Leadership: Rolling Over The Russian Generals

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October 16, 2008:  When Russian troops invaded Georgia last August, they did so without the knowledge of the general staff of the armed forces (Stavka). That's because the Stavka was in the midst of moving, and downsizing about 40 percent of their personnel. Normally, the Stavka creates the plans for major military operations. Many senior officers were shocked to discover that the Stavka played no role in the Georgia operation. This lapse is a big deal in Russia, at least among the generals and admirals. .

For more than a century, the plans and operations of the Russian armed forces have been created by the general staff, or Stavka. Last July, president Medvedev ordered a reorganization of the Stavka, something many officers, and civilian military analysts have been urging for some time. But traditionalists are aghast at the loss of thousands of highly skilled (and many high ranking) officers and civilian experts. The exact size of the Stavaka is a state secret, but were talking of a bureaucracy that could have as many as 10,000 people on the payroll.

The decision to downsize the Stavka, and basically ignore it during the Georgia operations (local staffs, or "little stavkas" took care of it), shows that the reformers in the Russian military definitely have the upper hand. Not that reorganizing the Stavka is all that big a deal. The Stavka has always been a planning and "thinking" operation. But since the end of World War II, the Stavka has become bloated and a bit retro. At the time the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, there were already calls for "doing something" about the Stavka.

 


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