Category Archives: Military Leadership

His Greatest Achievement?

Putin chairing Military-Industrial Commission session in Rybinsk on April 25, 2017 (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin chairing Military-Industrial Commission session in Rybinsk on April 25, 2017 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

In the most recent iteration of what is basically an annual poll, Levada asked respondents to select one answer to the following question:  “What would you call the main achievement of Vladimir Putin during his years in power?”

Some 17 percent of those polled picked “Increasing combat capability and reform of the armed forces.”  It was the top response in this year’s poll.

Below find the reaction to this response over time.

Putin's Greatest Achievement The Military.

Positive reaction to this choice scuffled along for years.  Just three percent of those polled picked it in the waning months of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s tenure as minister of defense.  It jumped, however, to 8 percent in August 2014, following the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  It reached 14 percent a year after Moscow intervened in the Syrian civil war.

External events greatly influence this particular Levada poll.

For instance, in early 2008, 21 percent of respondents said Putin’s greatest achievement was “Economic development of the country.”  Two years later, following the recession of 2008-2009, only 12 percent could agree with this.  And, seven years later, that number is still 12.

Even in mid-2009, 22 percent said Putin’s greatest trick was “Increasing the standard of living of citizens, growth of wages and pensions.”  That number now stands at 8 percent.

Unfortunately, some responses seem eternal.

Typically only 1 percent or less of those polled pick “Defense of democracy and political freedoms of citizens” or “Improving relations between people of different nationalities in Russia.”

In this iteration of the poll, 8 percent indicated that they don’t see any achievements and 4 percent found it hard to say.

The 17 percent response on the military is good news for Putin.  As for many regimes, it’s an easy place to score points with the average citizen.  Other arenas are more complicated.  But the Kremlin has successfully managed a turnaround in the perception of the armed forces.

The problem is events can erode high poll numbers.  For the Russian military, they could include things like a large-scale attack on Russian forces in Syria, widespread arrears in military pay, a submarine sinking, a huge ammo depot fire, or the death of soldiers in a collapsing barracks.  

In isolation, none is enough to dent a prevailing opinion strongly underwritten by the steady drumbeat of a Defense Ministry PR campaign.  But, over time, they accumulate and can change attitudes.  Like everything else, poll numbers that go up usually come down.

Handshake and Photo

Never discount the potential significance of a handshake and photo with the supreme commander-in-chief.

On March 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin received Ministry of Defense general and flag officers (along with some from the FSB, FSO, MVD, etc.) in the Kremlin’s Georgiyevskiy Hall.

The meeting is a regular affair where Putin addresses men in uniform elevated to new positions of responsibility.

Putin starts with the MOD three-stars (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin’s greets MOD three-stars (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin started down the row with MOD three-star generals — General-Colonels Sergey Rudskoy, Aleksandr Zhuravlev, and Gennadiy Zibrov.  Rudskoy is Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate.  Zhuravlev commanded Russian forces in Syria in the last half of 2016 while serving as Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD.  He’s now a deputy chief of the General Staff. Zibrov heads the Air Force Academy named for Zhukovskiy and Gagarin.

Putin greets General-Lieutenant Zavizon (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin greets General-Lieutenant Zavizon (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Fourth-in-line is General-Lieutenant Mikhail Teplinskiy, the fast-burner replacement for Zhuravlev in the Southern MD.  He’s followed by new LRA Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Kobylash.  Then General-Lieutenant Aleksey Zavizon who reportedly fought in the Donbas and commands the Central MD’s 41st Army.  Lastly, the MOD’s principal spokesman General-Major Igor Konashenkov who’s in charge of the military’s Information and Mass Communications Department.  He’s been there awhile but the organization was called a directorate until recently.

Putin shakes with Rear-Admiral Yakushev (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin shakes with Rear-Admiral Yakushev (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Next is Chief of Staff of the Pacific Fleet’s Primorsk Composite Forces Flotilla, Rear-Admiral Vladimir Yakushev.  To his right might be General-Major Denis Lyamin, commander of the Central MD’s new 90th Tank Division.

The full line-up (photo Kremlin.ru)

The full line-up (photo: Kremlin.ru)

After Lyamin is General-Major Tagir Gadzhiyev of the 1st Composite Aviation Division in the Southern MD.

