Tag Archives: Aleksandr Shlyakhturov

Sergun Replaces Shlyakhturov

Press sources report 52-year-old General-Major (one-star) Igor Sergun has replaced General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov as GRU Chief.  Not surprisingly, little is known about Sergun.

Izvestiya reports Shlyakhturov’s departure was in the works for some time, and Sergun took over the job on December 22.  The paper’s Genshtab source says Sergun headed an unidentified GRU directorate prior to relieving his predecessor.  Knowledgable outside observers who spoke with Izvestiya believe Sergun arrives at a difficult time, following reforms and personnel cuts implemented by Shlyakhturov.

While not necessarily a “youth movement,” Sergun’s appointment follows a trend of putting lower-ranking officers and generals in charge of key Defense Ministry and General Staff directorates.

Komsomolskaya’s Viktor Baranets claims Sergun is the first to head the military intelligence agency at such a low rank.

Novyy region added a bit, saying Sergun is 54 (born in 1957) and was a colonel serving as military attache in Albania in 1998, according to press from that time.

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The GRU’s Smiling Face

General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov

One would like to get off the GRU topic, but we have to follow the news to some extent.  General-Colonel Shlyakhturov not only spoke in advance of the November 5 military intelligence anniversary, but actually posed for a photo sporting a smile and his third star.

We don’t learn much here.  There are confirmations of what we’d already heard and read recently, or even long ago.  The GRU’s adapted for new missions, but keeps the old ones.  The threat from Georgia is emphasized as in previous years.  Military intelligence still falls under the Genshtab.  Shlyakhturov admits to restructuring and reducing, but insists the GRU’s still a “full-service” intelligence agency.  Spetsnaz has gone to the MDs, but the GRU still has a train and equip role.  Shlyakhturov hints that military intelligence is still very interested in foreign technology.

Interviewed in Rossiyskaya gazeta, the GRU Chief tells the paper how much times have changed, and the military intelligence agency now talks in terms of many-sided and multivector threats, rather than the “probable enemy.”

Shlyakhturov expounds on how terrorists and extremists pose the “greatest danger,” and the GRU monitors the situation in regions, like Georgia, from which this danger may emanate.  He’s quick, however, to deny that Russian special services have engaged in any subversive activity whatsoever against sovereign Georgia.  But, he says, the GRU will provide timely warning to the country’s military-political leadership if Tbilisi prepares “new military provocations against Russia and its regional allies.”  Changing tack, Shlyakhturov stresses that the GRU puts great stock in cooperating with special services of other countries to get threat information.

The GRU Chief says the agency is focused on “new” issues like economics, natural resources, and nuclear proliferation.  But it hasn’t lost focus on the disposition of foreign armies and armaments in different theaters of military operations and other issues that affect the employment and development of Russia’s Armed Forces.

Asked about reporting to the president, Shlyakhturov emphasizes that, as always, the GRU reports directly to the Defense Minister and Genshtab.  But the GRU’s most important documents still reach the president, prime minister, and Security Council, and influence Russia’s foreign and defense policies.

Shlyakhturov says the GRU has redistributed its efforts to focus on regions posing a threat to Russia’s interests and security, “hot spots” where terrorists and extremists operate, and crisis zones where international stability is threatened.

The GRU Chief admits there has been a reorganization and reduction in his agency.  As he puts it:

“Here’s the main thing you need to understand:   the changed world situation objectively required adjustments in intelligence priorities and their implementation mechanism.”

He notes, however, that the GRU still has operational, technical, information-analytical, and support sub-units as well as what he claims is a very spartan central apparatus, or headquarters staff.

Spetsnaz has, Shlyakhturov admits, gone to the MDs, fleets, and VDV, but he says they’re still part of operational intelligence, and the GRU provides their doctrine, training, and equipment.

Finally, he says the GRU remains interested in foreign technology developments, and its work here supports R&D efforts, the OPK, and the state program of armaments.

GRU Rumors

Moskovskiy komsomolets reported some rumors about the GRU yesterday.  But one may or may not want to put stock in them. 

MK reports that the country’s leadership is still working over a candidate for chief of the GRU.  General-Colonel Shlyakhturov’s request for retirement was given a month ago, and the president has signed it.  But MK claims the issue of GRU reform is also being decided.

The media’s widely reported that the retiring Shlyakhturov will become Chairman of the Board of the Defense Ministry’s Oboronservis corporation, which is consolidating, civilianizing, and outsourcing most of the military’s logistics and support services.  More recently, it’s been said he’ll occupy the same position with Russia’s lead ballistic missile design bureau, MIT.

MK claims Shlyakhturov isn’t retiring for failing to fulfill his mission, or for disputes with the leadership, or for age reasons (since he was already too old), or for poor health.  According to the paper’s Genshtab source, it’s because a reform awaits the GRU.

