Tag Archives: Group A

Defense Ministry Reversal on Spetsnaz

The latest painful walk back started this week on the issue of returning just-moved Spetsnaz brigades from the Ground Troops to the General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), at least presumably. 

This is not a done deal, and it’s certainly not entirely clear Spetsnaz will go back to the GRU.  The special operations men might go back to the General Staff in some form separate and distinct from the GRU, and answering directly to the Genshtab.

Spetsnaz weren’t gone long enough for anyone to decide that giving them to the Ground Troops and MD / OSK commanders wasn’t a good idea in a military sense.  No, this sudden shift is most likely the product of bureaucratic and political infighting.  And it seems like a blow to those close to the Defense Minister, and, to some extent, to Anatoliy Serdyukov himself.

In all this, one recalls past rumors about carving up the GRU.  The FSB and SVR wanted its agent operations.  And the FSB and Ground Troops wanted its Spetsnaz as part of a large, unified special operations force.  Kvachkov and Popovskikh called for Spetsnaz to be its own separate service branch.

At any rate, the story’s details . . .

On Tuesday, Moskovskiy komsomolets reported that the Defense Ministry intends to return Spetsnaz brigades to Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) control just several months after giving them to the Ground Troops.  The idea of giving them to the army was recognized as a failure, according to the paper.

Spetsnaz officers at the time said it was a crazy idea that wouldn’t bring any positive results.  Just exactly whose concept it was is unknown to the public, but, according to MK, former Ground Troops Glavkom Army General Vladimir Boldyrev lobbied for the change to shore up his position after the five-day war with Georgia, and then-GRU Chief Valentin Korabelnikov wasn’t able to defend his Spetsnaz, and had to give them up.

MK implies the GRU focused on preserving its strategic intelligence operations [i.e. agent networks], and even leaders of its Spetsnaz directorate changed over to agent operations.  The “Senezh” Spetsnaz training center was taken from the GRU and subordinated to the General Staff.  According to MK, the Genshtab appointed former FSB Group A General Medoyev to head “Senezh.”  He was replaced within weeks by General Aleksandr Miroshnichenko, also a Group A or “Alpha” veteran. 

Your present author notes Medoyev’s replacement by Miroshnichenko was published in the presidential decree on military personnel from 26 October.  Medoyev was relieved and dismissed from the service by a decree from 1 October.  Both men were listed only as “assistant to the Defense Minister.”

A Genshtab source tells MK:

“The plan to transfer army Spetsnaz to the ground pounders was recognized as a failure.  For a year, no one managed them [the Spetsnaz], they left everything hanging.  Now on General Staff Chief Makarov’s desk there’s a document on their resubordination [to whom?].  It’s true it still isn’t signed.”

The same GRU Spetsnaz leaders who gave their brigades to the ground pounders are seeking a place in the new Spetsnaz leadership.  One can only imagine what the structure will become with these men participating in it.  A GRU source tells MK:

“Take, for example, General Russkov, whose service term expired long ago, he’s 57, but still in the ranks.  And, probably, not because he’s an outstanding military man.  How many promising young guys did they dismiss, but such “dinosaurs” are still serving.  And he’s the very one who provided the rationale for the intelligence directorate not needing Spetsnaz.  After all our brigades were resubordinated, he became an agent operator.  And his deputies and assistants, Colonels Mertvishchev, Shpilchin, and Sobol, who didn’t do anything to keep Spetsnaz in the GRU structure, are actively vying for the leadership of the new Genshtab structure which is being established.”

Argumenty nedeli’s less-nuanced version of the story followed MK’sArgumenty claims sending Spetsnaz back to the GRU will correct one of the biggest mistakes made by the Defense Ministry’s team of “effective managers.”  Its Genshtab source says the GRU might form a Special Operations Directorate [of course, the Genshtab might form its own instead].  The decision on moving Spetsnaz was made “at the very top,” and it weakens the position of Ground Troops Glavkom General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov.  Argumenty finishes its somewhat rambling version of the story by saying ex-FSB men – specifically “Senezh” Chief Miroshnichenko – will control the army Spetsnaz.

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Would the Army Oppose Siloviki Loyal to Putin?

Medvedev and Putin (photo: Reuters)

An unnamed FSB veteran thinks it would.

Monday New Times published a piece on the state of the tandem and political prospects over the next year leading up to the elections which will determine who will be Russia’s president until 2018.