The balance are difficult to identify, excepting the second to last naval officer who is Rear-Admiral Oleg Krivorog of the Black Sea Fleet’s 30th Surface Ship Division.

TVZvezda’s coverage of the ceremony is in the video below (starting at 1:25).

Promotions for Defenders’ Day

In early February, the MOD’s Main Personnel Directorate (GUK) Chief held a special conclave.

A featured guest was Chief of the State Service and Personnel Directorate of the RF President’s Administration, Anton Fedorov.  He and his subordinates maintain President Vladimir Putin’s nomenklatura of general and flag officer appointments in the RF Armed Forces.

Anton Fedorov

The GUK forwards names to fill general and admiral positions.  It recommends candidates for promotion to the “highest officer” (O-7 and above) ranks.  But Mr. Fedorov’s group ultimately vets people and frames decisions on lists that Putin issues.

Professional competence is verified by the GUK.  In the Kremlin, however, they are more concerned about reliability and loyalty to Putin.  No doubt the FSB provides input from its channels in the military, through its headquarters, to Fedorov in the PA.

At the recent GUK assemblage, Fedorov declared there are 730 general and admiral duty posts in the armed forces.  Thirty-eight are vacant, but 15 are in the process of being filled.

So let’s call it a general or admiral for every 1,370 Russian troops (a million authorized).  The U.S. number is 1 per 1,467 (886 for 1,300,000 active personnel).

Moscow reportedly had 1,100 in the “highest officer” ranks early in former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s ill-fated tenure.  If memory serves, the number was reduced to 1,300-1,400 from 1,700-1,800 in the early 2000s while the Russian military was still authorized at significantly more than a million men.

Thus endeth the digression….

Below find a close look at the promotion list Putin signed out on the eve of Defenders’ Day 2017.  The updated list of 395 Russian generals and admirals is here.

The media made much of the promotion of officers connected to operations in Syria.

Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate Sergey Rudskoy got his third star. Rudskoy is frequently the MOD’s spokesman on the situation in Syria.  His deputy, Stanislav Gadzhimagomedov, who has been the Russian military representative in talks with the Syrian opposition, got his second star.

Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Aleksandr Zhuravlev became a general-colonel.  He served first as chief of staff for the Russian group of forces in Syria, then as commander in the second half of 2016.

Sergey Kobylash, commander of Russia’s LRA which has bombed Syrian territory, became a general-lieutenant.

Many promotees, however, are connected to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, or serve in the Southern MD and Black Sea Fleet.

One-star rank went to commanders or chiefs of the following:

  • 1st Composite Air Division
  • 30th Surface Ship Division
  • Crimean Naval Base
  • Black Sea Higher Naval School
  • 12th Reserve Command
  • 31st Air Defense Division

41st Combined Arms Army Commander Aleksey Zavizon, who reportedly led Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, became a two-star.

The head of the Russian contingent of ceasefire monitors in Donbas — Andrey Kozlov — became a general-major.

The General Staff’s representative in Normandy format negotiations Yaroslav Moskalik got his first star.

Other Promotions

NTsUO Chief Mikhail Mizintsev got his third star; one of his deputies got his first.

Shoygu got a star for his “special assignments” assistant who previously served with him in MChS.

Airborne Troops got a couple one-star promotions for Vladimir Shamanov’s old military assistant and the VDV’s personnel chief.

The chief and deputy chief of the Military Academy of Aerospace Defense were both promoted, to general-lieutenant and general-major respectively.  The academy just celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Other promotions to one-star rank included the commanders or chiefs of the following:

  • Ground Troops Main Staff
  • Navy Main Staff
  • 4th Combat Employment and Retraining Center, Aerospace Forces
  • 62nd Missile Division, RVSN
  • 90th Tank Division, Central MD

First Glance at Defenders’ Day List

Yesterday President Vladimir Putin signed out a promotion list with the names of 33 MOD general and flag officers.

Three officers, including Mikhail Mizintsev and Sergey Rudskoy, became three-star general-colonels.  Mizintsev heads the NTsUO.  Rudskoy is Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate who briefs frequently on Russian operations in Syria.

