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Sea Transportation: A Russian Solution To The Somali Pirates
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November 25, 2008: Russia is planning to send more warships to the Somali coast, along with some commandos and a particularly Russian style of counter-piracy operations. In other words, the Russians plan to go old school on the Somali pirates, and use force to rescue ships currently held, and act ruthlessly against real or suspected pirates it encounters at sea.

This could cause diplomatic problems with the other nations providing warships for counter-piracy operations off the Somali coast. That's because the current ships have, so far, followed a policy of not attempting rescue operations (lest captive sailors get hurt) and not firing on pirates unless fired on first. Russia believes this approach only encourages the pirates.

Russia is planning on bringing along commandoes from Spetsgruppa Vympel. These are hostage rescue experts, formed two decades ago as a spinoff from the original Russian army Spetsnaz commandos. This came about when various organizations in the Soviet government decided that they could use a few Spetsnaz type troops for their own special needs. Thus in the 1970s and 80s there appeared Spetsnaz clones called Spetsgruppa. The most use of these was Spetsgruppa Alfa (Special Group A), which was established in 1974 to do the same peacetime work as the U.S. Delta Force or British SAS. In other words; anti-terrorist assignments or special raids. It was Spetsgruppa Alfa that was sent to Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1980 to make sure the troublesome Afghan president Amin and his family were eliminated from the scene (killed.) Survivors (members of the presidential palace staff) of the Spetsgruppa Alfa assault reported that the Spetsnaz troopers systematically hunted down and killed their targets with a minimum of fuss. Very professional. The surviving Afghans were suitably impressed. Spetsgruppa Alfa now belongs to the FSB (successor to the KGB) and number about 300 men (and a few women.) At the same time Spetsgruppa Alfa was established, another section of the KGB organized Spetsgruppa Vympel. This group was trained to perform wartime assassination and kidnapping jobs for the KGB. The FSB also inherited Spetsgruppa Vympel, which is a little smaller than Spetsgruppa Alpha and is used mainly for hostage rescue.

Meanwhile, piracy has been a growing problem off the Somali coast for over a decade. The problem now is that there are hundreds of experienced pirates. And these guys have worked out a system that is very lucrative, and not very risky. For most of the past decade, the pirates preyed on foreign fishing boats and the small, often sail powered, cargo boats the move close (within a hundred kilometers) of the shore. During that time, the pirates developed contacts with businessmen in the Persian Gulf who could be used to negotiate (for a percentage) the ransoms with insurance companies and shipping firms. The pirates also mastered the skills needed to put a grappling hook on the railing, 30-40 feet above the water, of a large ship. Doing this at night, and then scrambling aboard, is more dangerous if the ship has lookouts, who can alert sailors trained to deploy high pressure fire hoses against the borders.

Few big ships carry any weapons, and most have small crews (12-30 sailors). Attacking at night finds most of the crew asleep. Rarely do these ships have any armed security. Ships can post additional lookouts when in areas believed to have pirates. Once pirates (speedboats full of armed men) are spotted, ships can increase speed (a large ship running at full speed, about 40+ kilometers an hour, can outrun most of the current speed boats the pirates have), and have fire hoses ready to be used to repel boarders. The pirates will fire their AK-47 assault rifles and RPG grenade launchers, but the sailors handling the fire hoses will stand back so the gunmen cannot get a direct shot.

Since the pirates take good care of their captives, the anti-piracy efforts cannot risk a high body count, lest they be accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes or simply bad behavior. The pirates have access to hundreds of sea going fishing boats, which can pretend to fish by day, and sneak up on merchant ships at night. The pirates often operate in teams, with one or more fishing boats acting as lookouts, and alerting another boat that a large, apparently unguarded, ship is headed their way. The pirate captain can do a simple calculation to arrange meeting the oncoming merchant vessel in the middle of the night. These fishing boats can carry inflatable boats with large outboard engines. Each of these can carry four or five pirates, their weapons and the grappling hook projectors needed to get the pirates onto the deck of a large ship. These big ships are very automated, and at night the only people on duty will be on the bridge. This is where the pirates go, to seize control of the ship. The rest of the crew is then rounded up. The pirates force the captain to take the ship to an anchorage near some Somali fishing village. There, more gunmen will board, and stand guard over crew and ship until the ransom is paid. Sometimes, part of the crew will be sent ashore, and kept captive there. The captive sailors are basically human shields for the pirates, to afford some protection from commando attacks.