The article’s authors ask whether Medvedev and Putin, frightened by North African events, might be determined to preserve the status quo by any means.  Or perhaps the president and prime minister face an inevitable clash.  The authors have consulted unnamed experts and present their findings.  Scenario No. 2 is Apocalypse Tomorrow.  The mood of the siloviki – in this case, rank-and-file men with uniforms, ranks, and guns – is key to Scenario No. 2 – the tandem blown up.  The authors ask “how would the siloviki conduct themselves if Medvedev decided to fire the premier and his entire government?  On whom would the experts bet?”

The authors asked former USSR intelligence and special service veterans of coup d’etats to sketch out what we’d see in the event of Apocalypse Tomorrow.  They sketch out some of the things Putin and the government would do in addition to calling for the support of the siloviki.

In the end, the article examines the possibility that Putin might agree to go, with the right personal and financial guarantees in place.  His situation is not, after all, exactly like Mubarak’s or Qaddafi’s.

The article ends like this:

“’Putin can hardly count on the silovik bloc if the matter gets to mass bloodshed,’ even a highly placed employee of the FSB’s Spetsnaz Center, which today joins in its structure Directorate A (formerly Group A) and Directorate V (formerly Group Vympel).  ‘His sole full-blooded reserve capable of entering the fray is the Internal Troops [VV], and mainly the VV Spetsnaz’ – the so-called maroon berets.  ‘They are the ones in 1993, after one of the Vympel groups refused to participate in suppressing the civilian population, who fulfilled the given mission’ (this means preventing the storming of the Ostankino television center – New Times).  ‘As far as the FSB Spetsnaz goes, after so many years of ‘reforming’ silovik sub-units, officers will scarcely be zealous in putting down civilians.  Quite the opposite.  It wasn’t for this that they risked their lives in the Caucasus.’  The weakest link, in the opinion of the same expert, is the army:  ‘Among the troops there’s a lot of negative information and dissatisfaction with the reforms that are being introduced.  Promises that a lieutenant will soon receive 50 thousand rubles just remain promises, the apartment issue isn’t resolved.  After the mass dismissal of officers – just in the past year 140 thousand completely young ‘reservists’ were put out in the streets – they will easily return to the ranks [i.e. Serdyukov’s reversal increasing the officer ranks by 70,000], but now they know who their enemy is.  Plus the disbanding of the GRU Spetsnaz.  As a result, the opposition will have something to oppose the Internal Troops.  So the generals will think a thousand times before giving the order to open fire, and if there is the slightest suspicion about the illegitimacy of the mission received, they’ll do everything to sabotage it.’”

“The experts polled by New Times come together on one thing:  a bloody scenario has a greater than 50% probability in one case:  if the premier and his closest silovik circle seriously fear for their lives and property and don’t get a security guarantee.  And now before their eyes there’s even a living example:  going peacefully into retirement Mubarak has a chance to preserve part of his billions frozen in Switzerland, Qaddafi shooting at his own people no longer has such a chance.”

Interesting scenarios, but there are a couple things your present author isn’t so sure about.  Firstly, two things not factored in that could be significant are:  the mood of the average militiaman [i.e. cop] who are very numerous and are also being ‘reformed,’ and the unhappiness among military retirees and older vets demonstrated recently in their Moscow assembly and last year on Poklonnaya gora.  One’s not sure, though, if they’re more supportive of Medvedev or Putin.  Given the choice, they’d probably shoot both.  Secondly, is Medvedev really the type to enter that kind of standoff (or any standoff actually) while holding very few, if any, good cards to play?  At the same time, one is cautious about assuming rational actors.  It’s perfectly conceivable the Russians could blunder and miscalculate their way into Apocalypse Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Ancentr.ru was following a similar tack earlier this week . . . it looked at the recent personnel decisions regarding General-Lieutenant Valeriy Yevnevich which moved him from the GUBP to Deputy Chief of the General Staff and then to Assistant to the Defense Minister (ostensibly, to advise on peacekeeping activities).  The website thinks this interesting since Yevnevich is a ‘political’ general who as Taman division commander supported President Yeltsin in the 1993 battle with his opponents.  And, it says, such a decisive and staunch supporter of ‘democracy’ as Yevnevich could be useful to vlasti in a responsible post given the general growth in political tension in society, including also a “rise in disloyalty in the army.”  For example, he could command special VDV or other sub-units in an emergency to ensure their loyalty to the regime.  Ancentr.ru goes on to detail other reports from NVO’s Vladimir Mukhin about the level of discontent in the army’s ranks as well as ex-General Staff Chief and Security Council staff member Yuriy Baluyevskiy’s possible role as leader of a military backlash against Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.