Tag Archives: General Staff

Shuffling Generals

The deck of generals has been shuffled somewhat.  But fairly little notice was given to the mid-June reassignments of General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy, General-Colonel Nikolay Bogdanovskiy, and General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov.

General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy departs the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate (GOU) to take over the Central MD, replacing General-Colonel Bogdanovskiy.

Zarudnitskiy (left) Receives Central MD Standard from Deputy Defense Minister Pankov (photo: Mil.ru)

Zarudnitskiy (left) Receives Central MD Standard from Deputy Defense Minister Pankov (photo: Mil.ru)

Zarudnitskiy’s background is pretty well summarized here.  He is 56.

Bogdanovskiy leaves the Central MD to become First Deputy Chief of the General Staff — a post recreated after former Defense Minister Serdyukov cut it.

General-Colonel Nikolay Bogdanovskiy (Wearing Two Stars)

General-Colonel Nikolay Bogdanovskiy (Wearing Two Stars)

Bogdanovskiy’s had an interesting career path.  He commanded an army in the Far East before becoming a deputy commander of the old Far East MD.  He served as First Deputy CINC, Chief of the Main Staff of Ground Troops.  He commanded the old Leningrad MD.  He was again a deputy CINC of Ground Troops and Chief of the Main Combat Training Directorate from early 2011 until his late 2012 assignment to the Central MD.  Bogdanovskiy was early rumored to be a candidate to replace General-Colonel Chirkin as Ground Troops CINC.  He is 57.

Find coverage on Zarudnitskiy and Bogdanovskiy at Mil.ru.

General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov is a fresher face.  He’s 50.

General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov (photo: B-port.com)

General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov (photo: B-port.com)

The most cursory review of Kartapolov’s career shows he was an O-6 commanding a machine gun-artillery division in the Far East in the early 2000s.  In 2007, he served as a deputy commander of the Novosibirsk-based 41st CAA.  He then became First Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff for the 22nd CAA in Nizhegorod.  In 2010, he commanded the 58th CAA, and in early 2013 became a deputy commander of the Southern MD.  After a very brief stint as First Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff of the Western MD, he will head the GOU.

Kartapolov’s wiki bio says he served as chief of an unidentified GOU directorate in 2009-2010.

But GOU chiefs of late still seem more “from the troops” than “born and bred” General Staff officers.

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Putin’s Arctic Chimera

Pronouncements on plans for stronger Russian military forces in the Arctic have been studiously ignored on these pages.

For two reasons . . . first, one can’t write about everything, and second (because of the first), one has to focus on a few significant topics.

The Russian military in the Arctic hasn’t been one of them.

Putin on Franz Josef Land in 2010 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin on Franz Josef Land in 2010 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

President Vladimir Putin’s interest in the Arctic made news in 2007 when a mini-submarine planted a Russian flag on ocean floor under the North Pole.  The Kremlin wanted to stake a symbolic claim to the lion’s share of the Arctic’s potential underwater wealth.

The vast, frozen region may indeed have large percentages of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and oil deposits.

More than a few observers see Putin’s concern with the Arctic as an effort to extend Russia’s hydrocarbon export-based model of economic growth.

The friend-of-Putin state oligarchs running Gazprom and Rosneft would certainly like the Russian treasury (and military) to underwrite their efforts to get at Arctic resources and line their pockets with more cash.

But the capital investment and technology required would be staggering. Canadian expert Michael Byers has been widely quoted:

“We’re talking about the center of a large, inhospitable ocean that is in total darkness for three months each year, thousands of miles from any port.”

“The water in the North Pole is 12,000 feet deep and will always be covered by sea ice in the winter.  It’s not a place where anyone is going to be drilling for oil and gas.  So it’s not about economic stakes, it’s about domestic politics.”

It’s an easy place to show Russia’s leader defending national sovereignty and interests.  The news stories and press releases track with an established Kremlin narrative about hostile Western powers trying to grab Russia’s natural bounty.

All of which brings us back round to the military in the Arctic.

During  Serdyukov’s tenure, the Ministry of Defense first raised the prospect of basing two army brigades there.  In September, Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy and other ships sailed the Northern Sea Route into the eastern Arctic.  And late in the year, Putin himself was prominent in giving the order to build, or re-build, various Russian military bases in the Arctic.

But things have a way of taking ridiculous turns.

On 17 February, an unidentified source told ITAR-TASS that the MOD and Genshtab have proposed forming a new Arctic unified strategic command with the Northern Fleet as its basis.  The source claimed this Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command (SF-OSK or СФ-ОСК) would be a new de facto MD, even if it isn’t called one.

The Northern Fleet and major units and formations based in the north would be taken from the Western MD, and put into new groupings deployed in the Arctic, including on Novaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, and Franz Josef Land.  Ouch.

