As criticism grows regarding Russia’s handling of the stalled campaign, the Defense Ministry made yet another announcement on Wednesday regarding the realignment of the commanders leading the war in Ukraine.
It stated that Sergey Surovikin, the current commander, would serve as one of Gerasimov’s three deputies and assume overall command of the campaign from General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff.
In October, the Kremlin appointed Surovikin as the overall commander of the so-called “Special Military Operation.”
The announcement doesn’t really shake up the bureaucratic hierarchy. Gerasimov already knew about Surovikin.
Generals are moved from the Front to the Headquarters in a shuffle. From Headquarters to the Front, “Sergey Markov, a Russian television commentator, stated on Telegram on Wednesday.
Both Surovikin and Gerasimov are spared punishment. All of it is a team. Well, of course, there is competition, which always takes place between the leaders.
However, Gerasimov, who has been in charge of the General Staff for more than a decade, is brought closer to direct oversight of the campaign and responsibility for it by the decision. Despite the fact that Gerasimov played a significant role in the planning of the invasion, he appears to have remained at a distance ever since, with only one alleged visit to the campaign’s command in Ukraine, although the Defense Ministry did not confirm this either.
“It is a kind of demotion [for Gerasimov] or at least the most poisoned of chalices,” according to senior associate fellow Mark Galeotti of the Royal United Services Institute. Now it’s on him, and I think Putin has high hopes once more.
Gerasimov has gone weeks without speaking in public, and he was not seen at the Victory Day parade in Moscow last year, which sparked rumors about his position at the time.
He now serves as chief interlocutor with the United States on issues such as military “de-confliction,” in addition to having direct command of the Ukraine campaign.
In November, following the arrival of a Ukrainian air defense missile in Poland, he last spoke with General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It is unclear why the Russian Defense Ministry has taken this action at this time. It stated that there was a “need to organize closer interaction between the branches and arms of the Armed Forces” and that “command and control of groupings of troops” needed more support and effectiveness.
Surovikin, army commander Oleg Salyukov, and Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel-General Aleksey Kim will serve as Gerasimov’s three deputies in the new structure.
In a campaign where various armed forces branches have frequently appeared less than synchronized, the new structure suggests that Gerasimov’s seniority will improve coordination.
The ministry may also be making an effort to tighten control over the campaign, according to some analysts, ahead of a crucial few months in which the remaining reserve force that was mobilized in the fall of 2022 will be deployed after training.