Category Archives: Military Leadership

The Winner Is . . . .

Russian military men born in the 1950s have just about disappeared from active service. A couple who remain are General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov and Ground Troops CINC Oleg Salyukov. But they aren’t likely to stay much longer.

The recent announcement that 65-year-old Army General Gerasimov has been elected president of the quasi-governmental Academy of Military Sciences makes his retirement seem imminent. Also 65, Salyukov’s circumstances can’t be much different.

Some thinking about changing faces and generations is in order.

The men of the ’60s — generals between the ages of 50 and 60 — are now firmly ensconced in most top Russian military posts except a couple of the most important ones — those Gerasimov and Salyukov still occupy.

Who will be the next General Staff Chief and Ground Troops CINC?

No special insight here. High-level military personnel decisions are made by Putin, his closest advisers, and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and are closely held until made public.

It is possible, however, to identify several generals who are conceivable candidates. One critical factor could be their perceived willingness to use military force against Putin’s opponents or at least keep the army on the sidelines in a political showdown.

Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov…Commander of the Southern MD. Soon to be 60, Dvornikov is the oldest of the likely candidates.

He’s served more than four years in the key Southern MD. He commanded Russian forces in Syria and has long experience as deputy commander of the Central and Eastern MDs.

Dvornikov commanded combat troops during the First and Second Chechen Wars.

He lacks General Staff experience and his age might be against him.

He could be a suitable Ground Troops CINC. That would free up the Southern MD for a young, fast-burner.

General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov…Deputy Defense Minister and Chief, Main Military-Political Directorate.

Turning 58 this year, Kartapolov also commanded troops in Syria.

He served briefly as Commander of the Western MD, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of the Main Operations Directorate (GOU), and deputy commander of the Southern MD.

His appointment to the resurrected GlavPUR seemed to sidetrack a career already deficient in some respects. Unlike the other contenders, he doesn’t have a Hero of the Russian Federation medal.

But Kartapolov can’t be entirely dismissed. Putin and Shoygu have reemphasized political indoctrination in recent years. He might fit the job of Ground Troops CINC, if not General Staff Chief.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev (zhu-rav-LYOV)…Commander of the Western MD.

Zhuravlev turns 56 in December.

Twice he commanded Russian forces in Syria.

He served very briefly as Commander of the Eastern MD.

Zhuravlev also had short stints as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD, and Deputy Commander of the Central MD.


General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin…CINC of Aerospace Forces. Currently 54, Surovikin has an interesting array of experience.

In an unprecedented move, Putin appointed this career army officer to head Russia’s air and space forces in 2017.

He commanded Russian troops in Syria.

Surovikin commanded the Eastern MD for four years. He was Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Central MD and served almost two years as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of the GOU.

He commanded the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division during the Second Chechen War.

Controversies have dogged Surovikin throughout his career but haven’t stopped his advancement so far.

If Surovikin were to become General Staff Chief (or Ground Troops CINC), a new CINC of Aerospace Forces would be needed. It’s unclear whether the MOD would return to a career air forces officer.

No one outside the Kremlin can say who will get these jobs when they become available. But these are clearly top candidates.

A senior officer probably can’t become General Staff Chief without command in Syria, command in one or two MDs, and some time in the General Staff at a minimum. Combat experience in the Chechen wars might help.

For Ground Troops CINC, there could be other candidates. One is Airborne Troops Commander General-Colonel Andrey Serdyukov. Nearly 59, Serdyukov had command in Syria and was Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD. He participated in Russia’s “dash to Pristina” as well as the Chechen wars.

Does it matter who’s Russia’s General Staff Chief?

In the case of Gerasimov, he’s served in a professional, low-key manner. He managed the armed forces smoothly in a period of intensive rearmament, increased training, and significant real-world operations. Although events make us feel otherwise, he’s likely been the source of dispassionate military advice. He surely influenced and advanced the careers of like-minded younger officers. And Gerasimov served Putin and Shoygu without appearing overly close to them.

Another man of the ’50s below the radar is Deputy Defense Minister, Chief of Rear Services Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov. He’ll be 67 (!!) this year. Logistics boss since 2008, he’ll have to be replaced soon.

Similarly, Deputy General Staff Chief, Chief of the GOU General-Colonel Sergey Rudskoy turns 61 this year. His replacement can’t be more than a year or two off.

Northern Fleet Upgrade

Russia’s Military Districts

It’s official. At least it will be on January 1, 2021.

On December 21, RF President Vladimir Putin signed out an ukaz “On the Northern Fleet” recognizing it as “an inter-service strategic territorial large formation [obyedineniye / обьединение]” carrying out the missions of a military district. Russia’s most important fleet will be guided by the Regulation on the Military District (itself confirmed by presidential ukaz in 2017).

