Civilians Now Top Military Diplomats

There’s great interest in the new civilian chief of the Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation (GU MVS).  With yesterday’s decree, President Medvedev appointed career diplomat Sergey Mikhaylovich Koshelev to this post.  Koshelev had been Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Security and Disarmament Issues (DVBR or ДВБР).

Koshelev’s appointment followed that of former DVBR Director Anatoliy Antonov to be Deputy Defense Minister for International Military Cooperation.  So presumably close colleagues Koshelev and Antonov will collaborate again to promote Russia’s military interaction with foreign armies, with the former acting as the latter’s right hand.  The burgeoning “reload” or “reset” with the U.S. Defense Department and with NATO will be a principal preoccupation. 

According to ITAR-TASS, Koshelev has concentrated on strategic negotiations — including START, INF, missile defense, and military space issues — during his diplomatic career.  Today’s Rossiyskaya gazeta notes Koshelev had an active hand in negotiating the new START Treaty with the U.S.  The paper forecasts  he will be active on the issue of European missile defense.

Kommersant writes that Koshelev was born in Moscow on 26 June 1957.  In 1983, he graduated from the Institute of the Countries of Asia and Africa, proceeding to work in the diplomatic service in India.  From 1995, he worked on export control in the DVBR.  In 1998-2003, Koshelev was a counsellor in Moscow’s permanent mission to the U.N. Disarmament Conference in Geneva.  In addition to serving as DVBR Deputy Director, he was also chief of its multilateral disarmament section.  He was promoted to Russia’s third highest diplomatic rank — Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Second Class — in 2008.

Gazeta.ru and Gzt.ru postulate, not without some basis, that Antonov and Koshelev will be part of a new negotiating team for the Mistral purchase.

It’ll be interesting to see what Koshelev and Antonov do with GU MVS, a storied organization somewhat adrift in recent years.  Koshelev relieves acting chief, Colonel Yelena Knyazeva, an interesting character in her own right.  The press notes that General-Major Aleksey Sukhov was dismissed in 2010.  His predecessor was General-Lieutenant Vladimir Fedorov, who had headed the UVS — External Relations Directorate, charged with supervising foreign military attaches in Russia and Russian ones abroad.  We’ve noted on these pages that General-Colonel Anatoliy Mazurkevich left in a hurry when Defense Minister Serdyukov arrived, and General-Colonel Leonid Ivashov discovered the Defense Ministry wasn’t big enough for him and Sergey Ivanov.

So GU MVS once got its leadership from the ranks of Russia’s military diplomats, its military attaches, i.e. from its military intelligence officers and the GRU.  In Gzt.ru, Ivashov described the old GU MVS as an “instrument for warning of military dangers and threats to the USSR and Russia” [i.e. the GRU’s strategic military intelligence mission], but he acknowledged those days are gone and this main directorate has been “reformed” in recent years.

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