Yesterday a couple articles proved too interesting to pass up. The first continued the theme of reorganization and reform in the GRU. The second discussed generational change in the siloviki, and the GRU’s and the army’s place within the state security elite.
Stoletie.ru published an item on the “sad” reform of the GRU. The article relays a couple lesser known stories of GRU history. It covers most of the familiar story on General-Colonel Shlyakhturov [some lifted verbatim from elsewhere], but it includes a couple new details.
The author, Sergey Serov (ironically, same surname as the Beria henchman who headed the KGB, then the GRU before losing his post in the wake of the Penkovskiy case), claims with some merit:
“By the end of the 1980s, the GRU objectively had become the largest intelligence service in the world and one of the best informed.”
“But surprisingly, at the same time, it didn’t formally and doesn’t appear as a special service. The Main Intelligence Directorate was and remains a purely army element, to which laws on special services don’t apply. And the most outstanding GRU officer is less protected on a legal and social plane than a conscript serving in the FSB or SVR.”
“According to the current TO&E, the duty of director of the world’s largest intelligence service is a general-colonel. And the Foreign Intelligence Service Director’s first deputies are also general-colonels. Don’t even talk about pay, it’s not equivalent. Also, agents like Anna Chapman in military intelligence, in contrast to foreign intelligence, have never been and could never be detected. The GRU grew and got stronger in the years of global confrontation when large military actions by the USSR Armed Forces could have happened, and sometimes did, any place on Earth.”
“Why does a country which doesn’t have global interests requiring a military defense have the world’s largest military intelligence? The question, sadly, sounds rhetorical today.”
“The reduction of the GRU’s intelligence and combat potential began even before General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov. As veterans of this intelligence service say, practically all foreign residencies were mothballed or completely eliminated, except those working in countries adjacent to Russia. Really, why have an intelligence network in Latin America, Africa or Southeast Asia, if our country isn’t planning any kind of military action there even in the distant future? For lack of need and with economizing in mind, they eliminated the largest intelligence center at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh.”
“But if you sort it out calmly, then it’s clear that Spetsnaz objectively became “a fifth wheel on the wagon” of the Main Intelligence Directorate. And sending it under a foreign directorate had become unavoidable. The problem is the fact that the Ground Troops, themselves being cut and reformed absolutely thoughtlessly, turned out unready to accept the Spetsnaz brigades, and now don’t know what to do with them. So the future fate of Spetsnaz still has not been determined.”
“Today many assess the GRU reforms as the very destruction of an intelligence service. I can’t believe the changes occurring fully correspond to Russia’s new foreign policy priorities. If there are only friends around us now, how is it possible to suspect them of plots?”
Andrey Soldatov published the second article in Yezhednevnyy zhurnal.
Soldatov contends a serious rift between the FSB’s generals and its rank-and-file officers developed over the rewards of service in the 2000s. The former ensured riches for themselves, leaving the latter and those not serving in Moscow out in the cold.
More significantly for our purposes, Soldatov talks about serious divisions between Russia’s special services:
“In its turn, relations between the army and the FSB were decisively spoiled when the FSB was ordered to reinforce control over the army situation (the new Kvachkov affair, apparently, became one of the results). In response, people close to Serdyukov started to become openly indignant at the special service’s interference in the affairs of the Armed Forces, and the idea of establishing a military internal investigations service which could replace osobisty in the units was given voice.”
So, Soldatov seems to ask, what does once-and-future President Putin do in his third term and beyond now that the siloviki, the security service chiefs he’s relied on, are near or over 60 and ready for retirement:
“Nikolay Patrushev, head of the Security Council, was born in 1951, FSO Director Yevgeniy Murov in 1945, Mikhail Fradkov (SVR) in 1950, Aleksandr Shlyakhturov (GRU) a 1947 birth, Aleksandr Tsarenko (GUSP) born in 1948, Viktor Ivanov, head of the FSKN in 1950 and, finally, Aleksandr Bortnikov, FSB Director, in November of this year will be 60.”
Soldatov suggests soon-to-be former President Medvedev knew someone like Shlyakhturov, and possibly other siloviki chiefs, would be willing to make unpopular cuts and reforms in his own fiefdom in return for a guarantee of a few extra years of service.
Soldatov’s point is to remind readers (once again) that the siloviki are far from monolithic. They are divided along agency lines and within agencies. Their biggest fights are among themselves. But Soldatov also finishes with a warning that the mid-level siloviki are so passive, so resigned to their fate, that this could be dangerous when the country faces a real crisis.