Aleksey Zavizon became a two-star general-lieutenant; he commanded Russian troops and militia near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to various reports.

New LRA Commander Sergey Kobylash also made two-star.

Denis Lyamin became a one-star general-major.  He now commands the Central MD’s resurrected 90th Tank Division.

Plenty of other names to look at.

Promotion List

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed out his Constitution Day promotion list on December 12.  View the ukaz here.

The MOD promotees have been appended to this list of more than 360 Russian general and flag officers.

In this round of advancement, there was a three-star promotion, four two-star, and 20 one-star promotions.

The most prominent promotees were Andrey Demin, in charge of Russia’s ballistic missile defenses, Sergey Sevryukov, 49th Combined Arms Army, and Aleksandr Chayko, 1st Tank Army.  Each received his second star.

Promotions also included first stars for:

  • Two Ground Troops brigade commanders.
  • Two RVSN missile division commanders.
  • Demin’s subordinate at the 9th Missile Defense Division.
  • Two Northern Fleet surface formation commanders.

The balance included three staff officers, two logisticians, three military academics, and seven officers for whom a current post couldn’t be found.

general-major-zabit-kheirbekov

General-Major Zabit Kheirbekov

One of the material support officers is General-Major Zabit Kheirbekov, who is chief logistics officer at Khmeimim air base in Syria.  Russia is learning that long-distance expeditionary warfare is all about supply.  It hasn’t experienced this in quite a while.

Shamanov’s Replacement?

Izvestiya reports today that General-Lieutenant Andrey Serdyukov is set to replace General-Colonel Vladimir Shamanov as commander of the Russian Airborne Troops (VDV).

Shamanov, who will turn 60 in February, has commanded the VDV since early 2009.  But he could continue to serve beyond 60 at the president’s discretion under Russian law.

general-lieutenant-andrey-serdyukov

General-Lieutenant Andrey Serdyukov

The 53-year-old General-Lieutenant Serdyukov has been serving as first deputy commander and chief of staff in the Southern MD.  He reportedly played a key part in the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

A presidential decree on the personnel change has not been issued, but Kremlin press-secretary Dmitriy Peskov did not deny plans to elevate Serdyukov when asked by Izvestiya.

Russian media sources have reported that Shamanov’s retirement post will be a seat in the new State Duma and chairmanship of its Defense Committee.  Readers will recall that Shamanov is a member of the president’s United Russia party and served as governor of Ulyanovsk Oblast.

Russia Day Promotion List

President Vladimir Putin signed out the latest MOD promotion list on June 11, 2016 — the eve of Russia Day.  Find the original on Krasnaya zvezda.  Or check out the running list in English here.

This list had six two-star and 29 one-star promotees.

Promotions came to commanders of three army-level formations, five divisions, and three brigades.

Specifically:

  • 29th Combined Arms Army;
  • 68th Army Corps;
  • 39th Missile Division (RVSN);
  • 35th Motorized Rifle Brigade;
  • 106th Air-Assault Division (VDV);
  • 7th Tank Brigade;
  • 2nd Air Defense Division;
  • 11th Air-Assault Brigade (VDV);
  • 1st Air Defense Division;
  • 102nd Military Base (Armenia);
  • 2nd Combined Arms Army;
  • 51st Air Defense Division.

It looks like, just possibly, a nephew of General Staff Chief, Army General Valeriy Vasilyevich Gerasimov — one Vitaliy Petrovich Gerasimov — made general-major in command of the Aleysk-based 35th MRB in the Central MD.

But it might be a coincidence of surname.  It’s common.

The younger Gerasimov was born on July 9, 1977 — making him a general officer at the tender age of 38 years and 11 months.  He’s a native of Kazan and graduated from the higher tank command school in that fascinating ancient city on the Volga.

Vitaliy Gerasimov

Vitaliy Gerasimov as a colonel

Valeriy Gerasimov

Army General Valeriy Gerasimov

It’s possible to see (perhaps imagine) a family resemblance.

The elder Gerasimov was also born in Kazan, in 1955, and also commissioned out of the tank command school, in 1977.  The question is does Valeriy have a brother named Petr Vasilyevich Gerasimov?

Look for the next promotions in December.