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Pavel Grachev

Pavel Grachev was regarded by army colleagues as a mediocrity whose rise to high office was undeserved. Despite much talk, General Pavel Grachev's military reforms were without solid content, specific direction or apparent implementation. By the time of the war in Chechnya he had become a hate figure following revelations of financial corruption while the army was pulling out of the former East Germany, and the murder of Dmitri Kholodov, one of the journalists who exposed the scandal, in October 1994. Grachev acquired the nickname “Pasha Mercedes”.

Pavel Sergeyevich Grachev was born on January 1 1948 near the central Russian town of Tula. In 1969, he graduated from the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School. In 1981, after graduating from the Frunze Military Academy, he was sent to Afghanistan, where he served as the deputy commander and then commander of the 345th Guards Airborne Regiment. From 1983 to 1985 he served in the USSR. In 1985, he was sent back to Afghanistan. In 1988, Grachev was awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union "for executing of combat missions with minimal casualties." Grachev returned from Afghanistan with the rank of major general. After graduating from the Academy of the General Staff in 1990, he was appointed the first deputy commander of the airborne troops of the USSR. At the end of December of the same year, he chaired the airborne forces.

In December 1990 Grachev was appointed commander of the Soviet paratroops and, during the break-up of the Soviet Union the following year served, briefly, as the Soviet Union’s First Deputy Minister of Defence. He became Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation in May 1992.

Grachev’s strongest card was loyalty to Yeltsin. In August 1991, during the abortive coup by Kremlin hardliners, Grachev, then Airborne Troops Commander, was ordered to storm the Russian parliament building, where Yeltsin was holed up. Instead, he defected to Yeltsin’s side, inspiring others to do the same. In October 1993 Grachev, by then Defence Minister, again came to Yeltsin’s rescue by ordering his tanks to fire on the parliament building, occupied by rebels attempting to overthrow the government.

There is conflicting evidence on Grachev's role during the August 1991 coup. Grachev's testimony confirms earlier assertions by coup conspirator Kryuchkov and others that Grachev was involved in coup planning.

The list of coup planners included Pavel Grachev, later the current Russian Defense Minister, then head of the airborne forces. Grachev testified that he participated with a group of KGB officials in a pre-coup planning session on 5 August 1991 (two weeks before the coup) and another session on August 16. On the 20th (the day after the emergency was announced), when Achalov met with airborne commander Pavel Grachev (now Russian Defense Minister), MVD first deputy Boris Gromov (now Russian Deputy Defense Minister), and key KGB officials to craft a plan to attack the Russian White House. Grachev himself later testified that he thought the operation a "dubious idea," but "I kept my opinion to myself."

To be sure, some top level commanders had strong reservations about the entire operation. Several - including Air Force chief Shaposhnikov and airborne troops commander Grachev - began their own private negotiations with Yeltsin and the White House defenders, promising to defy orders in the event Yazov ordered an assault on the White House.

On the night of 20/21 August, Yazov - upon hearing a report from Deputy Defense Minister Achalov on the size of the crowds defending the White House - heeded the advice of Shaposhnikov and ordered the troops to halt. The following morning, Yazov called Kryuchkov to tell him he was "withdrawing from these games," then convened a meeting of the Defense Ministry Collegium that adopted a decision to withdraw the troops from Moscow. The coup was over.

The Russian high command showed even less enthusiasm for involvement in political struggles than its Soviet predecessor. When an angry Yeltsin challenged the legislature in December 1992, Defense Minister Grachev (a close Yeltsin crony) declined to support his boss. Similarly, when Yeltsin attempted to bypass the legislature in March 1993 and only narrowly escaped impeachment, Grachev, like KGB chief Barannikov and MVD chief Yerin, joined virtually all the rest of Yeltsin's cabinet in proclaiming fealty to the Constitution Yeltsin was trying to overturn.

Despite the Defense Ministry's attempts to stay out of political struggles, military forces became involved in Yeltsin's third (and ultimately successful) attempt at destroying the old legislature. Further assurances of military loyalty came on 12 September, when Yeltsin met with his "closest comrades" - Grachev, Internal Minister Yerin, acting Security Minister Golushko, and Foreign Minister Kozyrev - to inform them of his plans. According to Yeltsin, Grachev, convinced "that this Supreme Soviet should have been closed down long ago," had frequently tried to persuade Yeltsin to take a tougher stance. Grachev, along with the other participants in the meeting, supported Yeltsin.