SK-OSK is supposed to be inter-departmental too, with FSB Border Guards added.  The whole thing would report to the MOD, Genshtab, and, at some point, the NTsUOG.

The proposal is reportedly with Putin now, and a decision is expected in the coming months.

To make matters more interesting, Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Anatoliy Sidorov was cool, perhaps even balky, when confronted by the possibility of an “Arctic OSK.”

He told media representatives last Friday that his troops need no additional knowledge, and his equipment no additional preparation, for service in Arctic conditions.  He would not comment on possibly losing a large part of his current command.  According to RIA Novosti, he said only, “When there are directives, we will fulfill them.”

ITAR-TASS last week also reported on a company-sized anti-terrorist exercise in the Northern Fleet.

Northern Fleet Anti-Terrorist Training (photo: Mil.ru)

Northern Fleet Anti-Terrorist Training (photo: Mil.ru)

But there’s no “Al Qaida in the Arctic” yet.  Only Greenpeace.

Russia’s Arctic is enormous, and it is likely to be increasingly important, but not necessarily as the next big theater of war.  Naturally, Moscow wants to prepare for contingencies, but it’s already prepared and positioned as well as the few other regional players.  The money, time, and attention might be better spent on more palpable threats.  But, as Byers pointed out, the Arctic seems to be good politics.

More on the Inspection

Inspection Report Delivered in Central Command Post

Inspection Report Delivered in Central Command Post

More reaction to the results of the inspection . . .

Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye editor Viktor Litovkin expressed surprise at “the military’s absolute openness” in allowing journalists to attend General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s report on the results of the exercise.

Litovkin noted the 98th Air-Assault Division’s 227th Parachute-Assault Regiment participated in the exercise.  Su-25 and Su-24 aircraft flew from 4th Air and Air Defense Command bases at Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Morozovsk, and Marinovka.

201st Military Base Commander, Colonel Sergey Ryumshin attributed his problems in communicating to the Russian military in Tajikistan using old local phone lines, which are often out of order.  Gerasimov ordered the chief of the Main (?!) Directorate of Communications to sort out the problems.

Litovkin added that part and system malfunctions kept five Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters from the 2nd Air and Air Defense Command’s 565th Aviation Base from joining the exercise.  Su-25 ground attack aircraft from the 4th Command’s 6972nd Aviation Base returned home without dropping ordnance. 

Two Msta-S artillery systems were out of order in the Central MD’s 28th Motorized Rifle Brigade.  Oleg Sidenko [sic] was there to answer for this.  He said there are defects in 900 Msta-S systems.  Siyenko, you’ll recall, is General Director of Uralvagonzavod, owner of Uraltransmash.  The latter has a contract to maintain the Msta-S, but needs to buy new components from sub-contractors.  Siyenko indicated he wants his enterprise to take over Oboronservis affiliate Spetsremont, currently responsible for Defense Ministry armored vehicles.  He said UVZ can’t constantly make repairs “on the fly.”

Litovkin reported 100 R-168-5un radios in the 58th Army are inoperable.  Specialists call these systems from the Yaroslavl Radio Factory unreliable.

However, an earlier NVO article, by Oleg Vladykin, points to the positive; 20 VTA transports were able to operate successfully. 

Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy summed the inspection up this way:

“In Soviet times such evaluations were conducted so often that every officer fell into them at least once every two years, says retired Colonel Viktor Murakhovskiy.  Unsatisfactory results after so many years without normal combat training don’t surprise the expert, in his words, such an inspection is very useful and will give the Genshtab a picture of the true condition of combat readiness.  The reason such a large quantity of equipment is out of order is also fully clear — organizational chaos has ruled in the realm of equipment repair in the troops in recent years, the expert says.  Therefore Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s decision to return repair sub-units which were liquidated in the course of the transition to outsourcing should be implemented as quickly as possible.”

Yes, it’s not surprising, and the honesty is the first step toward improvement.  But we should remember the civilian side of the Serdyukov-led Defense Ministry really didn’t, and wasn’t supposed to, worry too much about what the troops could do in strictly military terms.  That was properly the responsibility of the General Staff.  Shouldn’t it be criticizing itself too?  Shouldn’t it have come forward about problems earlier?

And one has to wonder, in the relatively short period of time since Serdyukov announced the outsourcing of most army maintenance, how much outsourcing was actually done?  Certainly some, but certainly not all of it.  Nevertheless, Serdyukov’s scheme is certainly bearing the brunt of the blame.  A proper question might be how capable were those repair sub-units before Serdyukov supposedly swept them all away?  Probably not very.

Army General Gerasimov promised surprise inspections and exercises will occur regularly now.  It’ll be interesting to see just how routine they become.

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.

New GOU Chief

General-Lieutenant Zarudnitskiy

President Medvedev’s decree today formally dismissed General-Lieutenant Andrey Tretyak, Chief of the Main Operations Directorate (GOU) and Deputy Chief of the General Staff, from military service. 

