern part, is an exceptionally important
area for the Soviet military leaders. They need to seize southern Norway and
establish air and naval bases there in order to fight a battle for the
Atlantic and therefore for Central Europe. The Soviet high command has
allotted at least one entire front consisting of an airborne division,
considerable naval forces and a brigade of spetsnaz. But airlifting
ammunition, fuel, foodstuffs and reinforcements to the military, air and
naval bases in Norway presents great problems of scale. So there have to be
good and safe roads to the bases in southern Norway. Those roads lie in
In the past Sweden was lucky: she always remained on the sidelines in a
conflict. But at the end of the twentieth century the balance of the
battlefield is changing. Sweden has become one of the most important
strategic points in the world. If war breaks out the path of the aggressor
will lie across Sweden. The occupation of Sweden is made easier by the fact
that there are no nuclear weapons on its territory, so that the Soviet
leaders risk very little. They know, however, that the Swedish soldier is a
very serious opponent -- thoughtful, disciplined, physically strong and
tough, well armed, well acquainted with the territory he will have to fight
over, and well trained for action in such terrain. The experience of the war
against Finland teaches that in Scandinavia frontal attacks with tanks do
not produce brilliant results. It requires the use of special tactics and
special troops: spetsnaz.
And so it goes on, all over the world. In Sweden the capital city in
reduced to a state of panic by the murder of several senior government
figures and arson and bombing attacks on key buildings and ordinary
civilians. In Japan, American nuclear bases are destroyed and chemical
weapons used on the seat of government. In Pakistan, a breakaway movement in
Baluchistan province, instantly recognised by the Soviet Communist Party,
asks for and receives direct military intervention from the USSR to protect
its fragile independence: Soviet-controlled territory extends all the way
from Siberia through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean.
It may not even need a third world war for the Soviet Union to occupy
Baluchistan. The Red Army may be withdrawing from Afghanistan, but knowing
what we know about Soviet strategy and the uses to which spetsnaz can be
put, such a withdrawal can be seen as a useful public relations exercise
without hindering the work of spetsnaz in any way. With a spetsnaz presence
in Baluchistan, the Politburo could be reaching very close to the main oil
artery of the world, to the Arab countries, to Eastern and Southern Africa,
to Australia and South-east Asia: territories and oceans that are
Appendix A-D Skipped (diagrams)
The part the Soviet athletes play
Below are a number of examples of the very close relationship between
the sporting and military achievements of Soviet athletes.
Vladimir Myagkov. In the Soviet ski championships in 1939 Myagkov put
up an exceptionally good time over the 20-kilometre distance, and became
Soviet champion at that distance. During the war he was called into the Army
and put in charge of a small unit of athletes which came directly under the
Intelligence directorate of the front. He was later killed in fighting
behind enemy lines. He was the first of the top Soviet athletes to be made a
Hero of the Soviet Union, in his case posthumously. The tasks that Myagkov's
sports unit was carrying out, the circumstances of his death and the act for
which he was made a Hero remain a Soviet state secret to this day.
Porfiri Polosukhin. A Red Army officer before the war, he held world
records at parachute jumping. He had been an instructor training special
troops for operations on enemy territory. During the war he continued to
train parachutists for spetsnaz units of `guard minelayers'. He was often
behind the enemy's lines, and he developed a method of camouflaging
airfields and of communicating with Soviet aircraft from secret partisan
airfields. This original system operated until the end of the war and was
never detected by the enemy, as a result of which connection by air with
partisan units, especially with spetsnaz and osnaz units, was exceptionally
reliable. After the war many a soldier from special troops trained by
Polosukhin became world and European parachute champions.
Dmitri Kositsyn. Before the war he headed the skating department in one
of the State Institutes of Physical Culture. It was supposed to be a
civilian institute, but the teachers and many of the students had military
rank. Kositsyn was a captain and had some notable achievements to his credit
in sport, having established a number of Soviet records. During the war he
commanded a special unit known as `Black Death'. From that `civilian'
institute, in the first week of war alone, thirteen such units were formed.
They engaged in active terrorist work in support of the Red Army, and the
speed with which the units were formed suggests that long before the war all
the members of the units had been carefully screened and trained. Otherwise
they would not have been sent behind the lines. Kositsyn's unit acquired a
name as the most daring and ruthless of all the formations on the Leningrad
Makhmud Umarov. During the Second World War Umarov was a soldier in an
independent spetsnaz mine-laying battalion. He was several times dropped
with a group of men behind enemy lines. He had two professions: he was a
crack shot, and a doctor. After the war he was an officer in the
Intelligence directorate of the Leningrad military district. He continued to
have two professions, and as a doctor-psychiatrist he received an honorary
doctorate for theoretical work. As a crack shot he became European and world
champion; in fact, he was five times European champion and three times world
champion. He won two Olympic silver medals for pistol shooting, in Melbourne
and in Rome. After the resurrection of spetsnaz he served as an officer in
that organisation, where both his professions were valued. Thanks to his
sporting activities Lieutenant-Colonel Umarov visited many countries of the
world and had extensive connections. In 1961 Makhmud Umarov suddenly
disappeared from the medical and sporting scenes. There is some reason to
believe that he died in very strange circumstances.
