Tag Archives: Andrey Shvaychenko

Routine Change of Command or Not?

Kommersant published some extra details on Sergey Karakayev’s career.  He has served in all RVSN command and staff duties.  He began in the 320th Missile Regiment, 7 th Missile Division (Bologoye-4, Tver Oblast) as a group engineer, training and launch group commander, and finally chief of staff.  In 1994, he became a regiment commander, then chief of staff in the 28th Missile Division (Kozelsk-5, Kaluga Oblast).  He commanded this division from 1998-2001.  Then he headed the Second Department, First Directorate, Main Personnel Directorate.  During 2006-2008, he commanded 27 th (Vladimir) Missile Army.  On October 22, 2009, Karakayev became First Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the RVSN.

A source told Kommersant Karakayev’s appointment was ‘expected,’ adding that Andrey Shvaychenko requested retirement on 9 June and left on leave.  The source claimed he’d reached the service age limit of 55 for two-star generals, but this isn’t correct.  Shvaychenko actually turned 57 on 18 June.  Kommersant’s interlocutor went on to say that Shvaychenko himself recommended Karakayev to  succeed him.

Academy of Military Sciences strategic arms expert Yuriy Rubtsov told Svobodnaya pressa the change at the top of the RVSN may be related to difficulties in, and disagreements over, modernizing the Russian ICBM force under the new strategic arms agreement. 

According to Rubtsov, the RVSN will have to trim its ICBMs by a third under the new arms treaty.  But new missiles are arriving in the force in only miserly portions, and don’t replace what has to be scrapped.  No matter how much the service lives of ICBMs on combat duty since Soviet times have been extended, they still have to be cut, ultimately in 2015.

Svpressa cites NATO estimates that at most 7 Topols are reaching the RVSN each year.  At such a tempo, it’s essential to keep old weapons a little longer.  A sufficient number of Topol-M missile units have not been created, so the SS-18 and SS-19 still underpin Russia’s delivery of unacceptable damage on the enemy.  But Russia continues unilateral disarmament.  According to Svpressa, in such a situation, the more often you change RVSN Commanders, the easier it is to control them and not allow opposition to your strategic nuclear policy. 

Svpressa speculates maybe replacing Shvaychenko was President Medvedev’s way of flexing his muscles before the U.S. visit, grabbing some attention, and signaling Obama that Russia is disarming as agreed and everything is OK.

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Karakayev Replaces Shvaychenko as RVSN Commander

Lots of action near the top of the Russian military pyramid today . . . 

General-Lieutenant Andrey Shvaychenko’s exceptionally brief tenure as RVSN Commander came to an abrupt and unexpected end.  He just turned 57 on June 18, and only commanded Russia’s land-based strategic forces for a little over 10 months.  His predecessor—Nikolay Solovtsov—served for 8 years. 

Already past retirement age for his two-star rank, President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov apparently decided to replace rather than promote him. 

The timing of Shvaychenko’s replacement is interesting and most likely not accidental, to say the least.  The Russians have swapped out a key figure just as they enter the process of ratifying a new strategic arms treaty with the United States. 

General-Lieutenant Sergey Viktorovich Karakayev replaces Shvaychenko.  Like his predecessor, he’s a two-star general, but 8 years younger.  He served as Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the RVSN just since last October.  He occupied RVSN command positions up to and including missile division commander and Vladimir Missile Army commander in 2006-2008.  

General-Lieutenant Karakayev

Somewhat atypically, he served some time as a department chief in the Defense Ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate.  He completed studies in the civilian North-Western State Service Academy before finishing the General Staff Academy.  He holds a doctorate in military science.  His full biography is here

Kremlin.ru provided the following excerpt from today’s Gorki meeting between Medvedev, Serdyukov, and Karakayev: 

“This is a serious position.  The functioning of our nuclear shield depends on work in these duties.  And of course, I hope that you will do everything necessary, everything dependent on you to apply your knowledge, your experience for the good of the country, to create the right RVSN command and control system.” 

“Despite the fact that we are reducing our nuclear arsenal, this must not affect the combat core within the limits of that agreement which is currently operative for us, and within the limits of that agreement which is in ratification.” 

“Generally, it’s necessary to do everything so that our Rocket Troops of Strategic Designation will be fully combat ready and can fulfill their established missions.” 

Karakayev gave a customarily brief response: 

“Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I will not fail.” 

Pervyy kanal covered also covered the Gorki meeting, if you’d like some video.  

The change in the RVSN may be a result of the bumps and bruises of reaching internal agreement to go forward with the new strategic offensive arms treaty.  Or maybe not.  But something’s clearly wrong; a ten-month tenure is clearly far off the norm.  Medvedev’s short comments aren’t much to go on, but they seem to say (a) Shvaychenko wasn’t doing the job the way his masters wanted; (b) the masters want an improved strategic nuclear command and control system; (c) the new arms treaty doesn’t threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrence capability and, therefore, is a good deal for Moscow; and (d) the RVSN Commander needs to focus his attention on the optimal operation of whatever weapons systems provided him by the country’s leadership.  And Karakayev indicated in front of the cameras that he’s on-board with all this. 

Armaments Chief Vladimir Popovkin also replaced First Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel  Aleksandr Kolmakov.  Popovkin seems to have accommodated Serdyukov, and fit well into the Defense Minister’s ‘new profile.’  The ex-Space Troops general seems to be the type of official the civilian leadership wants in its more civilian Defense Ministry.  He will keep charge of the weapons portfolio, and training and readiness accounts overseen by Kolmakov will probably go back to the Genshtab.  But more on this one tomorrow.