There has always been the option of a military operation to capture the seaside towns and villages the pirates operate from. But this would include sinking hundreds of fishing boats and speedboats. Hundreds of civilians would be killed or injured. Unless the coastal areas were occupied (or until local Somalis could maintain law and order), the pirates would soon be back in business. Pacifying Somalia is an unpopular prospect. Given the opprobrium heaped on the U.S. for doing something about Iraq, no one wants to be on the receiving end of that criticism for pacifying Somalia. The world also knows, from over a century of experience, that the Somalis are violent, persistent and unreliable. That's a combination that has made it impossible for the Somalis to even govern themselves. In the past, what is now Somalia has been ruled, by local and foreign rulers, through the use of violent methods that are no longer politically acceptable. But now the world is caught between accepting a "piracy tax" imposed by the Somalis, or going in and pacifying the unruly country and its multitude of bandits, warlords and pirates.

The piracy "tax" is basically a security surcharge on maritime freight movements. It pays for higher insurance premiums (which in turn pay for the pirate ransoms), danger bonuses for crews and the additional expense of all those warships off the Somali coast. Most consumers would hardly notice this surcharge, as it would increase sea freight charges by less than a percent. Already, many ships are going round the southern tip of Africa, and avoiding Somalia and the Suez canal altogether. Ships would still be taken. Indeed, about a third of the ships seized this year had taken precautions, but the pirates still got them. Warships could attempt an embargo of Somalia, not allowing seagoing ships in or our without a warship escort. Suspicious seagoing ships, and even speedboats, could be sunk in port. That would still produce some videos (real or staged, it doesn't matter) of dead civilians, but probably not so many that the anti-piracy force would be indicted as war criminals.

This sort of bad publicity does not bother the Russians as much as it does other European nations and the United States. Russia got lots of bad press for its brutal, but effective, counter-terror operations in Chechnya. Same with last Augusts invasion of Georgia, which was basically a punitive operation, mainly intended to intimidate the Georgian government. That worked too, despite lots of hostile rhetoric from the U.S. and European nations. If the Russians go old school on the Somali pirates, it will probably work. The Somalis are vicious and clever, but not stupid. Somalis and Russians speak the same language of violence, and the Russians carry a bigger stick. The world will complain, then enjoy the benefits of a piracy free Somali coast.

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Little Ray       11/25/2008 9:57:06 AM
Never thought I'd say this, but let's hear it for the Ruskis!  Huzzah and Away Boarders!
 
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doggtag       11/25/2008 11:40:59 AM
Does Somalia even have a standing, active, controlling government anymore?
If so, judging by the bad publicity, what are they doing to curb the situation themselves?
Anything effective?
If not, would appeal to the UN for assistance solve anything?
Other than proving a haven for violence, does Somalia even offer anything to the world to justify other countries coming to its defense and aid?
 
No, seriously (no sarcasm whatsoever),
is there a Somalia government that is truly concerned with this problem?
If not, what much restrictions would foreign intercessors have to contend with, other than a UN mandate covering the piracy situation?
 
A multinational joint task force composed of all number of ships of various sizes, authorized by the UN to be deputized as needed and perform search and seizure as necessary, with ROEs that allow reactive fire when called for, only then can a solution be found for this.
 
Problem is, what nations are really willing to pony up the money to foot the bill for their military people being there?
 
Maybe those merchant shipping companies can get the authority to hire on all those Blackwater folk who've been frowned upon the way they've conducted themselves in Iraq?
Maybe UN mandate to allow greater defensive rules of engagement and uses of force for the commercial industry is what's needed, let those companies provide for their own defense?
 
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WarNerd       11/25/2008 12:00:31 PM
If the Russian and Indian task forces succeeds in bringing the Somali piracy under control when everyone else is just dithering around it could have a significant effect on how Russia, India, the United States, and the EU are perceived as reliable allies in 3rd world countries.  The near total ineffectiveness of the western powers is becoming increasingly evident.
 
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RockyMTNClimber    Not really...   11/25/2008 12:27:44 PM
Actually the media reports available do not reflect any of the conclusions this article makes. One Russian Frigate, the Neustrashimy, happened to be in the same general area when a British warship, the Cumberland, siezed a single Dhow of Yemeni origin. There has been some other comments in the MSM from Russian political/military leadership that the Russians might send additional ships to assist the international forces operating around the Gulf of Aden but that is a big stretch to start naming elite comando brigades who will participate in search and destroy raids on terra firma. This article offers no sources and makes conclusions that are not supported elsewhere.
 
In that one engagement, the Russians did not do any shooting. The Brits did killing two pirates.
 