MK’s source reports there’s a plan to unify the GRU and SVR into one powerful intelligence center.  The GRU would be cut down to just an intelligence directorate with Russia’s military attaches and intelligence posts around the country, etc.

MK also reports a key appointment.  One general Vladimir Stepanovich Alekseyev has reportedly become First Deputy Chief of the GRU.  He was chief of intelligence for the former Moscow MD, then for the Far East MD.  He returned to Moscow to be chief of the GRU’s 14th Directorate (Spetsnaz), according to MK’s GRU source.  The paper says he could be chief of the GRU in the future.  Alekseyev is from GRU operational agent intelligence inside Russia and the “near abroad.”  Shlyakhturov was from strategic agent intelligence, that is, spies and operations in the “far abroad.”

OK, some of the odd stuff here . . . for one, there’s already been reform in the GRU, so wouldn’t this be more reform, or more radical reform?  MK makes the good point that it’s not clear why Shlyakhturov’s retiring — he’s been too old for a long time, so why now?  Maybe it is a much bigger restructuring that eliminates the “G” in GRU.  There’s long been talk of merging GRU and SVR, but the paper strangely refers to SVR being formally within the FSB’s structure (?!).  Now about Alekseyev . . . perhaps he’s the guy who would head an RU focused on Russia’s strategic approaches and the CIS (i.e. military opintel), while the GRU’s remaining “far abroad” assets chop to the SVR.  This makes some sense since RU-type work and opintel seems to be where the GRU failed in Georgia.  And then SVR gets swallowed by an even bigger fish, the FSB, in a grand reanimation of the KGB for Putin’s third presidential term.  But, as said at the top, one may not want to see too much in all this.

The GRU and Other Siloviki

Yesterday a couple articles proved too interesting to pass up.  The first continued the theme of reorganization and reform in the GRU.  The second discussed generational change in the siloviki, and the GRU’s and the army’s place within the state security elite.

Stoletie.ru published an item on the “sad” reform of the GRU.  The article relays a couple lesser known stories of GRU history.  It covers most of the familiar story on General-Colonel Shlyakhturov [some lifted verbatim from elsewhere], but it includes a couple new details.

The author, Sergey Serov (ironically, same surname as the Beria henchman who headed the KGB, then the GRU before losing his post in the wake of the Penkovskiy case), claims with some merit:

“By the end of the 1980s, the GRU objectively had become the largest intelligence service in the world and one of the best informed.”

“But surprisingly, at the same time, it didn’t formally and doesn’t appear as a special service.  The Main Intelligence Directorate was and remains a purely army element, to which laws on special services don’t apply.  And the most outstanding GRU officer is less protected on a legal and social plane than a conscript serving in the FSB or SVR.”

“According to the current TO&E, the duty of director of the world’s largest intelligence service is a general-colonel.  And the Foreign Intelligence Service Director’s first deputies are also general-colonels.  Don’t even talk about pay, it’s not equivalent.  Also, agents like Anna Chapman in military intelligence, in contrast to foreign intelligence, have never been and could never be detected.  The GRU grew and got stronger in the years of global confrontation when large military actions by the USSR Armed Forces could have happened, and sometimes did, any place on Earth.”

“Why does a country which doesn’t have global interests requiring a military defense have the world’s largest military intelligence?  The question, sadly, sounds rhetorical today.”

“The reduction of the GRU’s intelligence and combat potential began even before General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov.  As veterans of this intelligence service say, practically all foreign residencies were mothballed or completely eliminated, except those working in countries adjacent to Russia.  Really, why have an intelligence network in Latin America, Africa or Southeast Asia, if our country isn’t planning any kind of military action there even in the distant future?  For lack of need and with economizing in mind, they eliminated the largest intelligence center at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh.”

“But if you sort it out calmly, then it’s clear that Spetsnaz objectively became “a fifth wheel on the wagon” of the Main Intelligence Directorate.  And sending it under a foreign directorate had become unavoidable.  The problem is the fact that the Ground Troops, themselves being cut and reformed absolutely thoughtlessly, turned out unready to accept the Spetsnaz brigades, and now don’t know what to do with them.  So the future fate of Spetsnaz still has not been determined.”

“Today many assess the GRU reforms as the very destruction of an intelligence service.  I can’t believe the changes occurring fully correspond to Russia’s new foreign policy priorities.  If there are only friends around us now, how is it possible to suspect them of plots?”

Andrey Soldatov published the second article in Yezhednevnyy zhurnal

Soldatov contends a serious rift between the FSB’s generals and its rank-and-file officers developed over the rewards of service in the 2000s.  The former ensured riches for themselves, leaving the latter and those not serving in Moscow out in the cold.

