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.

2 responses to “GRU Turnover Coming

  1. This is my first visit to this website and I find it very interesting. I was reading a US publication about the fact that the GRU had been cutback/reduced drastically. This is rather shocking as Russia, like the USSR has always depended on the GRU to gather military intelligence. The GRU has a long and proud tradition. Most countries have both a civilian and a military service, as you know. My question would be…why this drastic reduction? What is the thinking that underpins this? Thank you.

    • Some is bureaucratic (agency) politics. There’s always talk of merging GRU and SVR, or recreating the KGB by remelding SVR and FSB. There was always competition and jealousy over the GRU because it was independent. Paeans to the GRU talk about how it is or was more effective than the SVR or the KGB’s FCD. It may be that the GRU was just big, too big for a country that didn’t need or couldn’t afford it. GRU was built for the global stakes of the Cold War. So it lost a lot of its raison d’etre. One supposes, to Serdyukov’s credit, he took on an oversized powerful agency with lots of superannuated generals, that wasn’t really cost-effective, and cut it just like he cut everything else. He also made the call that GRU didn’t need to be involved in combat operations and he put the Spetsnaz brigades under geographic commanders. There’s plenty of debate about whether cutting fatally wounded the GRU or will eventually improve it. Just like there’s lots of debate over GRU performance before and during August 2008 in Georgia. Some say its failings in that primary target made the GRU ripe for cutting. Thanks for reading.

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