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2004 - Minister of Defense vs Chief of the General Staff

In January 2004 a concluding conference of members of the Academy of Military Sciences (AVN) was conducted at the Defense Ministry.At the conference, Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that the functions of the General Staff and the Defense Ministry wouldn't be divided any further. Ivanov reminded the participants that the Defense Ministry, rather than the General Staff remained the main managing security structure in the country. At the same time he noted that the General Staff is overloaded with administrative and management functions and needs to be reformed, under the guidance and control of the Defense Ministry alone.

On 11 June 2004 the Russian Duma passed a law that gave Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov operational control of the army. The lower house of parliament deleted most of the responsibilities of the General Staff, headed by Army General Anatolii Kvashnin. Legislators struck out a line in the federal legislation stating that they "represent the main organ of the operational command of the armed forces of the Russian Federation." This duty would now lie with the Defense Ministry. The move appeared to strengthen civilian control of the military, but in real life, this did not change much.

Stripping the General Staff of virtually all of its administrative capabilities and transferring them to the MOD effectively centralized control in that ministry. In August 2004 Putin signed a classified decree that confirmed the ministry as the sole elaborator and implementer of defense policy.

The Defense Ministry and the General Staff had battled for much of the previous decade over control of Russian military operations and army financing. Ivanov managed to implement the idea of establishing a common arms procurement service for all security and law enforcement agencies. He formulated the parameters for state arms procurement to 2015, tying the need to purchase specific types of weaponry to the Armed Forces Development Concept and perceived threats to Russia's security. All this was set out in the Defense Ministry's White Book: "Current Objectives for Armed Forces Development."

The result of these changes appeared to be that the once-powerful General Staff was largely cut out of the military power structure, having been relegated by reform legislation to specifically military matters, such as intelligence and operations.

In its place was a 10,000-person strong central apparatus staff that reported directly to Ivanov. The previous version of the law had stated that the supervision of the armed forces was carried out by the minister of defense through the Ministry of Defense "and the General Staff, which is the main organ of operational command of the Russian Federation Armed Forces." This has been changed to take out the General Staff and the final phrase.

But Major General Pavel Zolotarev, former Chief of the General Staff's Information and Analysis Center, charged that despite the changes and reshuffling that were passed off as reform, work continued as before - including in the General Staff.

In September 2008 it was reported that an upcoming large-scale reshuffle of the Russian General Staff was aimed at optimizing the number of officers and generals serving at central headquarters in Moscow. Up to 30% of the General Staff's personnel could be either transferred to other posts, including civilian positions, or retired. The General Staff would be reorganized by March 1, 2009. Russia had downsized its Armed Forces from 4.5 million in the Soviet era to about 1.1 million personnel, while staff numbers at central offices have remained almost unchanged, numbering up to 10,500 senior officers and generals.

Future reductions would affect all main directorates and departments, including the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and the Main Operational Directorate. Reduction in the number of directorates and services concerns all the main directorates without exception, including such important ones as the Main Operational Directorate, the Main Intelligence Directorate and the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate.

Such a large-scale downsizing of the Armed Forces' central command body was not seen even in the 1990s when the USSR's Armed Forces were dismantled and the Russian army was being set up. Specifically, the Main Operational Directorate and the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate would be cut by 50 percent. Around 150 officers and generals would be transferred or sacked from each of these directorates. Some structures would grow, while others would become smaller. Not a single one of them would disappear. Some of the names may change.

The benefits of moving responsibilities and tasks performed by the General Staff to the MoD, including subordinating the GRU to the MoD instead of the General Staff, were thought by proponents to improve the effectiveness of the General Staff as an analytical-planning body, not involved in purely organizational work.

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems and formerly head of the Main Department for International Military Cooperation, believed that the plan approved by President Dmitry Medvedev on July 21 could potentially destroy the army, eliminating up to 200,000 officers. In particular, Ivashov challenged the idea that the optimization of the General Staff would improve the combat capabilities of the Russian Army. [Shortly after becoming President, Putin fired Colonel General Ivashov, an ultra-conservative and one of the most vocal critics of Putin's efforts to improve ties with Washington.]

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Page last modified: 08-01-2016 18:57:37 ZULU