This has been done “for purposes of effecting measures to defend the integrity and inviolability of Russian Federation territory,” according to the verbiage.

Break out your map of Russia’s Far North.

Recall the stage was set in June when Putin signed an ukaz “On the Military-Administrative Division of the Russian Federation.” That decree put the Northern Fleet in charge of the Republic of Komi, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk oblasts, and Nenets autonomous district (all previously part of the Western MD).

We have to wonder a couple things.

1) If or when Russia’s Pacific Fleet might also gain the status of a military district. With all the Kremlin’s attention to the northern latitudes, can the Pacific Fleet with Yakutia and Chukotka not merit the same regard? And this even without pointing to the rest of the fleet’s immense AOR.

2) What about Krasnoyarsk kray and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district currently under the administration of the Central MD? Which Russian military strategic entity should control planning and operations for the Kara Sea and this part of the Arctic? It seems the Northern Fleet does, though not officially its AOR.

This military-administrative reorganization probably isn’t over.

It’s worth reminding that this represents some unwinding of the 2010 reform that reduced the number of MDs to four and put the fleets under the control of those army-dominated MDs.

Promotion List

Here’s the latest promotion list. Roughly 620 general and flag officers from the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Always trying (and failing) to make it up-to-date.

Still color-coding (green, yellow, red, orange) individual officers for likely, uncertain, or unlikely future career progression.

What, you ask, are indicators of probable advancement? One is, ironically and simply, a recent promotion. An officer promoted to one-star rank is in the running for a second star, etc. But also whether an officer is in a line or staff position, his age (where we have it), and his past career progression.

Sometimes generals or admirals are marked yellow or red for lack of another rung to step up. General-Colonel Kim and Admiral Moiseyev are recent examples.

Orange is for those without an identified position or post (probably some are GRU and their names are kept out of the media). Some may be commanding militia forces in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine.

The folder of photos of promoted officers has been updated — 110 pics.

Latest Promotions

Here are the latest RF MOD promotees after confirming their current postings.

General-Colonel (3 stars)

Aleksey Kim…Deputy CINC of Ground Troops for Peacekeeping.

Admiral (3 stars)

Aleksandr Moiseyev…Commander, Northern Fleet.

General-Lieutenant (2 stars)

Roman Berdnikov…Commander, 29th CAA, Eastern MD.

Andrey Burbin…Commander, 27th Missile Army, RVSN.

Dmitriy Krayev…Commander, 14th Army Corps, Northern Fleet.

Sergey Ryzhkov…Commander, 41st CAA, Central MD.

Sergey Chuvakin…Deputy Chief, GOMU, General Staff.

Vice-Admiral (2 stars)

Arkadiy Romanov…Commander, Submarine Forces, Northern Fleet.

Aleksandr Yuldashev…Commander, Troops and Forces in the North-East, Pacific Fleet.

General-Major (1 star)

Aleksey Avdeyev…Commander, 3rd MRD, Western MD.

Aleksandr Anistratenko…Deputy Chief, Main Armaments Directorate, MOD.

Andrey Baranov…12th GUMO officer.

Oleg Botsman…Chief, Military Institute of Physical Eduation.

Vladimir Kutsenko…Commander, 1st Composite Aviation Division, Southern MD.

Sergey Marchuk…Chief, Space Test Center named for Titov.

Vadim Morozov…Commander, 132nd Composite Aviation Division, Baltic Fleet.

Aleksandr Osadchuk…Commander, v/ch 74455, GRU.

Dmitriy Pyatunin…Chief, Material Support Directorate, Central MD.

Oleg Stepanov…Chief, Directorate of Military Representatives, MOD.

Andrey Sukhovetskiy…Commander, 7th Air-Assault Division, Southern MD.

Dmitriy Sukhoruchkin…Commander, 18th Military-Transport Aviation Division.

Yuriy Khort…Chief, Railroad Troops Directorate, Southern MD.

Sergey Chubarykin…Commander, 76th Air-Assault Division, Western MD.

Valeriy Shkilnyuk…Chief, 392nd District Training Center, Eastern MD.

General-Major of Medical Service (1 star)

Aleksandr Sergoventsev…Deputy Chief for Medicine, Central Military Clinical Hospital named for Mandryk.

Four new generals and admirals could not be identified in a position.

* * * * * *

Some notes on the above-mentioned promotees:

New General-Colonel Kim served in Russia’s “reconciliation center” in Syria. He’s a military academic previously posted to MAGS and the Combined Arms Academy. A specialist without command experience, he’s probably achieved terminal rank.

