Russia: Another military reshuffle as Valery Gerasimov hands over the ‘poison cup’


Ministry of Defense of Russia announced another rearrangement of the leadership commanders war in ukraine on Wednesday, as criticism grew about the handling Campaign stalled.

It says that General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of Russia, will become the joint commander of the operation, with the current commander, Serge Surovikinbecame one of his three deputies.

Surovikin was only appointed joint commander of what the Kremlin rhetorically calls “Special Military Operation” in October.

In terms of the bureaucratic hierarchy, the announcement is hardly a fluke. Surovikin reported to Gerasimov.

“The generals were moved, shuffled from the Front to Headquarters. From Headquarters to the Front,” Russian TV commentator Sergey Markov said Wednesday on Telegram.

“Surovikin was not punished and Gerasimov was not punished. It’s all one team. Well, of course there is competition, which always happens between the top dogs.”

But the decision puts Gerasimov, who has served as Chief of the General Staff for more than a decade, closer to directly overseeing the operation – and responsible for it. Although Gerasimov was a key figure in the planning of the invasion, he appears to have stayed on the sidelines, with only one reported visit to the commander of the operation inside Ukraine, despite the Ministry of National the room did not confirm that either.

“It’s kind of a demotion,” said Mark Galeotti, senior associate at the Royal United Services Institute [for Gerasimov] or at least the unique cup. Now it’s up to him, and I suspect that Putin has unrealistic expectations.”

Surovikin was appointed joint commander of what Russia calls

Gerasimov spent weeks out of public view and did not appear at the Victory Day parade in Moscow last year, which led to speculation about his position at the time.

Now, he combines direct command of the Ukraine campaign with the role of key interlocutor with the United States on issues such as military “deconfliction”.

He last spoke to the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, in November after a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile landed in Poland.

Why the Russian Ministry of Defense made this move at this point remains unclear. It said “it is necessary to organize closer interaction between branches and branches of the Armed Forces” and improve the support and effectiveness of “command and control groups of troops”.

Gerasimov will have three deputy ranks – Surovikin, Army Commander Oleg Salyukov and Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Colonel Aleksey Kim.

The new structure implies that Gerasimov’s seniority will improve coordination in a campaign where the different branches of the armed forces often appear out of sync.

Some analysts believe the move could also be an attempt by the ministry to gain tighter control over the campaign ahead of a critical few months in which the rest of the reserve force is mobilized in the fall. 2022 will be deployed after training.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Valery Gerasimov during the annual meeting of the Defense Ministry's council in Moscow on December 21, 2021.

The Ukrainian military said it expected a new Russian offensive in early spring. The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Valery Zaluzhny, said economist in December: “They [Russian forces] is being prepared 100%.

A major Russian attack could happen “in February, at best in March and at worst by the end of January,” he said.

Rob Lee at King’s College London tweeted that Wednesday’s announcement “reaffirms the MoD’s position in war surveillance… this may well be part of a response to the increasingly influential role and Wagner’s public during the war.”

Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was both a voice and a presence on the front lines, as his contract fighters were prominently involved in the assault on Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region. He has repeatedly said that the Wagner mercenary warriors are solely responsible for the advances in the Soledar area.

Tensions between Prigozhin and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu have been around for a long time. But Prigozhin praised General Surovikin for managing an orderly retreat of Russian forces in the area south of Kherson, as their position became increasingly less solid.

In November, Prigozhin said on his Telegram channel: “The generals have to win one victory after another every day. To whom can Surovikin be compared? Surovikin is an honest and principled man, he is trusted by the military.”

Some commentators wondered if the ministry was “going around the wagons” as criticism continued over its handling of the campaign. Wednesday’s announcement comes following news that the man who lost his command of the Central Military District in October, Colonel Aleksandr Lapin, has been appointed Chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces, according to the news agency. state TASS.

Both Prigozhin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov criticized Lapin. “Not just because Lapin is worthless. In fact, he is protected by the top leaders of the General Staff,” Kadyrov wrote on his Telegram channel last October.

It is inconceivable that Gerasimov’s appointment would take place without the approval of President Vladimir Putin and most likely at his command. If Gerasimov turned the tide of the war, it would be a great move. If he fails, then he takes the blame.

A Russian military analyst who blogs under the pseudonym ‘Rybar’ and has over a million followers on Telegram, doesn’t expect a successful reshuffle – suggesting they are hoping for “a miracle in the twelfth month.” 11 of the special campaign. ”

Rybar writes: “The sum does not change when moving around its parts.

Dara Massicot, a senior research fellow at the Rand Corporation, said the Department of Defense is “downgrading their most capable senior commander and replacing him with an incompetent man. This is a story that has it all: infighting, power struggles, jealousy.”

She said that although Surovikin made no strategic mistakes, Shoigu and Gerasimov were responsible for poor campaign planning. “They missed it. They signed a secret plan, many bad assumptions, not told most of their soldiers. [It] resulted in massive casualties and partial breakdown of the force,” Massicot wrote on Twitter.

Galeotti said that Gerasimov is “hanging by a hair”, writing on Twitter: “I don’t think this is an excuse to fire him because the war is so important and Putin can fire whoever he wants. But he needs some kind of victory or a career that ends in disgrace.

Gerasimov is 67 years old and was appointed by Putin in 2012. He gained notoriety among Western analysts after a speech published in Russia’s Military-Industrial Courier.

Gerasimov said the use of propaganda and subversion means that “a perfectly prosperous state can, in a matter of months and even days, be turned into an arena of fierce armed conflict, into victimization. caused by foreign interference and immersed in a web of chaos. , humanitarian disaster and civil war”.

The arrival of Russia’s “little green men” on Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in the spring of 2014 is considered a successful example of this approach, sometimes referred to as “mixed warfare”. fit”.

Galeotti said that “What Gerasimov is talking about is the use of subversion to prepare the battlefield before intervening, exactly the kind of operation used in Ukraine. [in 2014]. Breaking the chain of command, stirring up local uprisings, jamming communications – these are all classic moves that barely started in Crimea.”

But now General Gerasimov must wage a real war.


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