War in Ukraine: Guerassimov appointed commander of the offensive, dangerous position

In the event of a new setback by the Russian army in Ukraine, Valeri Guerassimov could become a “lightning rod”, according to some observers.


Russian General Valeri Gerasimov was recently appointed commander of the offensive in Ukraine.

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VSOpen to medals and at the top of the military hierarchy for ten years, Russian general Valeri Guerassimov has been appointed commander of the offensive in Ukraine, a precarious position after an exemplary career. The selection of a chief of staff to lead this military operation, an unusual practice, came after several troop disappointments in Moscow, between setbacks and heavy losses in the offensive in late December. The Ministry of Defense justified this designation on Wednesday by “expanding the scope of missions to be completed” and “the need for closer interaction between components of the armed forces”.

A man of few words in public, Valeri Guerassimov, 67, appears regularly, his face covered in a green uniform, listening to Vladimir Putin during maneuvers or meetings about military operations. Since November 2012, he has served as Chief of Staff, the highest position in the army after Minister of Defence. At the time of his appointment, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu presented Valeri Guerassimov as a “soldier to the roots of his hair” and already having “colossal experience” in the high command and in the field.READ ALSO Ahead of Ukraine, winter from all dangersValery Gerasimov “built an army. He has been preparing Russia for this war (in Ukraine) for ten years. Now he has to prove he didn’t do it in vain,” a Russian analyst told Agence France-Presse, on condition of anonymity, stressing that the general was a true professional soldier, unlike Sergei Shoigu who came from the civilian world.

A “lightning rod” in case of failure

On her Telegram account, Russian political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann believes her promotion is a “victory for the regular troops” of the army in an increasingly fierce competition, on the Ukrainian front, with “pirates” from Wagner’s paramilitary group.

General Guerasimov replaced Sergei Surovikin, who was praised by Wagner leader Evgueni Prigojine and by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who also sent his own troops to fight in Ukraine. But other observers, such as influential Russian military blogger Rybar, note that Valeri Guerassimov, despite his brilliant record, can now act as a “lightning rod” and jump in in the event of further setbacks.READ ALSO “Putin will face international court, that’s what history means”

Precursor to “hybrid warfare”

Born in 1955, belonging to the same generation as Vladimir Putin, General Gerasimov, hailing from the Republic of Tatarstan, has climbed all the ranks of the hierarchy since leaving the battle tank school in 1977. Commander of a motorized division between 1993 and 1995, he later commanded 58e the army was involved in the second war in Chechnya, which was initiated in 1999 by Vladimir Putin and resulted in Moscow’s reconquest of this Caucasus region.

During this conflict, journalist Anna Politkovskaïa, who was assassinated in 2006, had asserted that General Guerassimov knew how to “safeguard his honor as an officer” by going alone to arrest a Russian colonel accused of kidnapping and killing a Chechen. An uproarious case. French general Pierre de Villiers, Chief of the Defense Staff between 2014 and 2017, told television channel BFMTV that Valeri Guerassimov, his colleague at the time, “recognized only one thing, the balance of power”. “Not the element of language, not the loudness of the voice, the balance of power, the real thing,” he added.

READ ALSO7 lessons of the war in UkraineAmong Western observers, Valeri Gerasimov is often described as the father of the doctrine that defines “hybrid warfare”, involving both conventional and unconventional forces. While the official existence of this doctrine and Valeri Guerassimov’s alleged role are hotly disputed, the Russian general noted in 2013 “a tendency to erase the boundaries between states of peace and states of war”.

“War is no longer declared and, once started, does not follow a normal trajectory”, he added, underscoring the growing importance of “non-military means”. The following year, in 2014, Crimea was annexed by Moscow and conflict began between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists leveraging Moscow’s unofficial support, a model for these “hybrid warfare” experts.

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