Category Archives: Military Diplomacy

GRU Deputies

Deputy (or First Deputy?) Chief of the GRU Vice-Admiral Igor Olegovich Kostyukov surfaced to give a speech on Asian regional security at the 7th Moscow Conference on International Security (April 4-5).

Habitually fearing to say intelligence, most Russian media attributed him to a “main directorate of the RF Armed Forces General Staff.”

His speech boiled down to an anti-American diatribe against U.S. policy and alliances in Asia. There’s a Mil.ru wrapup as well as a transcript on the MCIS site.

Kostyukov criticized not just the U.S. but the Trump administration specifically for using any means, including military ones, to preserve its hegemony in international affairs, and expand its foreign trade and control of world markets.

He sounded quite the Soviet ideologist, or perhaps the ideology hasn’t changed. Does the U.S. really control world markets now?

The GRU admiral said recent U.S. policy documents don’t hesitate to declare that America will rely more on military power to stem international trends it doesn’t like. Its penchant for seeking “peace through strength” leads to military conflict, and:

“This contradicts the views of many states, including the Russian Federation, which will not accept diktat and are for a just world order, equal rights and partnership between countries, the collective search for solutions to ensure security and preserve peace.”

“The Russian Federation is convinced that the only effective means of ensuring regional security is political dialogue and taking each other’s interest into account.”

One supposes Russian actions in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and Syria don’t count. They must have come from a different page of the Kremlin playbook.

Still, there’s no doubt his views resonated with some countries willing to attend MCIS.

But the true intent here is to catch up on the GRU leadership lineup.

The MOD refers to Vice-Admiral Kostyukov as a deputy to GRU Chief General-Colonel Igor Valentinovich Korobov. But Russian press sources often report him as a first deputy.

It’s interesting that the MOD trotted Kostyukov out. The U.S. has sanctioned him for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine and for interference in America’s electoral process. He was a military attaché to Greece as an O-6 in the early 2000s. Otherwise he’s little known. His name didn’t pop as a contender before General-Colonel Korobov became GRU Chief. It’s not even clear when Kostyukov appeared in the GRU leadership.

A similarly sanctioned Russian officer, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Stepanovich Alekseyev, reportedly became a First Deputy Chief of the GRU in 2011. [Only in the Soviet Union and Russian Federation has it been common to have two or three first deputies of this or that.] Commissioned as a VDV officer, Alekseyev served as chief of intelligence for the old Moscow and Far East Military Districts before coming to headquarters to lead the 14th (Spetsnaz) Directorate, according to Moskovskiy komsomolets.

Neither Kostyukov nor Alekseyev was really known prior to U.S. sanctions in late 2016. See Vedomosti for reference.

They weren’t part of the equation as possible successors to the late General-Colonel Sergun in January 2016. At the time, only Korobov, and deputy chiefs Vyacheslav Viktorovich Kondrashov (a general-lieutenant and deputy since 2011) Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov (rank unclear and a deputy since 2015), and Igor Viktorovich Lelin (a general-lieutenant and deputy since 2014) seemed to be contenders.

Information on these three can be found in this old post.

This source notes that Gizunov headed the “operational group” that successfully identified the “Anonymous International” or “Shaltay-Boltay” hackers, including two FSB computer security experts, who stole and published embarrassing documents and emails from Russian government officials. Gizunov’s often listed just as general. The lack of a specific rank raises some questions about his exact status.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s unlikely all GRU deputies have been identified above. 

We have an assortment of deputies and first deputies including officers who served in legal GRU residencies abroad or in troop reconnaissance and Spetsnaz or in cryptography and information security. It seems we’re missing that first deputy for strategic agent intelligence about whom nothing is known publicly. That general who personally controls the operations of the GRU’s illegal residencies and most important agents in foreign countries.

The last three GRU chiefs — Korobov, Sergun, and Shlyakhturov — each served in that capacity. Another turnover is never far away. Korobov looks tired and old, and he’ll turn 62 on August 3.

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First Get Some Rockets

Iskander

How do you rattle your rockets?  First get some rockets. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev’s address last week underscored the extent to which Russian foreign and defense policies are hampered by the condition of the OPK and its shortage of production capacity.

Medvedev’s description of Russian steps in response to U.S. and NATO missile defense in Europe certainly didn’t surprise anyone, though it may have forced them to conclude the U.S.-Russian “reset” is wearing thin.

