Are Russian special forces inept?

I remember the theater disaster when most of the hostages ended up killed, now this.

340 deaths. A pretty piss poor record for a highly trained special forces organization.

And this

In 1995, rebels led by guerrilla commander Basayev seized a hospital in the southern Russian city of Budyonnovsk, taking some 2,000 people hostage. The six-day standoff ended with a fierce Russian assault, and some 100 people died.

Are the Russians just bad at hostage rescue or are the terrorists just really good? I know the Israeli commandos rescued the entebbe hostages with only 1 commando fatality and I think a couple of civilian casualties, the other fatalities were terrorists. US delta force, although they botched the Iran hostage rescue mission, still (according to Eric Haney) did some good missions later on.

Are Russian SF just a crappy SF organization or are they fighting against nearly insurmountable odds?

This should probably be in great debates, sorry.

Bias here, but I remember a TV doc where former SAS members describe how utterly differently they would have dealt with the same situations.
IMO the SAS should be used to deal with international crises such as this rather than merely threats to UK interests.
I can’t come up woth the words to express my feelings against the hostage takers in this latest fuckup. If anything I have only sympathy for the russian special forces.

I think its a combination. The Russians are good, but not that good, and they are dealing with savages. There is little you can do when your opponents don’t care. The only way to deal with the problem is to root it out at its source. Since that would border on genocide…well, the Russians are in a bit of a cleft stick.

You can’t use the Israelis as a yardstick. Entebbe was an isolated airport. The plan was a lot simpler. The Chechen scum have learned to take massive numbers of hostages, wire the whole place with explosives, and to trigger the whole mess without warning. The only response, as I see it, is to assault the terrorist-held area as soon as you have the forces. The hostages are going to die any way you handle it. A fast assault might minimize the causalties. But probably not.

Check out your news link and all the other ones i’ve see: Commandos stormed the school after the militants set off explosions and began shooting at hostages who fled.

You’ve got over 1,000 hostages in a building, and then the terrorists set up a bomb inside and start shooting. I wouldn’t call that inept on the part of the security forces.

It’s like 9-11, hijackers previously didn’t fly planes into buildings. Does this mean that the entire US government/military response at the time was inept?

Yeah but contrast the Russian SF operations to Israeli SF operations. The Israelis rescued the entebbe hostages with only 2 or 3 casualties. The Russians killed 129 hostages by accident in the theater situation and over 340 individuals out of about 700 died this time around. Naturally a school filled with bombs is not the same as an airplane filled with a handful of terrorists but still I assume that the Israeli special forces, Delta force, GIGN or SAS could’ve done a much better job.

I have read Eric Haney’s book ‘inside delta force’ and in one section he says that a good special forces operation should involve throwing a distraction (like a flashbang), storming the area, a few seconds of gunfire to kill the hostage takers, then the SF would be in complete control and the gunfire would end after a few seconds. A sign of a bad SF operation is an all out gunfight. That is what happened in this situation, teh russians were in an all out gunfight.

silenus - compare entebbe to the Palestinian hostage situation in the 1972 olympics. In the 1972 olympics inept security forces (German police with little training) controlled virtually everything. They controlled the plane, the surroundings, the airport and the police. They still lost all the hostages, and several civilians and police officers were wounded. On the other hand the Entebbe terrorists had the support of the Ugandan military which controlled the airport and the terrorists controlled the plane. Its a good example of how a skilled SF unit can overcome a bad situation. In the German situation even though the Germans were in control of pretty much everything they still lost but the Israelis were not only fighting the hostage takers who controlled the plane but also the Ugandan military who controlled the airport and they only lost a few lives.

Yeah, but the other situations were meant to be “hostage-situations,” not slaughters. The Chechen pig-f**kers never intended to deal for their hostages, IMO. Look at the way they handled them. You can’t control someone who doesn’t care. Kamikazes are always going to cause more damage than “rational” attackers. I’m not saying that the Russians couldn’t do with a ton more training. But even the SAS would’ve been screwed in this situation.

As I wrote in another post in the pit, I read today an interesting article on this topic. To sum up, some specialists first stated that indeed the russians forces were inept, or more exactly weren’t trained in the same way as their western counterparts, and had not the safety of the hostages as a main priority.
On the other hand another specialist stated that such comparison were wholly unfair, because no western country faced such a situation with so much hostage takers (dozens of them) and so much hostages (hundreds of them), hence that it wasn’t at all obvious that they would have done better, in particular for lack of trained personnel (specialized in hostage taking, not just any random special force : he mentionned 5 special force for each hostage taker as the normal ratio) , Also, it’s not obvious at all that principles that work on a small scale would work also on a large scale.

So, maybe the Russians are less worried about the death toll, and/or not as well trained to handle hostage taking crisis, but since fortunately nobody else had to face a similar situation, there’s no evidences that another country would have done any better.

At Entebbe, and many other successful SF operations, the victor is the one who had the initiative. They raided at the time and method of their choosing. Big difference from the school terrorists. The Chechen Terrorists initiated action (apparently) with an explosion, either accidental or on purpose. The Russians had successfully negotiated the release of several hostages, and word is the negotiations were continuing when the first bomb went off. Hostages began to flee, thinking the bomb was a signal, and the Chechen Terrorists opened fire, shooting them in the back. The Russina military responded with fire, and the game was on.

Night and Day to a planned raid.

Everything I’ve read indicates that the killing was started accidentally. The Russian troops at least stopped a complete massacre.

Hindsight is the only exact science, but next time this happens, you can bet that that the authorities will stall the negotiations until approx 03:00 and then assault the place.

As for the SAS, they’re likely already mostly deployed in assorted locations like Afghanistan and Iraq. Further, there would be logistical problems like language and even getting them there.

Wesley Clark ,

As a crisis negotiator for a police department, I second what silenus said (regarding hostage-takers who don’t care) and what Uncle Bill said (regarding timing and planning).

Your OP asked about being “bad” at hostage rescue. All hostage rescue is very dangerous. Professional training and support can help increase the odds for the rescuers, however, the incidents you’ve cited in Russia were probably doomed from the start. The hostage takers in both cases appear to be fanatical murders with impossible demands. They have also demonstrated that they have learned how to create catastrophic situations.

I haven’t read Eric Haney’s book, and he may be very skilled and experienced, however, for the sake of argument, might not a group of fanatical murders, who probably include ex-military among their numbers, also read books such as that and try to account for standard SF tactics?

It isn’t possible to compare national hostage-rescue proficiency based upon the results of a few high-profile cases the way you might compare sports teams using their season records. Every group of homicidal terrorists is different, every barricade location is different, and every situation is different.

clairobscur put it well in saying, “since fortunately nobody else had to face a similar situation, there’s no evidences that another country would have done any better.”