On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the formation of the Russian National Guard, an “executive force” built to combat terrorism and organized crime, and respond to domestic issues.
According to the Kremlin’s website, the National Guard will be responsible for “enforcement of public order, maintenance of public security and emergency rule, participation in the fight against international terrorism and ensuring the legal regime of counter-terrorism operation, participation in the fight against extremism.” The stated mission of the National Guard also extends to “the territorial defense of the Russian Federation [and] protection of important state facilities,” the Kremlin’s outline continues.
(Analyst Comment: For the past several years, we’ve observed Putin’s actions and rhetoric, both of which point to the re-establishment of a strong Imperial Russia, so the formation of the Russian National Guard comes at a unique time. Organized crime and terrorism are not new or pressing issues for Russia, and while the National Guard might be used to combat those threats, it’s more likely that the National Guard was built to suppress domestic unrest. In the event of a war with NATO, or perhaps an economic collapse, the National Guard will likely be primarily relied on as civil defense. The National Guard is Putin’s backstop solution to both of these problems.
And it’s this potential for economic collapse or war with NATO that was probably the actual driving factor in the establishment of the National Guard. The Russian economy has suffered since international sanctions were introduced in response to Russian intervention in Ukraine. Low oil prices are also hurting Russia’s bottom line, and these factors have many worried about Russian economic stability. The ruble has lost 50% of its purchasing power since sanctions were introduced in 2014. And a recent World Bank report states that Russia’s Reserve Fund will be depleted by the end of 2016 if sanctions are not lifted on the country’s economy.
Photo via Surian Soosay