Find a Security Clearance Job!


Main Intelligence Administration (GRU)
Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (GRU)

The Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian army has the overall responsibility for intelligence collection by the military. This includes GRU agents stationed in embassies and military intelligence and reconnaissance units during wartime. The GRU is Russia's premier military intelligence organization that serves the General Staff, By some estimates the GRU is larger than the intelligence organizations of all the United States military services combined. The KGB and the GRU were the two principal Soviet intelligence organizations. The KGB (or Committee for State Security) maintained internal security in the USSR and, as a secret intelligence service, collected intelligence and conducts covert political influence operations (termed "active measures") abroad. The GRU (or Chief Directorate for Intelligence) was the Soviet military intelligence organization and engaged only in foreign intelligence activities.

The Soviets used a single generic term-razvedka-to describe all actions necessary to achieve a better understanding of the enemy. The term razvedka means both intelligence and reconnaissance and, with an appropriate adjectival qualifier, it pertains to every possible means of intelligence collection and analysis. After 1918 the High Command centrally controlled razvedka, and intelligence departments within fronts and armies directed the activities of intelligence chiefs within subordinate divisions.

Front RU's (Intelligence Directorate) and army RO's (Intelligence Department) fielded long-range reconnaissance groups or detachments from front commando brigades at shallower depths, and formations below army level employed short-range razvedka detachments and patrols. All of these activities were coordinated by the GRU and the RU's and RO's in the intelligence chain of command.

Six GRU directorates were responsible for various geographical areas. Each directorate kept notes on different aspects of intelligence- gathering operations, such as reconnaissance, electronic intelligence, information gathering, personnel records, correspondence, reporters, special operations, and money transfers.

Few nations have developed a healthier respect for the relationship between intelligence and warfare than has the Soviet Union. The four years of warfare on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, known by the Soviets as the Great Patriotic War, were unprecedented in scale and intensity. From the commencement of BARBAROSSA on June 22, 1941 to the end of the European War in May 1945, intelligence played a significant role in the course and outcome of operations.

The Soviets acknowledged that serious intelligence failures played a significant role in the outcome of operations during the first two years of war. The Soviets, however, learned from those failures, and, by the summer of 1943, they had created an effective, complex system for intelligence collection and processing. This new system bore fruit in the last two years of war, during which effective Soviet razvedka provided the basis for successful Soviet deception and for operational and strategic victory.

Most Westerners have only a sketchy awareness of that role. The Soviet intelligence failure of June 1941 and the apparent intelligence success at Kursk in 1943 have received attention in numerous works. Yet the appreciation of both has been, at best, superficial, replete with generalizations which have characterized most descriptions of war on the Eastern Front.

Infected with the desire for conquest and controlling the modern world's most massive and multi-faceted foreign intelligence institutions, the KGB and the GRU, the Soviet leadership watched constantly for opportunities, indeed works to create opportunities to strengthen the Soviet Union's world position politically, economically, and militarily relative to the other super power, the United States.

With the dissolution of the USSR at the start of 1992, the GRU became for a time the principal intelligence body of the Main Command of the Commonwealth of Independent States Armed Forces. Following the April 1992 creation of a Russian Ministry of Defense, however, the GRU became Russia's military-intelligence arm.

In recent years there has been a reduction in the total numerical strength of the GRU, including the central apparatus and apparatuses abroad. But this has not had any significant effect on the results of the GRU's work. Structurally, the GRU remains largely unchanged from the Soviet era and reportedly has greater resources for collecting foreign intelligence than the SVR.

The GRU today is a cohesive, highly efficient, and professional military intelligence agency despite widespread budgetary and organizational difficulties facing the rest of the Russian military.

On 24 April 2009 Persident Medvedev dismissed the 63-year old Chief of the GRU, General Valentin Korabelnikov. No official reason was given for the dismissal, but Korabelnikov's impending dismissal had been rumored for months. Korabelnikov was known to be a Soviet-style general who focused the GRU's efforts at countering the perceived threat from NATO, rather than terrorists, separatists, and other, more germane threats to Russia. As a result, the GRU performed poorly during the August 2008 conflict in Georgia.

Korabelnikov also publicly opposed Serdyukov's proposed military reforms, although experts said this was at best a secondary reason for his dismissal. Not much was known about Korabelnikov's replacement, Aleksandr Shlyakhturov, other than he is a career intelligence officer. Experts downplayed the possible effects of Korabelnikov's dismissal on military reform, which took another step forward with the dismissal of 50 generals and colonels who failed a basic skills test.

While Korabelnikov opposed many of Serdyukov's proposed military reforms, and even published his criticisms in a report, experts maintained this was not the main reason for his dismissal. His dissenting views, however, did not endear him to GOR leadership. In a classic turf battle, Korabelnikov and other top GRU officials openly criticized proposals that would have placed GRU special forces brigades under district commands. There was also talk of placing GRU signals intelligence systems under the command of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Some even talked of liquidating the GRU and folding all of its assets into the SVR.

Join the mailing list