Vladimir Putin has signed an order dismissing Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General of the Army Anatoly Kvashnin, first deputy minister of defence. Before that, Vladimir Putin signed a new wording of the law "On Defence," which deprived the General Staff, called the brains of the army, of its function as "the main agency of operational control of the armed forces." Kvashnin lost the right to appeal to the Supreme Commander-President directly, bypassing the defence minister, and was degraded to the post of first deputy of Sergei Ivanov.
Kvashnin is a bright individual with unlimited ambitions, who does not spare himself or others. When he was a young man, a fighting vehicle burst into flames and he rushed into it to save a private disregarding the danger of detonation. Kvashnin never avoided the difficult sides of military service. He took over command in Chechnya in late 1994, when one general failed and another refused to assume the difficult job. However, an operation to storm Grozny in the New Year night of 1995, which he elaborated, ended in a tragedy: more than 350 servicemen were killed only in the 131st Maikop Motorised Brigade.
Uncontrollable drive, the inability and unwillingness to consider the price of success measured in the number of lives were the old trump cards of the Soviet school of military leadership. Anatoly Kvashnin learned his lessons very well and applied them more than once when he commanded a military district and became chief of the General Staff. It was under him and with his energetic involvement that the Main Command of the Land Forces was dissolved and later restored, that the Volga-Urals military district was split and re-integrated, with the headquarters moved from one city to another, and that the Strategic Missile Force was integrated with the Space Forces and the Early Warning System, only to become independent again.
He got away with anything, possibly because in conditions of general decay in the army he did his best to preserve the country's main weapons - the strategic deterrence forces, to create an integrated system of their command, and to place a new missile on combat duty that would ensure Russia's strategic security for at least 30-40 years more.
Kvashnin did not tolerate rivals. The list of victims of his bureaucratic infighting includes Georgy Shpak, commander of the Airborne Force, and Gennady Troshev, commander of the North Caucasian military district. Kvashnin's favourite method is thrust and drive - and a report to the president bypassing his direct superior (defence minister), especially because he could do it by the law "On Defence," which granted equal rights to the chief of the General Staff and the defence minister.
But amendments to the law, which the State Duma adopted without notifying Kvashnin, put a full stop to this practice. Kvashnin has lost. But will the army gain from his departure?
The army has had and still has many problems apart from relations between the Defence Ministry and the General Staff. Though it has been proclaimed more than once that it would be reformed - or has been reformed, the Russian army remains Soviet in the form and essence. The new methods of hostilities and new structures, which the armies of all industrialised countries are developing, have failed to take root in the Russian army.
In particular, the special operations command has not been created to this day, there are no reliable reconnaissance systems, precision-guided weapons and the possibility of quickly delivering troops not by thousands of kilometres but to a small distance but at any time of day and night and in any weather. Neither do we have an ideology and principles of using such troops, including by rallying different troops and resources under single command.
The military claim that the General Staff will at long last stop fighting forleadership in taking defence decisions and will start creating long-term plans of the application of the armed forces in all possible situations. But to be able to do this, it should have new officers and not the ones who graduated from Soviet military schools.