Yuri Borisovich Chesnokov. A man of unusual physical strength and
endurance, he took part in many kinds of sport. He was particularly
successful at volleyball: twice world champion and Olympic champion.
Chesnokov's physical qualities were noticed very early and as soon as he
finished school he was taken into the Academy of Military Engineering,
although he was not an officer. From that time he was closely involved in
the theory and practice of using explosives. Apart from an Olympic gold
medal he has another gold medal for his work on the technique of causing
explosions. Chesnokov is now a spetsnaz colonel.
Valentin Yakovlevich Kudrevatykh. He joined the para-military DOSAAF
organisation when he was still at school. He took up parachute jumping,
gliding and rifle shooting at the same time. In May 1956 he made his first
parachute jump. Two years later, at the age of eighteen, he had reached a
high level at parachute jumping and shooting. In 1959 he was called into the
army, serving in the airborne forces. In 1961 he set five world records in
one week in parachute sport, for which he was promoted sergeant and sent to
the airborne officers' school in Ryazan. After that he was sent to spetsnaz
and put in command of some special women's units. He had under his command
the most outstanding women athletes, including Antonina Kensitskaya, to whom
he is now married. She has established thirteen world records, her husband
fifteen. He made parachute jumps (often with a women's group) in the most
incredible conditions, landing in the mountains, in forests, on the roofs of
houses and so forth. Kudrevatykh took part in practically all the tests of
new parachute equipment and weapons. Along with a group of professional
women parachutists he took part in the experimental group drop from a
critically low height on 1 March 1968. Then, as he was completing his
5,555th jump, he got into a critical situation. Black humour among Soviet
airborne troops says that, if neither the main nor the reserve parachute
opens, the parachutist still has a whole twenty seconds to learn to fly.
Kudrevatykh did not learn to fly in those last seconds, but he managed with
his body and the unopened parachutes to slow his fall. He spent more than
two years in hospital and went through more than ten operations. When he was
discharged he made his 5,556th jump. Many Soviet military papers published
pictures of that jump. As usual Kudrevatykh jumped in the company of
professional women parachutists. But there are no women in the Soviet
airborne divisions. Only in spetsnaz.
After making that jump Kudrevatykh was promoted full colonel.
The Spetsnaz Intelligence Point (RP-SN)
Imagine that you have graduated from the 3rd faculty (operational
intelligence) of the Military-Diplomatic Academy of the General Staff. If
you have passed out successfully you will be sent to one of the twenty
Intelligence directorates (RUs), which are to be found in the headquarters
of military districts, groups of forces and fleets.
On the first day I spent at the Military-Diplomatic Academy I realised
that diplomacy is espionage and that military diplomacy is military
espionage. Successful completion of the 3rd faculty of the
Military-Diplomatic Academy means serving in one of the Intelligence
directorates, or in subordinate units directly connected with the
recruitment of foreign agents and managing them.
Imagine you have been posted to the Intelligence Directorate of the
Kiev military district. Kiev is without doubt the most beautiful city in the
Soviet Union, and I have heard it said more than once by Western journalists
who have visited Kiev that it is the most beautiful city in the world.
So you are now in the enormous building housing the headquarters of the
Kiev military district. At different times all the outstanding military
leaders of the Soviet Union have worked in this magnificent building:
Zhukov, Bagramyan, Vatutin, Koshevoi, Chuikov, Kulikov, Yakubovsky and many
others. The office of the officer commanding the district is on the second
floor. To the right of his office are the massive doors to the Operational
Directorate. To the left are the no less massive doors to the Intelligence
Directorate. It is a symbolic placing: the first directorate (battle
planning) is the commanding officer's right hand, while the second
directorate (razvedka) is his left. There are many other directorates and
departments in the headquarters, but they are all on other floors.
Your first visit to the Intelligence Directorate at the district
headquarters takes place, of course, in the company of one of the officers.
Otherwise you would simply not be admitted.
Before entering the headquarters you must call at the permit office and
produce your authority. You are given a number to phone and an officer comes
to escort you. The permit office examines your documents very carefully and
issues you with a temporary pass. The officer then leads you along endless
corridors and up numerous stairs. You must be ready at every turn to produce
your permit and officer's identity card. Your documents are checked many
times before you reach the district's head of razvedka.