More significantly for our purposes, Soldatov talks about serious divisions between Russia’s special services:

“In its turn, relations between the army and the FSB were decisively spoiled when the FSB was ordered to reinforce control over the army situation (the new Kvachkov affair, apparently, became one of the results).  In response, people close to Serdyukov started to become openly indignant at the special service’s interference in the affairs of the Armed Forces, and the idea of establishing a military internal investigations service which could replace osobisty in the units was given voice.”

So, Soldatov seems to ask, what does once-and-future President Putin do in his third term and beyond now that the siloviki, the security service chiefs he’s relied on, are near or over 60 and ready for retirement:

“Nikolay Patrushev, head of the Security Council, was born in 1951, FSO Director Yevgeniy Murov in 1945, Mikhail Fradkov (SVR) in 1950, Aleksandr Shlyakhturov (GRU) a 1947 birth, Aleksandr Tsarenko (GUSP) born in 1948, Viktor Ivanov, head of the FSKN in 1950 and, finally, Aleksandr Bortnikov, FSB Director, in November of this year will be 60.”

Soldatov suggests soon-to-be former President Medvedev knew someone like Shlyakhturov, and possibly other siloviki chiefs, would be willing to make unpopular cuts and reforms in his own fiefdom in return for a guarantee of a few extra years of service.

Soldatov’s point is to remind readers (once again) that the siloviki are far from monolithic.  They are divided along agency lines and within agencies.  Their biggest fights are among themselves.  But Soldatov also finishes with a warning that the mid-level siloviki are so passive, so resigned to their fate, that this could be dangerous when the country faces a real crisis.

“Moor” GRU Changes

GRU Headquarters

Yesterday we got diametrically opposed views of the GRU.  Argumenty nedeli  argues the situation inside the GRU is a mess.  Rossiyskaya gazeta, however, defends the GRU’s exiting chief, General-Colonel Shlyakhturov and the reforms made in Russia’s military intelligence agency.

Argumenty writes that the Main Intelligence Directorate is being “optimized” into a simple directorate, and this is evidence that Russian military intelligence simply no longer exists.  To news about Shlyakhturov’s departure, the paper says GRU officers have Schiller’s reaction:  “The Moor has done his work, the Moor can leave.”  

A GRU officer tells Argumenty that the agent operations staff has been completely destroyed, and information “extraction” tasks are no longer levied.  “Radiotechnical” [SIGINT] and space reconnaissance sub-units that remain now take orders from more important armed services and branches.  Central staff and analytical sub-units have been cut to the minimum.  This month the General Staff Chief directed the GRU to dismiss personnel on age grounds where possible [maybe Shlyakhturov included], and rotate others to the military districts. 

And, the officer says, it’s been announced that in the next round of reforms in 2012 the GRU will become a simple directorate [rather than a main directorate] of the Genshtab, and relocate to the Genshtab building on the Arbat.  

President Putin Visiting the New GRU Headquarters in 2006

The officer tells Argumenty only rear support and cleaners will remain, and any of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s former tax inspectorate chiefs can manage them.  He says the majority of “the boys” actually prefer this turn of events, and have already found jobs in the civilian world.  He adds that the new GRU building on Khodynka will be sold, and it’s important not to leave secure comms and secret documents behind.  There were precedents for that, the officer joked bitterly.

If this officer’s version pans out, you can bet the GRU complex, and the Moscow real estate it sits on, will fetch a high price for the controllers of Defense Ministry coffers.

RG offers a more positive spin on what’s happening in the GRU.  Firstly, it says there’s no intrigue in Shlyakhturov’s exit.  It’s simply on age grounds.  The paper says the soon-to-be ex-GRU chief was well-respected, and implemented the reforms required of him. 

The fact is, it contends, the agency managed to avoid most of the changes that shook the rest of the country and Armed Forces in the past two decades.  It was organized in same way as when it was established in Soviet times [i.e. it was organized for the Cold War and World War III], and was naturally somewhat out-of-step with the state’s new “social-political structure” and needed to be changed.  And Shlyakhturov implemented changes that other chiefs [i.e. there was only one–Korabelnikov] couldn’t.

Instead of more than 100 GRU generals, according to RG, there are now only 20.  Spetsnaz brigades were cut and given over to Ground Troops reconnaissance.  And there were other changes either secret or understandable only to professionals [so much for civilian control].

Not all the transformations were palatable, RG writes:

“But the majority of cadre military intelligence men are sure that Aleksandr Vasilyevich conducted a completely unavoidable reform in the softest and most optimal form.  No one would have coped better with this mission than him.

RG indicates Shlyakhturov is in good health, and will likely take a post in a big business or serve as an advisor to the Defense Minister.

For good measure, the paper concludes:

“Intelligence men are sure that a competent reform of the Genshtab’s Main Directorate will be only beneficial, giving the GRU more mobility, and providing technical intelligence monitoring systems with the most modern equipment.”

