Staunton, April 11 – In the wake of protests in Ingushetia and Arkhangelsk where local police and even Russian Guards units failed to act as quickly or even at all in the ways Moscow hoped, the central Russian government has decided to set up a system under which units of the regular army could be deployed to suppress popular risings, the Region.Expert portal says.
In any state, the military is the last line of defense; and if a government signals that it is preparing that defensive line, it is an indication that it no longer has confidence that its other outer defenses will hold, a signal that the situation of the powers that be is more dire than they acknowledge openly – and one that makes the use of the army in such situations problematic.
Russian news agencies (rbc.ru/politics/09/04/2019/5caca4919a79475d5519d425 and m.ura.news/news/1052380223) are reporting that Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has announced that his agency will open in all the regions of the Russian Federation “centers for the coordination of the work of the force structures in crisis situations.”
The first of these “centers” will be established in Tula, an oblast selected the Tallinn-based portal suggests because the governor, Andrey Dyumin, is Putin’s former bodyguard and thus perhaps especially impressed by the idea that the military could play a useful role in defending not only the Russian state system but him personally (region.expert/army/).
If Shoygu’s plan goes into effect there are elsewhere – and the regionalist portal notes that the Kremlin website has not yet posted an order to that effect – Moscow will have put in place a new system to allow it to introduce military force in places where there are massive public protests or disorders and where it may no longer have confidence in local police.
But as Region.Expert points out, this “hope that the army will suppress massive public actions is even more illusory than that the MVD and Russian Guard will.” Those institutions consist of people selected and trained at crowd control and whose raison d’etre is to be used to defend the state against the people.
Armies, especially draft-based militaries like the one in the Russian Federation, in contrast, consist of ordinary people who are trained and prepared to be used against foreign enemies but are not in many cases equally well prepared to be used against their own people, especially because the draftees spring from them.
That suggests the Russian military will either have to change its training program – focusing ever more on controlling the domestic population than on fighting abroad or against some notional invasion – or face the risk other states have in using a tool that may prove counterproductive.
Indeed, Region.Expert concludes, “an attempt o fusing the army against the people can lead to results exactly the reverse of what the powers that be want” and even lead to events like those in Romania of 30 years ago when such an attempt did not lead to the defense of the ruler and his state but to his overthrow and that of his hated system.