Now you are in the general's huge office. Facing you is a
major-general, the head of razvedka for the Kiev military district. You
introduce yourself to him: `Comrade general, Captain so-and-so reporting for
The general asks you a few questions, and as he talks with you about
trivialities he decides your fate. There are a number of possibilities.
Perhaps he doesn't take to you and so decides not to take you on. You will
be posted to the district Personnel Directorate and will never again have
anything to do with Intelligence work. Or he may like you but not very much.
In that case he will send you for reconnaissance work on lower floors to
serve in a division or regiment. You will be working in razvedka, but not
with the agent network.
If you really please him several paths will be open to you. The
razvedka of a military district is a gigantic organisation with a great deal
of work to do. Firstly, he can post you to the headquarters of one of three
armies to work in the headquarters Intelligence department, where you will
be sent on to an intelligence post (RP) to recruit secret agent-informers to
work for that army.
Secondly, he can leave you in the Intelligence directorate for work in
the second (agent network) or the third (spetsnaz) department. Thirdly, he
can post you to one of the places where the recruitment of foreigners to
work for the Kiev military district is actually taking place. There are two
such places: the Intelligence centre (RZs) and the spetsnaz Intelligence
point (RP spetsnaz).
The general may ask you for your own opinion. Your reply must be short:
for example -- I don't mind where I work, so long as it is not at
headquarters, preferably at recruitment. The general expects that sort of
reply from you. Intelligence has no need of an officer who is not bursting
to do recruiting work. If someone has got into Intelligence work but is not
burning with desire to recruit foreigners, it means he has made a mistake in
his choice of profession. It also means that the people who recommended him
for Intelligence work and spent years training him at the
Military-Diplomatic Academy were also mistaken.
The general asks his final question: what kind of agents do you want to
recruit -- for providing information or for collaborating with spetsnaz?
Every intelligence officer at the front and fleet level must know how to
recruit agents of both kinds. It is, you say, all the same to you.
`All right,' the general says, `I am appointing you an officer in the
spetsnaz Intelligence point of the 3rd department of the Second Directorate
of the headquarters of the Kiev military district. The order will be issued
in writing tomorrow. I wish you well.'
You thank the general for the trust placed in you, salute smartly,
click your heels, and leave the office. The escorting officer awaits you at
the exit. From here, without any permits, you come out into a little
courtyard, where there is always a little prison van waiting. The door slams
behind you and you are in a mousetrap. Facing you is a little opaque window
with a strong grille over it. No use trying to look out. The van twists and
turns round the city's streets, often stopping and changing direction, and
you realise that it is stopping at traffic lights. At last the van drives
through some huge gates and comes to a halt. The door is opened and you step
out into the courtyard of the penal battalion of the Kiev military district.
It is a military prison. Welcome to your new place of work.
The ancient city of Kiev has seen conquerors from all over the world
pass down its streets. Some of them razed the city to the ground; others
fortified it; then a third lot destroyed it again. The fortifications around
the ruined and burnt-out city of Kiev were built for the last time in 1943
on Hitler's orders. On the approaches to Kiev you can come across
fortifications of all ages, from the concrete pillboxes of the twentieth
century to the ruins of walls that were built five hundred years before the
arrival of Batu Khan.
The place you have been brought to is a fort built at the time of
Catherine the Great. It is built on the south-west approaches to the city at
the top of steep cliffs covered with ancient oaks. Alongside are other
forts, an enormous ancient monastery, and an ancient fortress which now
houses a military hospital.
Through the centuries military installations of the most varied kinds
-- stores, barracks, headquarters -- have been built on the most dangerous
approaches to the city and, apart from the basic purpose, they have also
served as fortifications. The fort we have come to also served two purposes:
as a barracks for 500 to 700 soldiers, and as a fort. Circular in shape, its
outside walls used to have only narrow slits and broad embrasures for guns.
These have now all been filled in and the only remaining windows are those
that look into the internal courtyard. The fort has only one gateway, a
well-defended tunnel through the mighty walls. A brick wall has been added
around the fort. From the outside it looks like a high brick wall in a
narrow lane, with yet another brick wall, higher than the first one, behind
Both the inner and outer courtyards of the fort are split up into
numerous sectors and little yards divided by smaller walls and a whole
jungle of barbed wire. The sectors have their own strange labels: the
numbering has been so devised that no one should be able to discern any
logic in it. The absence of any system facilitates the secrecy surrounding
There are three companies of men undergoing punishment and one guard
company in the penal battalion. The men in the guard company have only a
very vague idea of who visits the battalion and why. They have only their
instructions which have to be carried out: the men undergoing punishment can
be only in the inner courtyard in certain sectors; officers who have a
triangle stamped in their passes are allowed into certain other sectors;
officers with a little star stamped in their passes are allowed to enter
other sectors; and so forth.
