An indication of prospects for current Russian army commanders is the fate of their predecessors. Here’s what’s become of them.
Former army commanders are waiting for (or possibly no longer expecting) assignment to higher posts (usually MD commander), and they fall into three groups.
Wearing three stars is one clear sign of excellent prospects. Most former commanders are two-stars. Those in the general-colonel group include Chayko, Kuralenko, and Kuzovlev.
Chayko reportedly also wears Hero of the Russian Federation (2020). He seems the most accomplished of the bunch, and he’s quite young. He had a stint aslikely remains a deputy chief of the General Staff.
Still don’t have a picture of Chayko as a general-colonel with his Hero of the RF medal.
Though wearing three stars, Kuralenko is already 59. His pedigree is good, but he’s on a detour as chief of Russia’s military police.
General-lieutenants with good chances include Nikiforov, Teplinskiy, and Zavizon. They’re serving as chief of staff, first deputy commander of an MD.
Teplinskiy seemed like a fast-burner having been COS/FDC for two MDs. He has a Hero of the RF (1995) he earned as a JO under fire (not as a general safe at headquarters) in the First Chechen War. But Teplinskiy’s been waiting for his third star seven years and counting.
Prominent service in Syria — commander or chief of staff, deputy commander of the RF MOD contingent — may be a harbinger of future promotions. Chayko did three tours — one as chief of staff and two as commander. Kuzovlev and Nikiforov are past commanders. Zavizon was a deputy commander in Syria.
Teplinskiy doesn’t have Syrian time, but allegedly led Russian militias in the Donbass. Zavizon also reportedly commanded them.
Generals seemingly on course for a chance at a higher post include: Avdeyev, Chebotarev (but where is he?), Kuzmenko (he’s young but now sidetracked at MAGS), Muradov, Nosulev, Peryazev (though he may stay in GUBP), Seritskiy, Sevryukov, and Tsekov (if he escapes VUNTs SV).
Time is working against all of them. The best chances may belong to Avdeyev, Muradov, Nosulev, Seritskiy, and Sevryukov. They are all deputy MD commanders. Muradov might be a good bet; he’s young and just had the high-profile job of peacekeeping in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Former MD commanders who are off course include: Astapov, Kaloyev, Kovalenko, Poplavskiy, Romanchuk, Salmin, and Tsilko. They are off track mostly for age and failure to secure a COS/FDC post in an MD. Some have accepted honorable pre-retirement jobs out of the mainstream like Deputy CINC of the Navy or department chair at MAGS.
It’s Not Scientific
There’s no formula for any of this. Case in point: there was no real reason to see General-Colonel Gennadiy Zhidko coming as the new Eastern MD commander in late 2018. He was chief of staff in Syria and had a year as deputy chief of the General Staff. That alone isn’t much to recommend an officer for MD command. It’s hard to say whom he impressed — possibly General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov. He also served under Western MD commander General-Colonel Zhuravlev in Syria. The personal connections are very, very difficult to track.
Some detail on each of the above-mentioned former army commanders follows:
General-Lieutenant Viktor Astapov…58…former commander, 49th CAA (2012-2013)…deputy commander of the Southern MD…chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Western MD…Deputy CINC of the Navy for Ground and Coastal Troops.
General-Colonel Aleksandr Chayko…50…former commander, 20th CAA (2014), 1st TA (2014-2017)…chief of staff of the Russian group of troops in Syria and two tours as its commander…chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Eastern MD…deputy chief of the General Staff.
General-Major Dmitriy Kovalenko…??…former commander, 36th CAA (2015-2017)…deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet for Ground and Coastal Troops.
General-Colonel Sergey Kuralenko…59…former commander, 49th CAA (2011-2012) and 6th CAA (2013-2015)…deputy commander of the Western MD…deputy commander and commander of Russian group of troops in Syria…chief of staff, first deputy commander, Eastern MD…chief of the Main Military Police Directorate, RF MOD.
General-Colonel Sergey Kuzovlev…54…former commander, 20th CAA (2015-2016), 58th CAA (2016-2017), 8th CAA (2017-2019)…chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Southern MD…commander of Russian group of troops in Syria.
Almost three years since the last look. Eight of 12 commanders have been replaced in that span. Four holdovers plus one have been in place for two or three years. The remaining seven were appointed sometime in 2020.