However, in the tense standoff that followed, with Vice President Rutskoy and the legislature holed up defiantly in the Russian White House, Defense Minister Grachev made it clear that the army would attempt to remain neutral. This decision reflected a strong consensus within the top Defense Ministry leadership. According to several accounts, the Defense Ministry Collegium convened for an emergency meeting on 22 September to decide whom the military would support in the conflict between the President and the Supreme Soviet. The Collegium resolved unanimously to observe complete neutrality. Grachev despite his earlier assurances of military backing to Yeltsin - reportedly supported this decision. It was only after riots broke out in Moscow on 03 October that Defense Ministry leaders agreed to employ Defense Ministry forces to attack the White House.

Even after military leaders acceded to a plan for storming the White House (proposed by one of the presidential guards officers), Grachev - apparently uncertain as to whether Yeltsin would prevail in the struggle - intervened to ask Yeltsin for specific orders to use tanks, an intervention that earned him a sharp rebuke by Chemomyrdin. There are several possible explanations for Grachev's reluctance to commit troops. One explanation is that Grachev (and other members of the high command) were not sure Yeltsin would emerge victorious.

Grachev was to some degree a captive of the other members of the Defense Ministry Collegium, some of whom harbored sympathy for Rutskoy and the conservative parliament. There were serious questions about the allegiance of at least five top generals: Air Forces commander Petr Deynekin, Deputy Defense Minister Mironov, Chief of the General Staff Kolesnikov, Deputy Defense Minister Gromov, and Ground Forces Commander Semenov. Several sources accused these generals of maintaining contact with anti-Yeltsin forces.

The officer corps was particularly embittered by the October events. In Grachev's words, "The military still feels bitterness because it was forced to help solve the problems created by political confrontation."

To meet Yeltsin's reform goals, his Defense Minister, General of the Army Pavel Grachev issued a broad, three-stage reform plan in late 1992.8 The plan sought to create mobile forces and included a series of restructuring and downsizing initiatives, which, in part, aimed to professionalize the Army. To this end, Grachev's plan sought to incrementally fill the enlisted and noncommissioned officer ranks with contract volunteers. His goal was to man the force with 50 percent contract personnel by the end of the decade. The Defense Minister's plan met with initial success. The Army claimed some 90,000 contract volunteers in the ranks by 1994. But just as Grachev was issuing ambitious reform plans that sought to achieve a more professional force, economic reality hit. In 1993, the new Russian Defense Ministry received only half the budget it requested.

The Russian Ministry of Defence under General Pavel Grachev took on the task of writing a military doctrine for Russia. What was noteworthy about this process was the circumscribed role of the General Staff and the willingness of active duty and retired military officers to address both military-political and military-technical aspects of threat perceptions. Beginning with a special issue of Military Thought in June 1992 devoted to the debate on military doctrine and concluding with the publication of the military doctrine as approved by Security Council in November 1993, the debate over doctrine and threat perceptions became linked.

The debate raised such issues as the use of the armed forces to protect Russian minorities in the near abroad and addressed the need to turn the Commonwealth of Independent States into a unified security system under Russian leadership by building upon the mutual security treaty of 15 May 1992 signed by Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The promulgation of the military doctrine only one month after the storming of the Moscow White House provided a specific context to this document of the transition period. The doctrine addressed both military-political and military-technical aspects of the threat. It contained a brief introduction, sections on the political, military, military-technical and economic bases of doctrine, and a brief concluding section.

This division into sections marked a break with the Soviet bifurcation into military-political and military-technical parts by recasting the second section to include a discussion of economic factors associated with marketization and privatization. The introduction made three salient points.

First it presented the doctrine as ‘a component part of the Conception of security of the Russian Federation ... and a document of the transition period’. Moreover, it defined the transition period as one marked by three mutually-interdependent processes: the establishment of the Russian state structure, the execution of democratic reforms in Russia, and the coming together of a new system of international relations.

Second, it defined the content of military doctrine in a manner that stressed war prevention and defence of vital national interests: "This is a system of officially adopted state views on the prevention of wars and armed conflicts, on military construction, on the preparation of the country for defence, on the organization of counter-actions to threats to the military security of the state, on the use of the armed forces and other troops of the Russian Federation for the protection of the vital interests of the Russian Federation."