Admiral Moiseyev is likewise unlikely to be promoted again. He’s an experienced operator but he and Navy CINC Admiral Yevmenov are the same age. Moiseyev will probably have to be content in Northern Fleet. But strange things happen….

Kim and Moiseyev defy the wisdom that getting a promotion makes one more likely to be promoted. For that to work, there has to be a logical higher position.

Krayev was commissioned an airborne officer. He’s served his career in naval infantry, demonstrating again that Russia’s VDV aren’t simply airborne — they’re a jumping off point for combat commanders throughout the armed forces.

Chuvakin has no clear biographic details, but his father may have been the two-star General Staff officer who served as secretary of the Defense Council in the last years of the USSR.

Romanov is a former SSBN commander with an impressive service record. He commanded Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy during testing of Bulava SLBMs.

Baranov has apparently commanded several nuclear weapons storage facilities, including one where conscript Shamsutdinov went on a killing spree in October 2019. Not a good look for Baranov but he got promoted.

Osadchuk commanded the GRU hacking outfit that broke into Democratic National Committee servers and gave the contents to Wikileaks in 2016. He’s wanted by the FBI.

Image

Stepanov’s Military Representatives are the voyenpredy supervising work on MOD state orders in Russia’s defense enterprises.

Promotion Quicklook

Mr. Putin signed out the latest promotion list (for Constitution Day) yesterday.

For the MOD, it’s pretty thick — two three-stars, seven two-stars, and 20 one-stars.

Putin’s National Guard added one three-star, one two-star, and two one-stars.

But back to the MOD . . .

New General-Colonel Aleksey Kim is Deputy CINC of Ground Troops for Peacekeeping.

Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev commands the Northern Fleet.

New general-lieutenants include commanders of the 29th and 41st CAAs, and the commander of the 18th MGAD.

The chief of the RVSN’s central command post got a second star, as did Deputy GUMO Chief Sergey Chuvakin.

General-Lieutenant Chuvakin

The commander of Russian Troops and Forces in the North-East (Kamchatka) and commander of Belomorsk Naval Base became Vice-Admirals.

Full rundown on the latest promotions after some research.

Updated Promotion List

Here’s an updated promotion list. Over 600 general and flag officers from the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Never as up-to-date as one would like, but at least it’s bargain-priced.

And make no mistake, this is a time-consuming and never-ending process. Just learned that General-Lieutenant Sergey Yudin died suddenly at 59 on June 10, 2019. So, off the list.

A couple wrinkles this time.

First, generals and admirals are in the process of being color-coded — green, yellow, red, and orange.

The “stop light” colors are a WAG at likely, uncertain, or unlikely career progression in the future.

What, you ask, are indicators of probable advancement? One is, ironically and simply, a recent promotion. An officer promoted to one-star rank is in the running for a second star, etc. But also whether an officer is in a line or staff position, his age (where we have it), and his past career progression.

Orange is for those without an identified position or post (probably some are GRU and their names are kept out of the media).

Second, a folder of photos of promoted officers (at least some so far) has been added.

Army General Dvornikov

RF President Vladimir Putin yesterday, on the eve of this year’s delayed Victory Parade, promoted Southern MD commander, General-Colonel Aleksandr Dvornikov, to four-star Army General rank. Here’s the ukaz, and Interfaks-AVN carried the news this morning.

Here’s Dvornikov’s ru.wiki bio.

Aleksandr Dvornikov

Here’s a quick reaction.

Dvornikov joins General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov and Ground Troops CINC Oleg Salyukov as the only other real military army generals (i.e. not converted civilians) in the RF Armed Forces.

He won’t remain in the Southern MD where he’s been for four years at that rank. So, he’s likely to replace either Gerasimov or Salyukov. More likely the latter. Salyukov turned 65 on May 21 and is ready for a sinecure. He was in charge of this morning’s parade.

Prediction: Look for Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov as the next Russian Ground Troops CINC.

Gerasimov’s 65 in early September, and his turnover is more critical and will take more time to prepare.

More difficult and perhaps more interesting — which general will take over in the Southern MD?

Not many candidates at the three-star level. Perhaps Sergey Kuralenko, currently COS / FDC in the Eastern MD, but he’s already almost 59. Maybe.

General-lieutenants are harder to gauge. Maybe Dvornikov’s first deputy, Sergey Kuzovlev will move up. Perhaps Mikhail Teplinskiy, who’s in the same post for the Central MD, and he has lots of Southern MD experience.

At any rate, the rare fourth star for a real military man is interesting.