The current rundown of armies, headquarters, MD/OSK, and commanders is:
Army command is a significant milestone. These officers have moved from large tactical formations to the operational level of command. They have (or will receive) pogony with two stars and assignment to at least one higher post.
They are men of the early 1970s. Only three — Sanchik, Sychevoy, and Ryzhkov — were born in the late 1960s. Yershov and Berdnikov are the youngest at 46 and 47 respectively. Sanchik and Ryzhkov the oldest at 55 and 53.
All spent time as chief of staff, first deputy commander of an army before getting an army command of their own. Rezantsev and Ryzhkov are on their second army commands. Rezantsev commanded the 41st and 49th; Ryzhkov the 58th and 41st.
Their experience of war looks like this:
Handicapping the prospects of these generals is difficult except to say that relative youth provides more chances for career advancement.
More enlightening is what happens when they move beyond the army level of command. Next we’ll look at what’s become of their predecessors.
Along with General-Colonel Kartapolov’s retirement to take his seat in the new Duma for United Russia, TASS announced a number of leadership changes in the navy. The news agency cited an as-yet unpublished presidential decree.
Baltic Fleet commander Admiral Aleksandr Nosatov is the new chief of the Navy Main Staff, First Deputy CINC of the Navy. His predecessor Admiral Vitko was retired just after turning 60. 58-year-old Nosatov became Baltic Fleet commander when Putin wiped its leadership slate clean for corruption and providing false status reports in 2016. Nosatov apparently righted the fleet to the president’s satisfaction. He served his early years in the Pacific Fleet’s surface forces.
Vice-Admiral Viktor Liina took Nosatov’s place in the Baltic Fleet.
Other navy changes are in the final paragraph of the TASS report.
MOSCOW, 5 October. /TASS/. Deputy head of the Russian military department Andrey Kartapolov has been dismissed from military service in connection with his election as a deputy of the State Duma, and a number of cadre changes in the Navy were also effected, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has stated.
“By presidential decree, Deputy Defense Minister – Chief of the Main Military-Political Directorate of the RF Armed Forces General-Colonel Kartapolov Andrey Valeryevich was relieved of duty and dismissed from military service in connection with his election as a State Duma deputy,” Shoygu said at a video conference on Tuesday.
He stated that by decree of the head of state “Admiral Vitko Aleksandr Viktorovich, chief of the Main Staff – First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Navy was relieved of duty and dismissed from military service.”
The minister expressed gratitude to both military leaders “for the high professionalism, responsibility and diligence exhibited by them in the fulfillment of their service obligations.”
According to Shoygu’s statement, by this decree of the head of state Admiral Aleksandr Nosatov was appointed chief of the Main Staff – First Deputy CINC of the Navy, Vice-Admiral Viktor Liina replaced him as commander of the Baltic Fleet.
The minister announced that Rear-Admiral Vladimir Vorobyev was appointed deputy chief of the General Staff; Rear-Admiral Konstantin Kabantsov chief of staff – first deputy commander of the Northern Fleet; Vice-Admiral Sergey Pinchuk chief of staff – first deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet; Vice-Admiral Arkadiy Romanov deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet.
In mid-July, Sergey Shoygu declared the Russian Army to be the world’s most modern. Over eight or nine years, he said, the armed forces have cardinally changed their composition.
Most observers won’t confuse “modern” with adjectives like “good” or “best” and descriptions like “most capable” or “most effective.”
Such assessments depend on a multitude of other factors including manpower, training, employment, etc. They require a hard look at whether recently-procured systems are the right ones. The ones needed for the next war.
Modern also implies and necessitates serious investment in maintenance, upkeep, and more updating and modification down the road. A continuing commitment to stay modern.
But, when all is said and done, modern is better than the alternative.
Aleksandr Golts looks at how Russia’s Defense Ministry has gotten (or is getting) modern, what it means, and what it costs in a recent piece for Republic.ru (paywalled).
Golts notes that Shoygu could have claimed 120 percent modern and no one could dispute him given that only the MOD possesses the data. A good bit of Russia’s “modern” equipment, he writes, consists of venerable but modernized weapons systems like the Su-24 and T-72.
