Reorganization of the GRU is under way. Will the Foreign Intelligence Service absorb the ELINT capacity?

The most arcane structure in all of the Russian Armed Forces, the GRU of the General Staff, is in the focus of attention. Unconfirmed reports on its dramatic reduction-in-force stirred general public and the military alike. So did the reports (also unconfirmed) that GRU Chief General Valentin Korabelnikov was so enraged by the planned reorganization that he submitted his resignation to the defense minister on several occasions but Anatoly Serdyukov refused to accept it every time.

Is there a kernel of truth in these assumptions?

Some serious changes were initiated in the GRU of the General Staff indeed. A great deal of officers are to be discharged from it (just like from other main directorates of the Defense Ministry). As a matter of fact, optimization will affect GRU structures in the regions as well. Scandals were already fomented by the news that some GRU brigades of special forces (the 67th in the town of Berdsk among them) were earmarked for disbandment.

The situation with disbandment of brigades should have been anticipated. Every military district is supposed to have one GRU brigade. This rule goes back into the Soviet past. Mergers of military districts resulted in a situation where some of them ended up with two brigades such as these. Brigades in the meantime are too bulky to be efficient. Upper echelons of the GRU themselves promote the idea of optimization. It is abolition of some generals’ positions that is the catch because advancement of career is a powerful stimulus for every officer. Even this problem, however, has a solution. With the planned increase of pay, colonels’ dreams of becoming generals will lose some of their allure.

As for the brigade quartered in Berdsk, its officers will be taken care of. Adequate positions with other security structures are offered to each and every one of them, these days. It follows that the scandal over the 67th is but dirty PR, nothing else.

According to the people who know Korabelnikov, he is not a man to challenge his superiors over anything, much less to hand in his resignation in disgust. At the same time, his personal courage is never questioned because he won his golden star of a Hero of Russia in combat. Korabelnikov’s job makes him one of the few select who participate in decision-making. One of such decisions is on the agenda at this point. The matter concerns transfer of some GRU structures to the Foreign Intelligence Service.

These days, the GRU alone deals in ELINT gathering in Russia. Hi-tech intelligence is a costly undertaking, one that is definitely a drain on the military budget. Why not turn it over to the Foreign Intelligence Service indeed?

It is rumored that there is an even more drastic suggestion, namely to make all of the GRU part of the Foreign Intelligence Service. It is allegedly promoted by officers of the top echelons of the GRU. Their motives are quite simple. Pay in the Foreign Intelligence Service is considerably higher than what army intelligence officers take home every month. Merger of the two intelligence services will improve their financial position. As for the special forces, some of them will be turned over to the Ground Forces Main Command, and the rest to the Navy Command.