Defense Ministry Reversal on Spetsnaz

The latest painful walk back started this week on the issue of returning just-moved Spetsnaz brigades from the Ground Troops to the General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), at least presumably. 

This is not a done deal, and it’s certainly not entirely clear Spetsnaz will go back to the GRU.  The special operations men might go back to the General Staff in some form separate and distinct from the GRU, and answering directly to the Genshtab.

Spetsnaz weren’t gone long enough for anyone to decide that giving them to the Ground Troops and MD / OSK commanders wasn’t a good idea in a military sense.  No, this sudden shift is most likely the product of bureaucratic and political infighting.  And it seems like a blow to those close to the Defense Minister, and, to some extent, to Anatoliy Serdyukov himself.

In all this, one recalls past rumors about carving up the GRU.  The FSB and SVR wanted its agent operations.  And the FSB and Ground Troops wanted its Spetsnaz as part of a large, unified special operations force.  Kvachkov and Popovskikh called for Spetsnaz to be its own separate service branch.

At any rate, the story’s details . . .

On Tuesday, Moskovskiy komsomolets reported that the Defense Ministry intends to return Spetsnaz brigades to Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) control just several months after giving them to the Ground Troops.  The idea of giving them to the army was recognized as a failure, according to the paper.

Spetsnaz officers at the time said it was a crazy idea that wouldn’t bring any positive results.  Just exactly whose concept it was is unknown to the public, but, according to MK, former Ground Troops Glavkom Army General Vladimir Boldyrev lobbied for the change to shore up his position after the five-day war with Georgia, and then-GRU Chief Valentin Korabelnikov wasn’t able to defend his Spetsnaz, and had to give them up.

MK implies the GRU focused on preserving its strategic intelligence operations [i.e. agent networks], and even leaders of its Spetsnaz directorate changed over to agent operations.  The “Senezh” Spetsnaz training center was taken from the GRU and subordinated to the General Staff.  According to MK, the Genshtab appointed former FSB Group A General Medoyev to head “Senezh.”  He was replaced within weeks by General Aleksandr Miroshnichenko, also a Group A or “Alpha” veteran. 

Your present author notes Medoyev’s replacement by Miroshnichenko was published in the presidential decree on military personnel from 26 October.  Medoyev was relieved and dismissed from the service by a decree from 1 October.  Both men were listed only as “assistant to the Defense Minister.”

A Genshtab source tells MK:

“The plan to transfer army Spetsnaz to the ground pounders was recognized as a failure.  For a year, no one managed them [the Spetsnaz], they left everything hanging.  Now on General Staff Chief Makarov’s desk there’s a document on their resubordination [to whom?].  It’s true it still isn’t signed.”

The same GRU Spetsnaz leaders who gave their brigades to the ground pounders are seeking a place in the new Spetsnaz leadership.  One can only imagine what the structure will become with these men participating in it.  A GRU source tells MK:

“Take, for example, General Russkov, whose service term expired long ago, he’s 57, but still in the ranks.  And, probably, not because he’s an outstanding military man.  How many promising young guys did they dismiss, but such “dinosaurs” are still serving.  And he’s the very one who provided the rationale for the intelligence directorate not needing Spetsnaz.  After all our brigades were resubordinated, he became an agent operator.  And his deputies and assistants, Colonels Mertvishchev, Shpilchin, and Sobol, who didn’t do anything to keep Spetsnaz in the GRU structure, are actively vying for the leadership of the new Genshtab structure which is being established.”

Argumenty nedeli’s less-nuanced version of the story followed MK’sArgumenty claims sending Spetsnaz back to the GRU will correct one of the biggest mistakes made by the Defense Ministry’s team of “effective managers.”  Its Genshtab source says the GRU might form a Special Operations Directorate [of course, the Genshtab might form its own instead].  The decision on moving Spetsnaz was made “at the very top,” and it weakens the position of Ground Troops Glavkom General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov.  Argumenty finishes its somewhat rambling version of the story by saying ex-FSB men – specifically “Senezh” Chief Miroshnichenko – will control the army Spetsnaz.

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