He asks why Russia’s OPK isn’t thriving while pumping out all these modern arms. Put simply the answer is the Putin regime’s unwillingness to pay what they really cost (like gold Golts says) and giving defense industries just enough financing and bailouts for them to limp along. He updates Yuriy Borisov’s previous statements about more than 2 trillion rubles ($27 billion) in total OPK debt.
Lastly, Golts explains the failure to launch new weapons like the Su-57 into series production is due to the inability to get multitudinous subsystems, components, and materials needed for final assembly at KnAAPO. Paying what those parts actually cost inevitably raises the MOD’s final purchase price.
It’s worth remembering that truly independent Russian military journalists of Golts’ caliber — not afraid to write and speak about issues that should make the regime uncomfortable — are an increasingly endangered species.
Below is a moderately cleaned up Google Translate translation.
How much Shoygu’s boasting costs.
“Modern weapons,” which the bosses are so proud of, cost the country as much as if they were made of gold
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu bragged about stuff. Speaking in Rostov-na-Donu before employees of [Russia’s] largest helicopter plant Rosvertol, the military department’s head said something sensational: “Today everyone – some angrily, some approvingly – understands and says the Russian Army has more than 70%, or if we put it precisely, almost 71% modern armaments and equipment. This is the highest percentage among all world armies.” With two months left until the Duma elections, and Shoygu in the federal “five” of the ruling party and, it can’t be excluded, planning to continue his career in some higher position, such boasting looks excusable. Before elections, they certainly lie no less than in war and in hunting.
Competing with yourself
But the statement that our army is not only one of the most advanced armies in the world (this has already been stated more than once), but that it even surpasses them, requires at a minimum clarifications. First of all, we note that Russia surely wins a competition with itself. Such a criterion as the percentage of modern weapons exists in the official documents of only the Russian military department. For the armed forces of the United States, like the armies of most other states, it would look meaningless at least. There, overseas, military equipment lives a full and very long period of time. Once put into service, the tank and aircraft consistently — stage by stage, cycle by cycle — undergo scheduled repairs and modernization, remaining in service for decades. Here you can recall the F-15 aircraft (adopted in 1976, will remain in the inventory until 2025), the F-16 (transferred to the armed forces in 1978, will serve until 2025), the Abrams tank (in service from 1980, there are no plans to replace it) and the Patriot air defense system (entered service in 1982, serves at the present time). If it had occurred to anyone to calculate the percentage of “modern” weapons in the American armed forces, it would most likely be steady.
Russia, on the other hand, introduced this indicator [“modern”] due to very specific circumstances. During 15–20 years (from the beginning of the 1990s to the mid-late 2000s), the Russian military’s armament inventory was not only not updated or modernized. The equipment was not even repaired or maintained in proper condition. In 2008, during the war with Georgia (the war that became the moment of truth for the Kremlin), almost half of the tanks and infantry fighting vehicles urgently taken from storage bases simply broke down and did not reach the border. It was already impossible to bring most of this equipment into operation. As a result, the concept of “modern equipment” was invented, which today safely includes both recently developed Su-57 fighters and Armata tanks, as well as the modernized Su-24 and T-72, which have been in service for almost half a century.
It should also be noted that the existing system of secrecy and the monopolization of information by the military department excludes any possibility of verifying the victorious reports of General Shoygu. The only exception is strategic nuclear forces, data on the composition of which Moscow regularly provides, fulfilling its obligations under the START Treaty (there is a high rate of “modern weapons” — 83% — due to the fact that Russia spends, according to experts, over 20% of its entire military budget on nuclear weapons). As for the general-purpose forces, Sergey Shoygu can draw any indicator of the availability of modern weapons — at least 70, at least 120% — it is impossible to verify this.
OPK in debt
But if we take the minister’s words on faith, it turns out that the successes in the rearmament of the Russian army are much more significant than those of the U.S. armed forces (whose military budget is more than 10 times higher than the Russian one) and of the Chinese army (which spends at least four times more on military purposes than Russia). But if so the the military-industrial complex (OPK), which fulfills the state defense order so remarkably, should flourish. However, it’s never happened. In 2019, even before all the covid lockdowns and ensuing economic losses, Deputy Prime Minister for the defense sector Yuriy Borisov shocked the expert community, announcing that about 2 trillion rubles of debt was hanging over enterprises of the defense-industrial complex. Moreover, he confirmed “the main body of the credits will never be repaid.” In fact, he talked about the inability even to pay interest on loans. Defense enterprises spent about 200 billion rubles on interest payments, according to Borisov. “This figure beats with the planned profits of the defense industry enterprises, it turns out to be such a paradox. I cite an example from real life all the time: we boil water, drink and refill. That is, there is practically no opportunity to rely on internal sources, on the most effective sources, on our own funds,” Borisov complained. Previously, he compared the work of the military industry with exercising on a stationary bike: no matter how much you push on the pedals, you still won’t get anywhere.
