L’analisi della Stratfor:
Russia: reforming the GRU
With Russia’s Chechen operations officially wrapped up, the Kremlin has now signaled that it intends to reform the shadowy intelligence agency responsible for success in Chechnya, called the Foreign Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Reforming such a powerful and secretive institution is a bold step, and reveals the Kremlin’s confidence in its ability to reshape the country amid its international resurgence.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev removed Gen. Valentin Korabelnikov from his post as chief of Russia’s Foreign Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU) on April 24 and appointed Alexander Shlyakhturov as Korabelnikov’s replacement. The Kremlin offered no explanation for the personnel shuffle, but STRATFOR sources indicate that it resulted because Korabelnikov stood in the way of the deep reforms the Kremlin is making in the GRU after the formal conclusion of conflict in Chechnya.
Despite being Russia’s largest intelligence service, the GRU has never received as much attention from Western Kremlin-watchers as other agencies have. During the Cold War, the KGB was the group to watch, while post-Cold War era all eyes have followed the FSB and the SVR, the KGB’s successors. Yet the GRU is at least as powerful as the FSB, if not stronger. Not only is it many times bigger than the FSB, with agents pervading every level of Russian military, business and government institutions, it also has a much more extensive reach abroad. While the FSB likes to flaunt its exploits, the GRU prefers to remain in the shadows, with its personnel, training, tactics and intelligence-gathering techniques kept a mystery.
Korabelnikov has headed the agency since 1997, having spent most of his career rising through the agency’s ranks. During his tenure as head of the GRU, Korabelnikov led the intelligence effort responsible for turning the tide in the Russian military’s operations in Chechnya, the restive Muslim territory in the Caucasus that attempted to break from Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Korabelnikov pursued a strategy of dividing and conquering. Using special operation forces and intelligence operatives, the GRU managed to instigate rivalries between the more secular-minded nationalist Chechens and their jihadist-oriented religious fundamentalist brethren. Thus, a Russian-Chechen conflict became a Chechen-Chechen conflict, freeing the Russians to pick the nationalist side and eventually create a rough balance of power under Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is now consolidating his power over the region. Korabelnikov was a driving force behind the Russian military’s winning strategy in Chechnya, key to reining in the critical breakaway region — and therefore freeing Russia up to look after its interests elsewhere.
So far, the Kremlin has hesitated to initiate reform within the GRU because the organization was crucial to the high-stakes struggle in Chechnya: It would not have been prudent for the Kremlin to attempt structural changes in an agency so essential to the war effort. Russian military and intelligence reforms in other areas (such as in the FSB) have been under way for several years as the Kremlin tries to improve the efficiency of organizations that became bloated during the Soviet Union’s final years, and then fell into chaos after the Soviet collapse. These institutional adjustments have coincided with the consolidation of Russian industry and political power. All of these moves are part and parcel of the Kremlin’s master plan of getting Russia’s house in order so it can better project power beyond its borders, reclaiming the old Soviet sphere of influence and driving out potentially threatening Western influences.
Now, however, Moscow has formally declared victory in operations in Chechnya. This makes reforming the GRU both possible and necessary. STRATFOR sources indicate that when the Kremlin began reorganizing the special units that the GRU had built up in Chechnya during the conflict, Korabelnikov resisted, prompting his dismissal. These special operations forces will not be eliminated, but they will be downsized as Moscow shifts its focus.
The focus on reforming the GRU also says something about the Kremlin itself. To attempt full scale reforms of an institution as well-established, as powerful, and as clandestine as the GRU is a mark that the inner circle of Moscow’s power centers are supremely confident of their authority. This confidence is critical especially since the GRU and FSB are bitter rivals whose leaders run the two Kremlin clans underneath Putin. Such decisions are not taken lightly, and the ramifications will be felt far and wide in the Russian military and political establishment. Big changes are coming to the GRU, and they reflect the ones that already have taken place in Russia’s leadership as it revives its international prowess.
Qui, qui e qui le analisi di Pavel Felgenhauer sulla più ampia riforma delle Forze armate russe.