To refresh the memory, the first four were (1) put the Kaliningrad BMEW radar into service; (2) reinforce the defense of SYaS with VVKO; (3) equip strategic ballistic missile warheads with capabilities to overcome MD; and (4) develop measures to disrupt MD command and control.

Then fifth, repeating several previous assertions to this effect, Medvedev said:

“If the enumerated measures are insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy in the country’s west and south modern strike weapons systems which guarantee the destruction of MD’s European component.  One such step will be deployment of the ‘Iskander’ missile system in the Kaliningrad special region.”

And, ultimately, of course, Medvedev also noted the dispute over MD could lead Russia to withdraw from new START.

Russianforces.org was first to write that Medvedev’s enumerated steps represented nothing more militarily than what Moscow already intends to do, with or without U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Kommersant recalled the difficulty of making threats with the Iskanders:

“The problem is by virtue of its limited range (several hundred kilometers) ‘Iskander’ missiles can only threaten [Russia’s] neighboring states, but in no way the U.S. MD system as a whole, and on this plane, they have little influence on the strategic balance as such.  Moreover, the Russian military has promised to begin deploying ‘Iskanders’ massively since 2007, but since then the deadlines for their delivery to the army has been postponed more than once.  The army now has a single brigade of ‘Iskanders’ – the 26th Neman [Brigade], which is deployed near Luga.  This is 12 launchers.  There is also a 630th Independent Battalion in the Southern Military District.  In GPV-2020, ten brigades more are promised.”

So, Iskander deployments, including probably in Kaliningrad, will happen anyway, regardless of MD, when Moscow is able to produce the missiles.

Interfaks-AVN quoted Ruslan Pukhov on the missile production capacity issue.  If Russia wants to deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad or Belarus or Krasnodar Kray as a response to European MD, then:

“. . . it’s essential to build a new factory to produce these missiles since the factory in Votkinsk can’t handle an extra mission.”

“Productivity suffers because of the great ‘heterogeneity’ of missiles [Iskander, Bulava, Topol-M, Yars].  Therefore, if we want our response to MD on our borders to be done expeditiously, and not delayed, we need a new factory.”

Vesti FM also covered his remarks:

“’Iskander’ is produced at the Votkinsk plant.  The ‘Bulava,’ and ‘Topol-M,’ and multi-headed ‘Yars,’ are also produced there.  Therefore, such heterogeneity in missiles leads to the fact that they are produced at an extremely low tempo.”

The 500-km Iskander (SS-26 / STONE), always advertised with significant capabilities to defeat MD, was accepted in 2006.  But the Russian Army didn’t  complete formation of the Western MD Iskander brigade or Southern MD battalion until the middle of last month, according to ITAR-TASS.  The army expects to get a full brigade of 12 launchers each year until 2020. 

But Iskanders still aren’t rolling off the line like sausages.  This spring Prime Minister Putin promised to double missile output, including from Votkinsk, starting in 2013, and pledged billions of rubles to support producers.  In early 2010, Kommersant wrote about Votkinsk overloaded with orders, trying to modernize shops to produce Iskander.

Votkinsk and Iskander are, by the way, not the only defense-industrial problem relative to countering MD.  Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed out VVKO will need lots of new S-400 and S-500 systems (and factories to produce them) to protect Russia’s SYaS.  But we digress . . . .

What do defense commentators think about Medvedev’s statement and Iskanders? 

Vladimir Dvorkin calls them a far-fetched threat:

“There are no scenarios in which they could be used.  If Russia used them in an initial preventative strike, then this would signify the beginning of a war with NATO on which Russia would never embark.”

Aleksey Arbatov says relatively short-range missiles don’t scare the Americans, but could spoil relations with Poland and Romania.

Aleksandr Golts says the slow pace of Iskander production makes it not a very serious threat.  He notes Putin’s restraint on threats over MD:

“Being a rational man, he perfectly understands that an attempt to create such a threat will get an immediate response, which, considering the West’s potential, will create a much bigger problem for Russia.  That is, there’ll be a repetition on another scale of the history with the deployment of Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe.”

One supposes rather than driving a wedge between the U.S. and MD-host countries, Russian threats might reaffirm the wisdom of having a tangible U.S. presence on their territory.

Lastly, Leonid Ivashov reacts to Medvedev’s reminder that Russia could withdraw from new START:

“When President Medvedev says that we will withdraw from SNV [START], the Americans just smile.  They know perfectly well the state of our defense-industrial complex.”

The Military’s Most Authoritative

Russkiy reporter published its 2011 list of the 100 “most authoritative” Russian people — ten each in society, business, bureaucracy, academe, education, medicine, law, military, culture, and sports.

