Routine Change of Command or Not?

Kommersant published some extra details on Sergey Karakayev’s career.  He has served in all RVSN command and staff duties.  He began in the 320th Missile Regiment, 7 th Missile Division (Bologoye-4, Tver Oblast) as a group engineer, training and launch group commander, and finally chief of staff.  In 1994, he became a regiment commander, then chief of staff in the 28th Missile Division (Kozelsk-5, Kaluga Oblast).  He commanded this division from 1998-2001.  Then he headed the Second Department, First Directorate, Main Personnel Directorate.  During 2006-2008, he commanded 27 th (Vladimir) Missile Army.  On October 22, 2009, Karakayev became First Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the RVSN.

A source told Kommersant Karakayev’s appointment was ‘expected,’ adding that Andrey Shvaychenko requested retirement on 9 June and left on leave.  The source claimed he’d reached the service age limit of 55 for two-star generals, but this isn’t correct.  Shvaychenko actually turned 57 on 18 June.  Kommersant’s interlocutor went on to say that Shvaychenko himself recommended Karakayev to  succeed him.

Academy of Military Sciences strategic arms expert Yuriy Rubtsov told Svobodnaya pressa the change at the top of the RVSN may be related to difficulties in, and disagreements over, modernizing the Russian ICBM force under the new strategic arms agreement. 

According to Rubtsov, the RVSN will have to trim its ICBMs by a third under the new arms treaty.  But new missiles are arriving in the force in only miserly portions, and don’t replace what has to be scrapped.  No matter how much the service lives of ICBMs on combat duty since Soviet times have been extended, they still have to be cut, ultimately in 2015.

Svpressa cites NATO estimates that at most 7 Topols are reaching the RVSN each year.  At such a tempo, it’s essential to keep old weapons a little longer.  A sufficient number of Topol-M missile units have not been created, so the SS-18 and SS-19 still underpin Russia’s delivery of unacceptable damage on the enemy.  But Russia continues unilateral disarmament.  According to Svpressa, in such a situation, the more often you change RVSN Commanders, the easier it is to control them and not allow opposition to your strategic nuclear policy. 

Svpressa speculates maybe replacing Shvaychenko was President Medvedev’s way of flexing his muscles before the U.S. visit, grabbing some attention, and signaling Obama that Russia is disarming as agreed and everything is OK.

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