Russia Day Promotions

RF President Putin wasn’t terribly generous with military promotions on the eve of Russia Day. For the MOD, he promoted one three-star, four two-stars, and 14 one-stars. Putin’s alternative army, the National Guard got one three-star and two one-stars.

Gennadiy Valeryevich Zhidko

Newly-minted General-Colonel Zhidko

Eastern MD Commander Zhidko got his third star, catching him up with the other Russian MD commanders.

New General-Lieutenant Arutyun Darbinyan is deputy commander of the 8th CAA. General-Lieutenant Konstantin Kastornov commands the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps.

Konstantin Kastornov

Kastornov

The director of the MOD’s Information Systems Department, Oleg Maslennikov also received a second star. The head of Pacific Fleet’s rear services became a general-lieutenant.

New general-majors include:

  • Commander, 39th Missile Division, RVSN.
  • Commander, 13th Missile Division, RVSN.
  • Commander, 127th MRD, Eastern MD.
  • Chief, Main Space Reconnaissance Center, VKS.
  • Chief, Engineering Troops, Central MD.
  • Chief, 185th Combat Training and Combat Employment Center, VKS.
  • Chief, 6th Directorate, Main Personnel Directorate (handles appointments to General Staff, central command and control organs, and higher military educational institutions).
  • Chief, Organization-Planning Directorate, Main Military-Medical Directorate, RF Ministry of Defense.

Two new rear-admirals:

  • Chief, Combat Training Directorate, Northern Fleet.
  • Chief, Organization-Mobilization Directorate, Southern MD.

No precise current posting could be found for four promotees.

Worth noting that Northern Fleet combat training chief, new Rear-Admiral Stepan Kelbas was previously deputy commander of the fleet’s 31st Submarine Division (SSBNs), and once commanded Delta IV-class SSBNs Novomoskovsk and Tula.

Defenders’ Day Promotions

On February 20, RF President Vladimir Putin signed out his ukaz with military promotions in advance of Defenders’ Day (February 24).

For the MOD, Putin’s list includes nine two-star promotions (seven general-lieutenants and two vice-admirals). As well as 15 one-stars (ten general-majors and five rear-admirals).

By contrast, the Natsgvardiya got one new general-colonel, two general-lieutenants, and three general-majors.

Rustam Muradov

General-Lieutenant Rustam Muradov

The rising star of the MOD group is probably newly-minted General-Lieutenant Rustam Muradov.

Muradov’s a combined arms officer and Deputy Commander of the Southern MD. He commanded two different motorized rifle brigades. He was first deputy commander, chief of staff of the 41st Combined Arms Army. He served with Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and was a military adviser in Syria. In that capacity, he received Hero of the Russian Federation from Putin. Muradov commanded the 2nd CAA for a year.

Three new general-lieutenants are army commanders — Sergey Kisel in the 1st Tank Army, Andrey Kolotovkin in the 2nd CAA, and Oleg Tsekov in the 5th CAA. New two-star Vladimir Kravchenko commands the 11th Air and Air Defense Army.

General-Lieutenant Maksim Penkov heads the Mozhayskiy Military-Space Academy. and General-Lieutenant Yuriy Bobrov is a directorate chief in the MOD’s Main Personnel Directorate.

New Vice-Admiral Denis Berezovskiy is the turncoat Ukrainian admiral and one-time commander of Ukrainian naval forces who threw in his lot with Moscow after the seizure of Crimea. He’s deputy commander of the Russian Pacific Fleet. Vice-Admiral Vladimir Dmitriyev commands the Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Forces.

The one-stars don’t ring any bells except new Rear-Admiral Aleksey Yuryevich Sysuyev. He commands the Pacific Fleet’s 25th Submarine Division (three SSBNs — an ancient Delta III and two Borey SSBNs Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh). Previously, he was first deputy commander, chief of staff of the 31st Division in Northern Fleet, also SSBNs. So he’s a riser.

His father is likely retired Admiral Yuriy Sysuyev who was a submariner, one-time 5th Eskadra commander, and naval educator.

“Chekist” Matovnikov

On January 22, President Putin appointed General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Matovnikov to be Deputy CINC of the Ground Troops. He had been Polpred in the North Caucasus Federal District since mid-2018 and Commander of Special Operations Forces (SSO) from 2015 to 2018. 

Matovnikov as general-major next to Putin

54-year-old Matovnikov was born in Moscow, the son of a career KGB officer from the 7th Directorate (Surveillance). His father was retired after destroying incriminating KGB documents when the ill-fated August 1991 putsch against Gorbachev collapsed.