Apart from the officers of the penal battalion, frequent callers at the
fort are officers of the military prosecutor's office, the military
commandant of the city, and officers of the commandant's office:
investigators, lawyers. And there is a sector set aside for you. The
spetsnaz intelligence point has no connection at all with the penal
battalion. But if it were to be situated separately in some building, sooner
or later people in the vicinity would be struck by the suspicious behaviour
of the people occupying the building. Here in the penal battalion you are
hidden from curious eyes.
The spetsnaz intelligence point is a small military unit headed by a
lieutenant-colonel, who has under him a number of officers, graduates from
the Military-Diplomatic Academy, and a few sergeants and privates who carry
out support functions without having any idea (or the correct idea) of what
the officers are engaged on. Officers of the penal battalion and those
visiting the battalion are not supposed to ask what goes on in your sector.
Many years back one of your predecessors appeared to allow himself the
luxury of `careless talk', to the effect that his was a group reporting
directly to the officer commanding the district and investigating cases of
corruption among the senior officers. This is sufficient to ensure that you
are treated with respect and not asked any more questions.
Its location in the penal battalion gives the spetsnaz point a lot of
advantages: behind such enormous walls, the command can be sure that your
documents will not get burnt or lost by accident; it is under the strictest
guard, with dozens of guard dogs and machine-guns mounted in towers to
preserve your peace of mind; no outsider interested in what is going on
inside the walls will ever get a straight answer; the independent
organisation does not attract the attention of higher-ranking Soviet
military leaders who are not supposed to know about GRU and spetsnaz; and
even if an outsider knows something about you he cannot distinguish spetsnaz
officers from among the other officers visiting the old fort.
Spetsnaz has at its disposal a number of prison vans exactly the same
as those belonging to the penal battalion and with similar numbers. They are
very convenient for bringing any person of interest to us into or out of
your fort at any time. What is good about the prison van is that neither the
visitor nor outsiders can work out exactly where the spetsnaz point is. A
visitor can be invited to any well guarded place where there are usually
plenty of people (the headquarters, commandant's office, police station) and
then secretly brought in a closed van to the old fort, and returned in the
same way so that he gets lost in the crowd. Fortunately there are several
such forts in the district.
A penal battalion, that is to say a military prison, is a favourite
place for the GRU to hide its branches in. There are other kinds of
camouflage as well -- design bureaux, missiles bases, signals centres -- but
they all have one feature in common: a small, secret organisation is
concealed within a large, carefully guarded military establishment.
In addition to its main premises where the safes crammed with secret
papers are kept, the spetsnaz Intelligence point has several secret
apartments and small houses on the outskirts of the city.
Having found yourself in the place I have described, you are met by an
unhappy-looking lieutenant-colonel who has probably spent his whole working
life at this work. He gives you a brief order: `You wear uniform only inside
the fort and if you are called to the district headquarters. The rest of the
time you wear civilian clothes.'
`I understand, comrade lieutenant-colonel.'
`But there's nothing for you to do here in the fort and even less in
the headquarters. This is my place, not yours. I don't need any bureaucrats;
I need hunters. Go off and come back in a month's time with material on a
good foreign catch.'
`Do you know the territories our district will be fighting on in a
`Yes, I do.'
`Well, I need another agent there who could meet up with a spetsnaz
group in any circumstances. I am giving you a month because you are just
beginning your service, but the time-scale will be stricter later on. Off
you go, and remember that you have got a lot of rivals in Kiev: the friends
of yours who have already joined the Intelligence point are probably active
in the city, the KGB is also busy, and goodness knows who else is recruiting
here. And remember -- you can slip up only once in our business. I shall
never overlook a mistake, and neither will spetsnaz. In wartime you are shot
for making a mistake. In peacetime you land in prison. You know which
That was what Kiev was like before the Chernobyl disaster. For hundreds
of years barbarians from many of the countries of Asia and Europe had been
doing their best to destroy my great city, but nobody inflicted such damage
on it as did the Communists. The history of nuclear energy in the Soviet
Union is one -- very long -- story of crime. The founding father of the
development of nuclear energy was Lavrenti Beria, the all-powerful chief of
the secret police and, as later became apparent, one of the greatest
criminals of the twentieth century. The majority of the Soviet ministers,
designers and engineers connected with the development of nuclear energy
were kept in prisons, and not only in Stalin's time. All nuclear plants are
built with prison labour. I have personally seen thousands of convicts
working in the uranium mines in the Kirovograd region. (See V. Suvorov,
Aquarium). The convicts have no incentive whatsoever to turn out good
Sooner or later this was bound to end in disaster. The paper
Literaturnaya Ukraina1 reported on the criminal attitude to construction
work and the use of defective materials and obsolete technology at
Chernobyl. The paper issued a warning that several generations of people
would have to pay for the irresponsible attitude of the people in charge of
the building work. But nobody paid any attention to this article or others
like it; a month later the catastrophe took place.
1 27 March 1987