Russia’s Spetsnaz are the first and often the last line of defense against many of the threats to national security. The word Spetsnaz is actually an acronym for spetsialnogo naznacheniya, meaning "special purpose". The Russian public use to know very little about the state of their countries Special Forces unit until many state secrets were disclosed under the glasnost policy of Gorbechev in the 1980's. Since then, stories of Spetsnaz units within Russia have both captivated and terrified those who live in the country. There supper star like status in the state controlled media have encouraged the public to identify many of these forces by names such as SOBR, Alpha, Vityaz, Fakel, or torch. On the battlefield, Spetsnaz soldiers have the reputation of being among the world's toughest and most ruthless soldiers. They have seen extensive action in Afghanistan and Chechnya. During the Cold War, the prime objective of military Spetsnaz troops would have been to act as an airborne battlefield reconnaissance force, operating deep behind enemy lines.
In the decade following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, large numbers have been recruited for a range of security and counter-terrorist roles. A Spetsnaz unit known as Vega specializes in dealing with nuclear incidents while other units like those mentioned above (Fakel and torch) are skilled in dealing with hostage incidents inside prisons. The selection process for Spetsnaz troops is grueling, and training can last up to five years. Recruits are submitted to an intense and deliberately brutal five-month long induction intended to strip away dignity and instill the toughness and resilience needed to endure harsh combat conditions. According to analysts, Spetsnaz tactics are far more improvisational than those of Western Special Forces, with more emphasis placed on sheer physical strength.