In 1986, the younger Matovnikov graduated from the KGB Border Guards Higher Military-Political School in suburban Moscow. At his father’s request, he received a highly desirable posting to the 7th Directorate’s Alfa anti-terrorist group. He served in a motorized Alfa unit operating with Soviet Border Guards reportedly to interdict weapons and drugs smuggled from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

Matovnikov served on Gorbachev’s security detail in Washington in 1987 and 1988. He went on to become first deputy chief of the FSB’s Directorate A (Alfa).

He fought in both Chechen wars, including involvement in hostage rescues in Budennovsk in 1995, Dubrovka in 2002, and Beslan in 2004. In Chechnya, he got the nickname “Chekist” (“state security man”).

Matovnikov was in charge of Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov’s security. Kadyrov was assassinated in a 2004 bombing. Matovnikov reportedly got on good terms with Kadyrov’s son Ramzan, the republic’s strongman and possible hitman against those who impugn Mr. Putin.

In 2013, Matovnikov transferred from the FSB to the Ministry of Defense as Deputy Commander, SSO, then Commander in 2015.

In 2018, news outlet Rbc.ru wrote:

Like many Alfa men, Matovnikov then went into a new structure attached to the General Staff — the Special Operations Forces (SSO), which unlike conventional armed forces sub-units could act in covert military operations abroad without the approval of the Council of the Federation. At first Matovnikov became Deputy Commander of the SSO, then headed them after the departure of Aleksey Dyumin in December 2015 for the post of Deputy Defense Minister. Matovnikov built the SSO structure in the image and likeness of Alfa — the equipping and requirements on personnel were the same as for officers in the former service . . . .

Matovnikov, Dyumin, and the SSO were instrumental in Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and likely also in the invasion of eastern Ukraine.

Matovnikov received his Hero of the Russian Federation from Putin in 2017 for his time in Syria. He became a two-star general on February 22, 2018.

In mid-2018, RF President Putin selected Matovnikov to be his Plenipotentiary Representative in the North Caucasus Federal District.

Rbc.ru continues:

. . . in the past he participated in specops in Syria, Africa and Ukrainie, but also parallel to his service in the SSO he was attached to the president [Putin] for special assignments, noted a former colleague of Matovnikov. “In [Matovnikov’s] circle, they talk about him as one of the siloviki close to the President — he regularly met Vladimir Putin at Vnukovo Airport and enjoyed his personal trust. It’s possible they decided to try the combat officer in civilian service [as Polpred], in economic work with the aim of a federal political career as they did with Dyumin in his time,” one Alfa veteran told RBK (Aleksey Dyumin at the beginning of 2016 was appointed Governor of Tula oblast). A source close to the Polpred in the SKFO [North Caucasus Federal District] confirmed for RBK that Matovnikov was an officer attached to the president for special assignments.

Matovnikov in mufti sporting his Hero of the Russian Federation

After just 18 months as Polpred, Putin sent him back to the MOD as Deputy CINC of Ground Troops, replacing 63-year-old General-Colonel Aleksandr Lentsov, who became Adviser to the RF Defense Minister — a familiar sinecure one step closer to retirement.

Matovnikov is married with two young children as well as an adult daughter from his previous marriage.

What do we make of the Mr. Matovnikov?

He’s an older, paler reproduction of Dyumin with differences. He’s seven years older and, though cut from the same KGB cloth, he’s Alfa not FSB-FSO-SBP — or Presidential Security Service — like Dyumin, who was Putin’s personal bodyguard and assistant. Many were quick to claim Putin was grooming Dyumin as his successor.

In fact, Putin is probably having auditions for men like Matovnikov and Dyumin to see if they are fit for bigger things. They are loyal KGB types who share Putin’s mentality. This may say more about Putin.

As Brian Taylor has concluded in his insightful The Code of Putinism, since 2015-2016, Putin has been shifting away from old, long-time colleagues who supported Team Putin for many years toward younger, less independent security service veterans who answer to him only. He may be seeking men willing to protect his freedom and fortune and keep him as president-for-life effectively. They could prevent Putin from becoming a future Ceausescu or Qaddafi.

Dyumin was Deputy Minister of Defense for just weeks before moving to Tula where he’s been governor for about 3-1/2 years. Matovnikov’s stint as Polpred was brief for a region as complex as the North Caucasus. Perhaps his stay with the Ground Troops will be brief too before he moves to another fully political post.

The insertion of a former KGB man and SSO veteran into the Ground Troops makes one think Putin wants dramatic and decisive victories, not just plodding, predictable daily management of preparations for wars Russia isn’t likely to fight. As such, Matovnikov is probably pretty unwelcome where senior Russian Army officers have toiled their entire careers.