Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated a range of staff reshuffles in the security ministries on Monday. General of the Army Anatoly Kvashnin, Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Defense Minister, was replaced with Colonel-General Yury Baluyevsky. Military analysts predicted this castle move long ago. A tragedy in Ingushetia on June 21-22 when a large group of guerrillas killed many servicemen of the federal forces was a formal cause of the dismissal. The president signed a decree to dismiss General of the Army Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, Commander-in-Chief of the Interior Troops, Colonel-General Mikhail Labunets, commander of the North-Caucasian district of the Interior Troops, and Colonel-General Anatoly Yezhkov, deputy director of the FSB in charge of the North-Caucasian region. The president also replaced the command of the North-Caucasian and Trans-Volga-Ural military district. General of the Army Vladimir Boldyrev was appointed as commander of the Trans-Volga-Ural military district.
However, Kvashnin is the least-responsible person for the tragedy in Ingushetia. Firstly, he commanded a military exercise in the Far East when the incursion happened. Secondly, the operation in the Northern Caucasus is controlled by the Interior Ministry. In other words, it’s the interior minister who is responsible for the tragedy. However, the president commissioned him to investigate the tragic incident. Judging from staff reshuffles, the interior minister found scapegoats in other security ministries.
In the meantime, some officers of the Central Staff of the Interior Troops stated on condition of anonymity that Tikhomirov’s dismissal is linked with a personal conflict with Interior Minister Nurgaliev; not failures of the Chechen campaign. As is known, Tikhomirov promoted an idea of transforming the Interior Troops into the National Guard, which would be controlled by the president. Tikhomirov served in the Northern Caucasus for a long time. He was considered as Kvashnin’s protege. Meanwhile, Kvashnin fell in disgrace, and no one could support General Tikhomirov. It should be noted that servicemen of the Interior Troops respected the general. Financing of the Interior Troops stabilized precisely under Tikhomirov.
The president intends to reinforce the Interior Troops with officers of the Defense Ministry. It is supposed that Tikhomirov will be replaced with one of incumbent commanders of military districts, who participated in Chechen campaigns. General of the Army Yury Yakubov, commander of the Far Eastern military district, is the most prospective candidate.
It’s another question how efficiently army officers will be able to command the Interior Troops. This is a specific branch of the army, and it takes time to learn all peculiarities.
Sergei Ivanov stated in an interview with journalists after he and Yury Baluyevsky met with the president: “The point is that a very difficult phase of the development of the Armed Forces has ended. In my opinion and in the opinion of the High Commander-in-Chief, the General Staff should focus on the prospects of the development of the Armed Forces and think about prospective wars; not about daily routine. Yury Baluyevsky has enough experience and will to do this.”
In the meantime, not all observers are satisfied with such explanation. He is a staff officer. At the same time, the chief of the General Staff needs experience in commanding big contingents. Baluyevsky has never commanded full-scale exercises. This was Kvashnin’s task – he organized a new military control system in hot spots, including Chechnya.
At present no one knows how the military organization of the country will work and who will be in charge of issues linked with strategic security of the country.
The president met with Anatoly Kvashnin and thanked him for his performance. He decorated the general with an order for services to the fatherland. In the meantime, Anatoly Kvashnin rejected proposals to work in the security structures, and resigned from the Armed Forces. To all appearances, he feels hurt…
In other words, staff reshuffles in the security structures are linked with new tasks, which the president and the defense minister set in the military construction sector. Cuts to the numbers of officers of central departments, reorganization of central departments and strict centralization of powers are a background against which staff reshuffles take place. The question is if all these staff reshuffles are useful.