Check Six
 
Rocky
 
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Nanheyangrouchuan       11/25/2008 12:36:17 PM
@ Warnerd
 
It has gotten to the point that the US is either going too far or not doing enough.  If the world doesn't mind the Indians, Russians or Chinese executing pirates en masse and shelling their home ports (which is how pirates should be dealt with), then the world is obviously anti-US/western world.  On the other hand, Those other naval powers might find the new global spotlight a bit uncomfortable.
 
On the other hand, I've read some reports stating that the massive shipping traffic and the resulting bilge tank dumps have wiped out the fishing stocks and the survivors are almost inedible due to contamination and cancer.  So are the pirates just pirates or defending their food and income source?

 
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razputin       11/25/2008 1:10:35 PM

Actually the media reports available do not reflect any of the conclusions this article makes. One Russian Frigate, the Neustrashimy, happened to be in the same general area when a British warship, the Cumberland, siezed a single Dhow of Yemeni origin. There has been some other comments in the MSM from Russian political/military leadership that the Russians might send additional ships to assist the international forces operating around the Gulf of Aden but that is a big stretch to start naming elite comando brigades who will participate in search and destroy raids on terra firma. This article offers no sources and makes conclusions that are not supported elsewhere.

 

In that one engagement, the Russians did not do any shooting. The Brits did killing two pirates.

 

Check Six

 

Rocky

Man you are a party pooper.

 
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Hurlbee36    The UN, NATO, and lawyers out   11/25/2008 2:42:41 PM
This is a legal issue not military.  In June 2008, the UN Security Council resolution 1816 enables States cooperating with the "Transitional Federal Government" of Somalia (I didn't think they had one) to enter the country's territorial waters and use all necessary means to repress piracy (that's control vs. eliminate), consistent with relevant "international law". The mandate is due to expire Dec 1, 2008 but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon supports an extension. 
 
Sounds like the International community isn't serious enough for career warship commanders bound by international law to jeopardize their futures with so many lawyers out of work.  Every Navy under NATO needs a panel of attorneys on board familiar with international law to read the fine print.
 
This is why I say send in the Russians who salute the UN with a middle finger.

 
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Batou    And. So What...   11/25/2008 5:35:38 PM
Old Skool works for me. The act of piracy is Old Skool. Send in the russians I say.
 
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Condor Legion       11/25/2008 6:33:00 PM
Somebody commenting here seems to think that the "media" is the only possible source of information...
 
 
http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/2008/11/5th-fleet-focus-international-request.html
 
Do note that Alpha and Vympel combined do not have enough men to be called a "brigade," at best their reported active numbers equal an overstrength battalion.
 
The Russian Naval Infantry has one division and at least four independent brigades. The closest of those brigades is based in the Black Sea and was heavily involved in Georgia. In addition there is an independent regiment of Naval Infantry attached to each of the major Russian fleet commands.
 
FLOODLAND,
CL(R)
 
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RockyMTNClimber    Condor reply   11/25/2008 8:11:26 PM
 
Somebody commenting here seems to think that the "media" is the only possible source of information...
 
 
link
 
Do note that Alpha and Vympel combined do not have enough men to be called a "brigade," at best their reported active numbers equal an overstrength battalion.
 
The Russian Naval Infantry has one division and at least four independent brigades. The closest of those brigades is based in the Black Sea and was heavily involved in Georgia. In addition there is an independent regiment of Naval Infantry attached to each of the major Russian fleet commands.
 
FLOODLAND,
CL(R)
 
Your links support the conclusions of the article? Where is there a definite statement that they will deploy troops and ships and go Old School. The fact that they may be is widely reported. The information you link is also on GlobalSecurity.org. So that means for sure the Russians are going ashore with knives in their teeth? No. They don't say that. There is a suggestion out there. Gee lots of suggestions are out there. Facts sir. Quoting your source:
 
NATO, the European Union and others should launch land operations against bases of Somali pirates in coordination with Russia, the Russian ambassador to NATO said on Wednesday.

I should have Micro-Soft & Apple Stocks the first day they were made public, does that mean I did? 
US Command response (quoting again from your sources): "That's far beyond what I've been tasked to do."  Yeah, sounds like the Russians are coming for sure....   
Please show me a time in history where the Russians ever acted as benevolent agents of anybody. Lessons learned from history tell a different story. In Lebanon when westerners were being similarly kidnapped and held for ransom the Russians did use 'old school' tactics to free their prisoners without regard for problems with the west. Does anybody think they (the same KGB guys in charge today under different agency name) will now do the wests wet-work for free? Invade a Muslim snake pit? Hardly- they have been there and done that. This article's conclusion is premature based upon history and the data available. As I stated earlier.

Allot of
leaps of faith here by the author of this article.
 
Check Six
 
Rocky
 
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