Writing in Vremya novostey yesterday, Nikolay Khorunzhiy claims the recently-concluded, largest post-Soviet exercise – Vostok-2010 – was intended to test the establishment of four operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК) in place of Russia’s six military districts, as well as the establishment of structural sub-units of the General Staff in place of the Main Commands (Glavkomaty or Главкоматы) of the Ground Troops, Air Forces, and Navy.
“It’s proposed that the army’s new structure will allow a sharp cut in the steps in passing commands from 16 levels to three, and increase their precision and reliability. On 6 July, President Dmitriy Medvedev signed a decree establishing OSKs. Part of the authority of central command and control organs, but also that earlier entrusted to the Glavkomaty, are going to the OSKs.”
The 6 July decree still hasn’t appeared publicly.
Khorunzhiy notes that then-General Staff Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy tested the transition to regional commands during Baykal-2006:
“Then he didn’t manage to break the resistance of district commanders who didn’t want to share their authority with OSK commanders.”
Khorunzhiy digresses to the precursors of OSKs, without calling them High Commands of Forces. Former General Staff Chief Nikolay Ogarkov set out to reform the army’s command and control:
“The instrument of such a reform he considered main commands on strategic directions (theaters of military operations, in modern terminology) which would improve coordination between services and troop branches and would strengthen the unity of command in combat units (permanent readiness units).”
Ogarkov viewed the Soviet North-Western, Western, and South-Western main commands of troops from World War II as prototypes, but these Glavkomaty were only intermediate links between the Headquarters, Supreme High Command [Stavka VGK] and the fronts, but received no authority, troops, or communications. Khorunzhiy contrasts this to Vasilevskiy being sent to fight the Japanese in 1945; he had authority and troops.
Then, in 1978, Army General Vasiliy Petrov was sent out to establish the Main Command of Troops of the Far East, and he had authority up to appoint regiment commanders and arrange cooperation with neighboring states. The situation of troops in the Far East sharply improved.
Ogarkov set off then to establish main commands on strategic directions, and improve command and control and readiness in yearly exercises (West, East, Autumn). But in 1984, Ogarkov himself was sent off to be CINC of the Western direction in Legnica. He failed to get enough authority for these commanders from the CPSU or Defense Ministry, and these main commands were eliminated in 1991.
But Khorunzhiy goes on to describe today’s OSK as an ultimate victory for Ogarkov over the ‘parochial interests of the army elite.’ He doesn’t seem to wonder whether it might be too soon to declare victory.
He finishes by looking at the KPRF’s call for a parliamentary investigation and special Duma session on how Serdyukov’s reforms are ‘disarming Russia.’ In particular, Khorunzhiy quotes the KPRF press-service:
“The system of military districts which has existed for centuries has just been eliminated. In place of them incomprehensible strategic commands have been established according to an American template. It’s obvious that this endless modernization of military structures is leading unavoidably to the loss of troop controllability.”
What’s it all mean . . . ?
The possible elimination of the Main Commands — the service headquarters — would be a big deal (no one mentioned what might happen to VDV, Space Troops, or RVSN branch commands).
This would obviously greatly strengthen General Staff Chief Makarov, and really make him lord and master of the uniformed military. It would strengthen the General Staff (except Serdyukov’s been cutting its personnel, like the rest of the Central Apparatus).
Would it give Makarov too much power? Maybe, or maybe not if Serdyukov thinks he can fire him and get another general whenever necessary.
The possibility of eliminating service headquarters makes Navy CINC Vysotskiy’s reticence to talk about moving to St. Petersburg in the midst of a command and control reorganization make more sense. Maybe he was telling us there’s a much bigger issue at work than just OSKs.
Perhaps in the most objective sense, getting rid of the Glavkomaty would reduce personnel and some resistance to new ideas. But wouldn’t it also throw away yet another place where the regime should seek good alternative ideas, counterarguments, and feedback on its plans?