Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) demands success at the front from Valeri Gerasimov.
Guido Fieldsforeign editor
Because of disappointment on the war front, the Kremlin has changed the commander of Russian troops in Ukraine. Valery Gerasimov (67) replaces Sergey Surovikin (56), who was relieved of command after just three months.
Surovikin, who is notorious for his attacks on civilian facilities in Syria and is therefore also known as “General Armageddon”, had increasingly fired at Ukraine with rockets and drones.
Under him, attacks on power plants, oil and gas storage facilities, and other critical infrastructure became an integral part of Russian warfare. But the tactic didn’t work. On the contrary: under him, the Russian army had to accept massive losses.
Awarded as a hero
Now Gerasimov should fix it. The military also enjoys respect from its enemies: The army chief of Ukraine, Valeri Saluschny (49), recently said in an interview with the “Economist” that he grew up with Russian military doctrine and studied Gerasimov’s publications: “I have read everything he wrote. He’s one of the smartest.”
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The 67-year-old is considered the head of hybrid warfare, the so-called “Gerassimov Doctrine”. Military goals should be achieved in combination with other measures such as cyber attacks, information technology, diplomatic, economic and cultural means. An important tool: fake news.
Alongside Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (67), Gerasimov is the man who planned the invasion of Ukraine. In recent years he has also been responsible for organizing the army’s mission in Syria, for which he received the title of “Hero of the Russian Federation”.
He needs a quick success report
At the top of Gerasimov’s to-do list should be the complete capture of Soledar and Bakhmut so that he can spread the word about success in Russia and motivate the soldiers. His ultimate goal will probably be the capture of the capital, Kyiv, and the occupation of the entire Ukraine. At least, that’s what he had aimed for when planning the war.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) does not give Gerasimov much of a chance. “It is highly unlikely that Gerasimov will be able to meet Putin’s unrealistic expectations of his performance,” the expert report said. The reason for this is that the command structure is becoming increasingly chaotic due to misplanning.
Survived thanks to the US
Gerasimov quickly climbed the career ladder in the Red Army and was appointed chief of staff of the Russian armed forces and first deputy defense minister in 2012 by President Vladimir Putin (70).
He is said to have been commander-general in the 2014 Battle of Ilovaisk. During days of fighting in Donetsk Oblast, Russian and pro-Russian militants encircled Ukrainian soldiers. More than 1,000 Ukrainians were killed.
In April, Gerasimov almost fell victim to a Ukrainian attack. The Ukrainians got wind of a planned visit to the front, but were held back by the US in an assassination attempt in order not to allow the situation to escalate any further.
However, the Ukrainian preparations were already underway, and dozens of Russian soldiers died in the attack. Contrary to initial assumptions, Gerasimov was not among them.