Third, the introduction asserted that Russian vital interests posed no threat to other states and spoke of the need for ‘coordinating measures of a political, economic, legal and military nature with the participation of all organs of state power and administration, of social formations and citizens of the Russian Federation’.

In an ostensible effort to impose order on the free-wheeling, uncoordinated, multi-participant "legal" arms market that developed on the ruins of the USSR, President Yeltsin on 18 November 1993 signed an edict that created the state company "Rosvooruzheniye" [a contraction that means "armaments"].

The edict read in part: "In order to provide for a state monopoly on exports and imports of arms and military equipment for the Russian Federation, Oboroneksport, Spetsvneshteknika, and the GUSK [Main Directorate of Special Contacts] shall be withdrawn from the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and merged into the Rosvooruzheniye company and placed under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation Government."

On the surface, this move seemed a well-grounded attempt to regain control over an important source of state revenue. However, because of the huge hard-currency profits involved, key officials, politicians, bureaucrats, middlemen, lobbyists, and others made intense efforts to associate themselves with the arms import-export business. Lieutenant General Viktor Samoylov, a Grachev supporter and long-time member of the Defense Ministry's Main Cadres Directorate with no experience in arms sales, was named director.

He was in the center of the scandal connected with the acquisition of business-class vehicles for the needs of the Ministry of Defense in Germany. After the scandal, which received media coverage, he was nicknamed Pasha-Mercedes.

Military reform remained a dead letter during his tenure and by late 1994 the armed forces were once again being used to restore internal order and to quash Chechen separatism.

Grachev’s own star began to set with the military setbacks in Chechnya that began in January 1995 and continued into the summer of 1996. Grachev had preserved skeleton divisions at the price of combat readiness. The ill-trained, unpaid, starving army that stumbled into and out of Chechnya was the result. From headquarters in Mozdok, the general personally supervised the combat actions of the Russian army in Chechnya. After several failed offensive operations in Grozny, he returned to Moscow. The general public was outraged about Grachev's remarks of "eighteen-year-old young men dying for Russia with a smile."

Grachev consistently took a hard-line position against NATO enlargement, threatening countermeasures and the creation of an anti-NATO bloc. Relations between the Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry were smoother under Defense Minister Igor Rodionov than they were under Rodionov's predecessor, Pavel Grachev. In contrast to Grachev, Rodionov has concentrated more heavily on military and defense issues, particularly military reform, and not engaged in the type of freelancing on foreign policy that Grachev did. Grachev also hinted at a possible alliance with Beijing in response to NATO enlargement.

Grachev politicized the Ministry of Defense at Yeltsin's order, subjecting Russian regular forces to Yeltsin's demand for active participation in partisan politics. In an effort to influence the Duma's position on defense issues and increase its allocation for defense spending, Grachev encouraged active-duty officers to stand for election in the 1995 Duma elections. Some 188 military officers ran for office, many with the avowed purpose of lobbying for funds. While only 2 of the 188 candidates actually won office, Grachev's effort to encourage officers to run for office underscores the degree to which he was willing to politicize the military.

Grachev was a competent combat general, but he proved to be a weak and inept defense minister. Despite a good deal of fanfare and many promises, he failed to implement a program of serious military reform. He was also embroiled in a series of scandals involving corruption that severely tarnished his image. In addition, he was seen as largely responsible for the Russian army's poor performance in Chechnya.

Grachev survived largely because of his loyalty and close ties to Yeltsin. However, beginning in late 1994 Yeltsin began to show increasing signs of dissatisfaction with Grachev's performance. Even though the Army was becoming more professional in its composition, its actual performance in the first Chechen campaign proved to be abysmal. These failures, along with serious allegations of corruption and political expediency, led to Grachev's ouster in June 1996, just prior to Russia's first presidential election.

Following the resignation, Grachev worked for Rosvooruzheniye and Rosoboronexport defense companies. He also served as an adviser to the general director of the Omsk Manufacturing Association named after Popov.

Russia's former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, born January 1 1948, died September 23 2012. The cause of death of Grachev, remained a mystery. According to unofficial reports, the 64-year-old general died at Vishnevsky's Hospital after a stroke. It was also said that the general was suffering from an incurable disease.

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Page last modified: 16-01-2016 18:15:44 ZULU