According to media reports, more than 10% of defense industry enterprises (140 out of 1319) are approaching bankruptcy. The only thing that the state can offer is early repayment of loans at the expense of the budget. In 2016, 800 billion of budget rubles were spent on this, in 2017 – another 200 billion. At the same time, the debt burden did not decrease in a remarkable way, but grew. In 2020, Yuriy Borisov proposed to write off the debts of defense enterprises already by 600-700 billion rubles. And he managed to convince Putin of the need for this. According to Borisov, in 2020 “350 billion rubles of ‘toxic’ loans were written off through additional capitalization of enterprises. Another 260 billion rubles were restructured, and there is still a 150 billion ruble reserve.”
So the state twice (once through the allocation of funds for production, the second time through the write-off of loans) financed the manufacture of “modern weapons”, which Sergey Shoygu boasts. Do you think that after that there was finally financial prosperity? Not at all. At the end of last year, as reported by the Vedomosti newspaper, it was decided to again finance the implementation of the state defense order with bank loans, although initially it was proposed to do this through the federal treasury, that is, to transfer money directly from the state budget to the defense industry enterprises. Most likely, this is due to the fact that the state is resolutely unwilling to abandon ambitious rearmament programs, despite the fact that the necessary funds are no longer there. It is planned to attract 360 billion rubles of loans in three years to fulfill the state defense order. That is, there is a continuation of the vicious practice of the past decade, when enterprises disrupted production deadlines, and with them the deadlines for paying debts, and finally got entangled in the endless payment of interest.
Russian defense sector with Soviet problems
I’d venture that the source of the problem is the archaic system of the OPK. With the blessing of Vladimir Putin in the mid-2000s, Sergey Ivanov drove military-industrial enterprises into a dozen and a half vertically integrated industrial corporations, which were a caricature of the famous nine Soviet defense-industrial ministries. They quite successfully inherited all the vices of Soviet bureaucracy, endless approvals, corruption, and unwillingness to take responsibility. But, fortunately or unfortunately, they could no longer inherit the production system. Because of its absence. In the Soviet Union, only final assembly plants were considered defense. And numerous components (in the Su-27, for example, up to 1,500) were manufactured at civilian enterprises, each of which had a so-called mobilization task. It had nothing to do with the economy. The cost of producing military products [those components] was actually included in the cost of civilian goods, which was reflected in their quantity (remember the eternal Soviet deficit) and their quality. To create at least the appearance of profitability, the all-powerful Gosplan [State Planning Committee] artificially balanced the prices of civilian goods and weapons. It is no coincidence that now from OPK managers it’s possible to hear proposals for the revival of Gosplan.
In the meantime, even under the threat of criminal punishment, the state has failed to force owners of private enterprises to make components for the OPK at a loss. Indeed, for the production of a limited number of particular parts, it is necessary to maintain separate production lines (the military has completely different requirements for quality and precision) and extra workers. As a result, the military industry is doomed to produce components at final assembly plants. Only this can explain the simply snail-like pace of armaments production which has been declared serial.
So, serial deliveries of the fifth generation Su-57 fighter were supposed to begin in 2016. In reality, the first aircraft was manufactured by the end of 2019, but it crashed during a test flight. After that, exactly one year passed before the next “serial” fighter was transferred to the Aerospace Forces. The head of the United Aircraft Building Company, Yuriy Slyusar, promised Vladimir Putin to deliver as many as four aircraft this year. The same story with serial production of the newest tank “Armata.” It was planned to produce more than two thousand tanks by 2020. Then they started talking about only a hundred tanks. Now they promise to start serial production in 2022, but they don’t specify the size of the series. It’s no secret that serial production is characterized by a sharp reduction in the cost of production. After all, the product, roughly speaking, is assembled from a set of standard assemblies and parts. Nothing needs to be “adjusted” and “customized” any longer. However, this isn’t seen at all in the production of “Armata” (and they specify clearly reduced prices for the Su-57). The approximate cost of the tank has increased from 250 million rubles to 450 million rubles per unit.