All in all, it seems quite an apology for Shlyakhturov and the state of the GRU. 

GRU Turnover Coming

Izvestiya’s Denis Telmanov reported yesterday that 64-year-old General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Shlyakhturov is set to retire from his post as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, and Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

Shlyakhturov went to the hospital at the end of last month [probably for his military discharge exam], and hasn’t returned to his office.

Genshtab sources tell Izvestiya that Shlyakhturov did his job – making “severe” cuts in the GRU, dismissing 1,000 officers, cutting from eight Spetsnaz brigades to five and resubordinating them to MD commanders, and making other cadre changes that can’t be discussed publicly.

In short, according to the paper’s source, Shlyakhturov implemented the reorganization his predecessor Valentin Korabelnikov reportedly wouldn’t two years ago.

One military official called Shlyakhturov a taciturn executive, who never once argued with Defense Minister Serdyukov and fulfilled all his orders.

The GRU Chief was also allegedly given his third star to up his pension as a reward at the end of August.

Ex-GRU Colonel Vitaliy Shlykov told Izvestiya the GRU needs a fresh face for its leadership:

“If the military leadership wants serious reforms in the GRU, it has to attract a person from outside.  But I still don’t see real contenders for this duty.  They’ve already searched several years for a worthy candidate.”

Typically, at this point, the press usually raises the possibility that the GRU might be headed by someone from the SVR, or even subsumed in the civilian foreign intelligence agency.  But Serdyukov was willing to appoint a caretaker from inside to replace Korabelnikov in 2009.  And the GRU falls on the uniformed side of the Defense Ministry where Serdyukov hasn’t replaced generals with his cronies from the tax service.

But let’s return to Izvestiya . . .

An unnamed GRU veteran told the paper the situation in the agency is close to critical:   

“The collapse of military intelligence, which has long since been the eyes and ears of the military command, is occurring.  The Spetsnaz brigades were cut, new equipment isn’t arriving, experienced specialists are being dismissed, only the young who clearly don’t know how to do anything remain.  Therefore, the new head of the directorate will have a lot of work.”

Surprisingly, the wire services got General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov to react to the Shlyakhturov retirement story.  He did little to damp it down.  He said:

“I still can’t say anything about this.  Shlyakhturov is our chief of the intel directorate and remains so.”

“We’re all old, and I can’t foretell anything.”

“There are still no decisions.  The president makes the decision.”

It may be, in fact, that President Medvedev hasn’t signed the papers yet.  He’s just a little busy after all.

Fact is, Shlyakhturov’s been beyond statutory retirement age for a two-star general (60) for some time.  This isn’t just a routine retirement on reaching the service age limit.  There are a few possibilities:  (a) Shlyakhturov has asked to be dismissed; (b) Shlyakhturov has to be dismissed for health reasons; or (c) the leadership is dismissing Shlyakhturov because it’s got a replacement. 

Unlike (c), (a) and (b) imply that (as the well-connected Shlykov intimated above) the leadership may not have a good candidate ready.  But another short-timer can always be found.

GRU Birthday

Valentin Korabelnikov

Somewhat oddly, former GRU Chief, Army General Valentin Korabelnikov spoke to ITAR-TASS today on the 92nd anniversary of Soviet and Russian military intelligence, not its current boss General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Shlyakhturov.  Korabelnikov remains in thrall, and apparently on call, as an ‘advisor’ to the Chief of the General Staff.

Shlyakhturov spoke for the GRU last year in a brief, and very, very similar (actually identical) setpiece interview filled with factoids.

Recall that the former 12-year-veteran chief, the 64-year-old Korabelnikov, retired, or was retired, in favor of 63-year-old Shlyakhturov in early spring 2009.  Not exactly a youth movement.

Today Korabelnikov said the GRU is actively making a “preventative response to new challenges and threats for Russia, and also forecasting the development of the military-political and military-strategic situation in the world.”

It follows the “situation in the Near and Middle East, on the Korean peninsula and in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, issues of nuclear security, the situation in the Caucasus accounting for United States and NATO tendencies to draw Georgia into the North Atlantic alliance, U.S. plans and intentions to deploy elements of global missile defense.”  Among other things, of course.

Korabelnikov said the GRU’s role is high-profile given the increased threat of international terrorism, proliferation of WMD, their components, missiles, and missile technology, growth in transborder crime, and the rise of piracy.  And he noted:

“In the interests of countering these threats we cooperate with the special services of a number of foreign countries, including NATO, effectively exchanging intelligence data with them on terrorist plots, base locations, camps, training centers, channels for inserting combatants, weapons, narcotics, and finance means.”

All this, of course, was already said to ITAR-TASS on 5 November 2009.  So the GRU’s world apparently didn’t change much this year.

Anybody have a picture of Shlyakhturov?