Monday, February 6, 2017

A Real Danger Sign: Russian Military Again Makes Combat Experience Key to Promotions

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 6 – General Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian General Staff, says that the Russian military will give preferences in promotions and assignments to those officers who have combat experience, something that may make more in the military ready to take part but also may reflect Moscow’s difficulties in getting a sufficient number to do so.

            Vladimir Mukhin of “Nezavisimaya gazeta” reports on this announcement today under the headline “Syrian Experience will Secure Success in Army Careers” that he argues represents one of “the non-traditional means” the General Staff has adopted to address “cadres problems” (

            In Soviet times, officers will combat experience received preferment; and in the 1980s, Mukhin says, that meant that those who had served in Afghanistan were the ones who moved most quickly into senior ranks. After 1991, service in Russia’s two wars in Chechnya gave officers a similar boost.

            But during the time of former defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his reforms, that tradition appeared to have ended; and many officers with combat experience found themselves sidetracked while those without it who were considered good administrators or managers were promoted instead.

            Now, with the fighting in Syria, the pendulum has swung back to preferences for combat veterans, something that many of Russia’s top generals, who were promoted because of their role in Chechnya, favor not only on the principle that combat is the true test of an officer but because that makes taking part in combat more attractive for military officers.

            “It is no secret,” Mukhin writes, that Serdyukov’s shift on this as on many other military matters made it more difficult to recruit officers and left the Russian army today with a serious shortage of junior officers.  That is now being remedied, he says, by such “unstandard” methods as boosting the rate of promotion for those who go into combat.

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