Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The Russian word razvedka translates as reconnaissance, spying, or intelligence gathering. One very important form of recon rose to prominence during the Cold War, when the West deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Europe, to prevent a Soviet-led war of “liberation”:

The destruction of the tactical nuclear weapons which render Soviet aggression impossible or pointless could be carried out only if the whereabouts of all, or at least the majority, of the enemy’s tactical nuclear weapons were established. But this in itself presented a tremendous problem. It is very easy to conceal tactical missiles, aircraft and nuclear artillery and, instead of deploying real missiles and guns, the enemy can deploy dummies, thus diverting the attention of Soviet razvedka and protecting the real tactical nuclear weapons under cover.

The Soviet high command therefore had to devise the sort of means of detection that could approach very close to the enemy’s weapons and in each case provide a precise answer to the question of whether they were real, or just well produced dummies. But even if a tremendous number of nuclear batteries were discovered in good time, that did not solve the problem. In the time it takes for the transmission of the reports from the reconnaissance units to the headquarters, for the analysis of the information obtained and the preparation of the appropriate command for action, the battery can have changed position several times. So forces had to be created that would be able to seek out, find and destroy immediately the nuclear weapons discovered in the course of war or immediately before its outbreak.

Spetsnaz was, and is, precisely such an instrument, permitting commanding officers at army level and higher to establish independently the whereabouts of the enemy’s most dangerous weapons and to destroy them on the spot.

The US Army Special Forces, or green berets, were tasked with leading guerrilla forces in unconventional warfare behind enemy lines in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe.

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