Avtoritetnyy, of course, isn’t just a cognate; it can mean influential, competent, trusted, reputable, respected, expert, etc.

You can read about last year’s picks in the military field here.  This year’s military list includes:

  • Deputy Defense Minister Anatoliy Antonov, for knowing how to talk to foreigners.
  • Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin, for housing officers.
  • Sukhoy test pilot Sergey Bogdan, for testing the fifth generation fighter.
  • General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, for disbanding the “Arbat Military District.”
  • State Secretary, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, for reforming military education.
  • President, General Director of RSK MiG, Chairman of the Board of Sukhoy, Mikhail Pogosyan, for developing the latest Russian weaponry.
  • Head of the Veteran-Military Chiefs Club, Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergey Sokolov, for 100 years in the ranks.
  • General Director, “Tactical Missile Armaments” Corporation, Boris Obnosov, for fast, accurate missiles.
  • Air Forces Senior Lieutenant Igor Sulim, for courage.
  • President, Academy of Military Sciences, Army General Makhmut Gareyev, for asserting the results of the Second World War.

It’s an interesting and eclectic list.  Clearly, many would dispute the names.  Some would say Pankov wrecked the military education system; others would say he implemented unavoidable reductions and consolidations.  Picking Makarov for breaking up the “Arbat Military District,” and sending more officers out to serve with the troops is also controversial, but he’s done something essential and long overdue.

Sokolov’s honored for his longevity. 

Obnosov’s interviewed in the lead article.  He talks about attracting and retaining young scientists and engineers in the defense sector, and about the OPK’s attempt to reach an understanding with the Defense Ministry on price formation.

Sulim’s a surprise, and a rather bold choice.

Only Makarov, Pogosyan, and Gareyev repeat from last year’s list.

RR picked Deputy Defense Minister, Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov as its goat of the year for the spate of deadly army arsenal explosions. 

The big “loser” Bulgakov’s in the same boat as some of the “winners.” 

He found himself in charge of a long-neglected and untenable situation, and he’s tried to fix it.  But many people will object and argue about his methods, the results, and consequences.

Their Man in Pyongyang

Admiral Sidenko

Eastern MD Commander, Admiral Konstantin Sidenko suddenly became the Kremlin’s man in Pyongyang yesterday.  His visit to North Korea was kept tightly wrapped until his departure.

Sidenko will visit the DPRK from August 22-26, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is in Russia’s Far East to meet President Medvedev.

Moscow’s once close military relationship with the DPRK declined to practically zero over the past 20 years, hence the surprise of yesterday’s news.  Meanwhile, Russia cultivated military-to-military ties with the rest of northeast Asia — China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea — leaving its old ally in the cold.  Until yesterday.

The Defense Ministry’s press release says Admiral Sidenko will meet command representatives from the Korean People’s Army, and consult on questions of renewing and further developing military and naval cooperation, possibly conducting Russian-Korean humanitarian exercises, and mutual ship visits between the RF and DPRK navies.

Additionally, according to the press release, the sides will discuss the future of cooperation between their Ground Troops, the possibility of conducting joint exercises and training for naval SAR, and also the issue of providing assistance to civilians during natural disasters.

The Russian media has written little thus far on what it means to have a military delegation visit the North Korean capital.  However, AP asked Aleksandr Golts for comments, and this is how the wire service summarized them:

“Military expert Alexander Golts said North Korea’s goal in inviting the Russian military could be to assuage fears of instability as Russia is considering building a natural gas pipeline through North Korea.  The pipeline is expected to be one of the main topics of Kim and Medvedev’s talks.”

“Golts said it was highly unlikely Russia would renew arms sales to North Korea, which would not be in its interests as a participant in the six-party talks.  He also noted the low level of the Russian delegation, which is led by the commander of Russia’s eastern military district.”

One might suppose it’s equally possible the North Koreans wanted the Russian military to visit Pyongyang as part of its quid pro quo for considering a gas pipeline over its territory to South Korea.

Arms sales seem unlikely, but probably because Moscow’s no longer in the game of providing free military aid. 

Admiral Sidenko is a lower level visitor, but it’s traditional for Moscow to send proximate regional commanders on such visits.  MD commanders can be precursors to General Staff Chiefs and Defense Ministers, and higher-profile military relations generally.

It’s almost impossible to know when the DPRK is involved, but this first interaction in nearly ten years automatically means something’s afoot.  The participants themselves probably don’t know where a bit of diplomatic, economic, and military activity will lead.