The Best (Non-American) Special Forces on Earth

    Dave Majumdar

    Security, Americas

    The military group dismounted and prepared to attack​. Wikimedia Commons

    A new book on Russian, Iranian, Chinese and other special forces will be particularly useful to scholars in Washington.

    Edited by Ruslan Pukhov and Christopher Marsh, Elite Warriors: Special Operations Forces From Around the World is an excellent, methodically researched study of various special mission units from around the globe. While information about well-known American and British special operations forces such as the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force, the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six or the UK’s Special Air Service (SAS) units is fairly commonplace, researchers at Russia’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) have assembled detailed profiles of foreign units from Russia, Ukraine China and others that cannot be found anywhere else.

    “Increasingly scholarly articles are appearing in journals and scholarly presses are beginning to publish more books in the field, with the number of books on related topics growing rapidly every year,” Christopher Marsh writes in his introduction. “What has been lagging, however, has been high-quality comparative research into the global phenomenon of special operations. This is where this volume comes in.”

    The book fulfills its mission to fill the “gap by covering the history and current operating environment of the special operations forces of fourteen countries of the world, including many that have tended to get less attention in the English language media, such as Algeria, Italy, and Poland, for example,” as Marsh writes. Indeed, some of the best and most detailed chapters in the book are on foreign special operations forces familiar only to dedicated regional specialists.

    Among the best in Elite Warriors are Alexey Ramm and Alexey Nikolsky’s contributions. In their respective chapters, the two researchers detail Moscow’s extensive special operations forces and the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to revamp those units. Ramm details the post-Soviet reforms of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz troops and their evolving roles and missions. He also provides details about the various units’ training and equipment and their command and control.

    Nikolsky’s chapters offer a more historiography approach to the subject—detailing the evolution of Soviet and Russian special operations forces and the politics behind those decisions. “Apart from personal rivalries, interagency squabbling and doctrinal ambiguities, the creation of the SSO was also held back by the lack of funds for any meaningful military reforms,” Nikolsky wrote.

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