In Russia, a shift in military power

Putin is strengthening his grip over the Russian military. Photo:

President Putin is transfering key powers over Russian defence policies from the Ministry of Defence to the General Staff.


In the spirit of his policy of centralization and verticalization, President Vladimir Putin is boosting the role of the General Staff in issues of military planning. Amendments in the federal Law on the Military will shift the balance in military affairs between the Defence Ministry and the General Staff.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the State Duma last Friday approved the amendments in a first reading. The new legislation will put the General Staff more directly under the control of the president, and not under the Minister of Defence as before. According to the newspaper, the change will ”significantly boost the status of the General Staff”. Furthermore, the new legislation will give the General Staff expanded responsibilities for the organization of  Russian territorial defence. 

Although the Russian President from before is Chief Commander of the Armed Forces, the new law is likely to strengthen Putin’s direct powers over the military structures.

The shift in military powers comes just weeks after Putin fired Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and instated his long-term friend Sergei Shoigu. However, as noted by, the new legislation has been in the pipeline ever since spring 2012.

Soon after the appointment of Shoigu as new Defence Minister, Putin approved General Valery Gerasimov as new leader of the General Staff. 

The Ministry of Defence and the General Staff have a long history of rivalry over defence powers. However, since 2004 when Putin-loyal Sergei Ivanov became defence minister, the ministry has held the upper hand. That balance is now likely to change.