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Russia’s attack on Ukraine. General Valery Gerasimov, commander-in-chief of the Russian invasion

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The chief of the Russian General Staff, Valeri Gerasimov, will lead a combined group of troops in a “special military operation against Ukraine,” as the Russian authorities call the invasion. Information about the nomination was provided by the Russian Defense Ministry. So far, this position has been held by General Sergey Surovikin. According to experts, imposing a new task on Gerasimov – who is responsible for the entire armed forces – is against the principles of the art of war and is a return to the situation from the beginning of the invasion.

The increase in the command level of the “special military operation” is related to the “expansion of the scale of tasks” and the “necessity to organize closer cooperation between the types of troops”, the independent Russian portal Meduza reported, quoting the statements of the local defense ministry. The portal also reported that General Surovikin, who previously held this position, will be one of Gerasimov’s deputies.

Back to the situation at the beginning of the invasion

General Valery Gerasimov is Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and First Deputy Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu. This means that he is responsible for the entire armed forces, not only for the Ukrainian direction. Also burdening him with the task of commanding the combined Russian troops in Ukraine it is against the rules of the art of war and is a return to the situation at the beginning of the invasion. They talked about it more Polish generals in the text tvn24.pl.

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In 2012, Gerasimov took over the post of chief of staff as one of the main in Russia missile defense specialists. His candidacy was put forward by Shoigu, who – according to the media – wanted a general with combat experience in this position. In 1998-2006, i.e. during the second war in Chechnya, Gerasimov held various command positions in the structures of the North Caucasus Military District, including chief of staff of the 58th Army stationed there.

“The Gerasimov Doctrine”

Gerasimov is a graduate of the Higher Command School of Armored Forces in Kazan (1977), the Academy of Armored Forces (1987) and the Academy of the General Staff (1997). He began his career with service in the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, where he rose to the position of commander of a tank battalion. Then he served in the Baltic Military District. From 1993, he commanded the 144th mechanized division in Tallinn, which in 1994 was transferred to the Smolensk region. Since 1997, he was the first deputy commander of the Moscow Military District.

In 2012, Gerasimov argued that elements of the American missile defense system in Poland and Romania threaten the potential of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. In 2013, his speech at the conference at the Academy of Military Sciences, devoted to the role of non-military methods of warfare, including information and economic methods, asymmetric and indirect actions, and special forces operations, gained publicity. In the West, these theses – actually about hybrid warfare – were called the “Gerasimov doctrine”.

Valery GerasimovMurat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Changes in time of friction over the future of hostilities

Changes in the command of the invasion of Ukraine are taking place at a time when, according to Western commentators, there are ongoing frictions in the Russian Defense Ministry regarding the future of hostilities. Their result was frequent rotation of commanders in charge of combat operations. It is also believed that Russia’s defense ministry is in conflict with a wing of hardline supporters of the war with Ukraine. In this struggle for influence, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the mercenary formation known as the Wagner Group, and the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, clash with the Ministry of Defence. One of these personnel changes was the change of the commander of the Western Group of Russian Forces (ZGW) in Ukraine – it was General Yevgeny Nikiforov, associated with the Wagner Group. According to Ukrainian military intelligence, Nikiforov belongs to the alliance formed by Surovikin and Prigozhin. In turn, the new chief of staff of the Land Forces (the most numerous branch of Russia’s army) has recently been General Aleksander Lapin, who has been sharply criticized by Prigozhin and Kadyrov.

Professor Mark Galeotti, an author of books on Russia and an analyst of Russian politics, commented on Twitter that Putin’s decision to appoint Chief of the General Staff Gerasimov as commander-in-chief of the operation in Ukraine “is significant.” treated as degradation. However, even for Gerasimov, the new position may turn out to be a “poisoned chalice”, because now he will be the one who will bear the pressure for possible defeats at the front, and, as Galeotti speculates, “Putin may again have unrealistic expectations.”

Main photo source: Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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