On July 20, the international air show MAKS-2021 will open in Zhukovskiy near Moscow. Vladimir Putin promised to attend. Probably, on this day we will hear a lot of praise about the successes of our OPK, including, of course, the rearmament of the army. However, one must remember: all these “modern weapons”, of which the authorities are so proud, cost the country like they were made of gold.
The Ivanovo-based 217th Parachute Regiment of VDV’s 98th Airborne Division is reportedly taking delivery of the eleventh battalion set of new armor today, according to local media.
Interfaks-AVN reports the 98th VDD will get 31 BMD-4M Sadovnitsa and six BTR-MDM Rakushka (shown above).
Introduction of the new armored vehicles looks like this (click image):
At the current pace, VDV seems likely to get one or two more battalion sets before the end of 2021.
Usually less than 40 armored vehicles (mostly BMD-4M), these eleven battalion sets represent about 400 new pieces of equipment so far.
Deliveries aren’t likely to end soon. A fully new armor inventory for the VDV probably means a total of 1,200 new vehicles. So maybe another 20 battalion sets with 800 vehicles. But the exact endpoint for new airborne armor procurement hasn’t been publicized.
The BMD-4M and BTR-MDM are big development and production undertakings that started before 2010 and haven’t proceeded quickly or smoothly, all Shoygu’s braggadocio about RF MOD rearmament notwithstanding.
Putin signed out promotions on June 11. Twenty-three for MOD officers — three three-stars, eight two-stars, and 12 one-stars.
The president’s praetorians — Rosgvardiya — got four one-star promotions.
For the MOD, Commander of Air and Missile Defense Troops, Deputy CINC of the VKS, Yuriy Grekhov and the commander of Russian troops in Syria, Aleksandr Chayko became general-colonels.
Not yet 50, Chayko commanded the 1st TA and 20th CAA, was chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Eastern MD, and served a stint on the General Staff. He will be competitive for the next military district command that opens up.
Commander of the Black Sea Fleet Igor Osipov made admiral. He might be the next commander of the Pacific Fleet when Avakyants retires.
A surface commander, he’s just 48. Besides his current fleet command, he was commander of the Caspian Flotilla, chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet, and served a tour with the General Staff.
The new general-lieutenants include Deputy Commander of the 8th CAA Gennadiy Anashkin, Commander of the 4th Air Forces and Air Defense Army Nikolay Gostev, and Commander of the 58th CAA Mikhail Zusko.
Zusko became a general-major at 41, but waited eight years for his second star. Nevertheless, an officer to watch.
Chief nuclear weapons custodian Igor Kolesnikov of the 12th Main Directorate got a second star. That’s the customary terminal rank for this specialist post.
Long unidentified in a position, Yuriy Zhigarlovskiy took a second star and surfaced as Chief of the 1st Directorate, Main Operations Directorate, General Staff. The 1st is probably has responsibility for strategic assessments and global threat forecasting.
Military Academy of the General Staff Deputy Chief for Scientific Work Aleksandr Serzhantov became a general-lieutenant at age 60 after eight years as a one-star.
Zabit Kheirbekov, chief of MTO for Aerospace Forces, got a second star as did Andrey Tsygankov, first deputy chief of the recently recreated Main Military-Political Directorate.
New one-stars include:
Chief of the helicopter training school at Syzran
Chief of 14th Main Communications Center of the General Staff
Commander of 3rd Air Defense Division
Chief of Air Forces and Air Defense Directorate, Central MD
Deputy chief of Radiological, Chemical, Biological Defense Troops
Chief of staff, first deputy chief of the 49th CAA
Chief of staff, first deputy chief of the VKS 15th Special Designation Army (missile launch warning and space tracking)
Chief of the Eastern MD’s Organization-Mobilization Directorate
Chief of the Southern MD’s armor service
Commander of the Baltic Naval Base
Deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet for MTO
Only one promotee couldn’t be identified in his current post.