Recall 52-year-old two-star Tretyak was one of the “general troyka” whose early departure from the army was debated in the media this summer.

Taking Tretyak’s place at the GOU is General-Lieutenant Vladimir Borisovich Zarudnitskiy.  Here are some of his particulars courtesy of RIA Novosti.

The 53-year-old general-lieutenant was born on February 6, 1958 in the Abinsk, Krasnodar Kray. 

  • In 1979, he graduated the Ordzhonikidze Higher Combined Arms Command School in Vladikavkaz. 
  • He commanded a platoon and a recce company in the GSFG until 1985. 
  • In 1985-1987, he was recce chief in a GSFG regiment.
  • He attended and completed the mid-career Frunze Military Academy in 1988-1989.
  • In 1991-1994, he picked up his career in the Far East MD as chief of staff, then commander of a regiment.
  • In 1997-1999, he was chief of staff, then commander of an independent motorized rifle brigade in the North Caucasus MD. 
  • He graduated from the General Staff Academy in 2003, and commanded the 27th Guards Motorized Rifle Division in the Volga-Ural MD until early 2005.
  • Until early 2007, Zarudnitskiy was chief of staff, first deputy commander of an army in the Siberian MD, and then commanded the Siberian MD’s 36th Army based at Ulan-Ude until April 2009.
  • From 2009-2011, he was chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Moscow MD.  

When the six existing MDs were reformed into four, and the Moscow MD disappeared, Zarudnitskiy was assigned as deputy commander of the Southern MD until his appointment as GOU Chief today.

Zarudnitskiy’s a troop general, not a staff officer.  Like several other generals who’re moved upward, he served some time directly under General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov in the Siberian MD.

Once larger in size and stature, the GOU must be a tough assignment these days.  Zarudnitskiy is the organization’s fourth chief in four years.

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.

Not Decembrists

Returning to the three generals’ resignations . . . the Defense Ministry press-service came out quickly denying any “scandalous” general officer discharges. 

The press-service said General-Lieutenant Andrey Tretyak, General-Lieutenant Sergey Skokov, and General-Major Oleg Ivanov requested discharges for health reasons at different times.  But it also indicated the Central Attestation Commission (TsAK, or ЦАК) is reassigning generals to duties in the military districts under Defense Minister Serdyukov’s policy of rotating officers through different posts, and away from Moscow in particular.

A Defense Ministry source told ITAR-TASS the generals’ discharges are not part of any mass dismissal of officers from the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus.

The press was skeptical about three young and vigorous generals suddenly seeking a medical discharge, and it focused on their intent to avoid undesirable reassignments.  Newsru.com and Moskovskiy komsomolets reported in this vein. 

A Defense Ministry source told news agencies one in three requests for early retirement involves officers who are being reassigned from Moscow to a military district post.  The source claimed these cases are usually incorrectly characterized as opposition to military reforms.  Tretyak himself told Interfaks his resignation is not connected with Armed Forces reforms or disagreements with the leadership.

Then Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov talked to Rossiyskaya gazeta, giving a version of events varying from the press-service’s initial report of  discharges for health reasons.

Pankov told the paper Skokov and Ivanov were offered several good options including troop command duties or General Staff Academy positions, but chose retirement.  In Tretyak’s case, health was the issue, according to Pankov.  And Pankov called any thought of them leaving over dissatisfaction with army reform “farfetched,” or dissatisfaction with General Staff Chief Makarov “utter stupidity.”

What did military commentators say?

In IA Regnum and Gazeta.ru, Anatoliy Tsyganok said the generals’ resignations show things aren’t quite right in the Defense Ministry, but also called reports of problems with Makarov a falsehood.  He said the incident shows it’s not just military retirees who bring attention to poorly thought out reforms.  At the same time, he doesn’t get the focus on Makarov when he just implements Serdyukov’s plans.

Also in Gazeta.ru, Aleksandr Khramchikhin asks where this ‘opposition’ to reform has been:

“But where were they earlier?  Reform’s already been going on for three years.”

Svpressa.ru wrote that no Decembrists remain in the army.  It quoted Konstantin Sivkov:

“The thing is in the Defense Ministry and Genshtab generally there are no longer any people capable of standing up for their opinion, if it diverges from the leadership’s viewpoint.  They still existed several years ago.  Recall General Rodionov, Ivashov.  They slowly disposed of them.  The only ones remaining are those who loyally hang on the words of the minister and Genshtab chief.  A negative selection has occurred.  And what remains . . .  Only those that agree with everything.”

Viktor Baranets told Vesti FM:

“The Genshtab chief proposed to all three figures that they leave Moscow, smell the powder a little, become greater practitioners.  My sources don’t deny that all of the generals’ troyka requesting retirement had relations with Makarov that weren’t very simple.  But all issues were decided behind closed doors, without cursing and throwing down reports [retirement requests] on the table.”