General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation

General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is the military staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. It is the central organ of the Armed Forces Administration and oversees operational management of the armed forces under the Russian Ministry of Defence.

The staff is organized by functions, with each directorate and operating agency overseeing an area. Working with the staffs of each of the services, the Main Operations Directorate drafts plans for strategic operations for the Supreme High Command. When the headquarters of the Supreme High Command approves the plans, the General Staff issues them to operational commanders as Supreme High Command directives. The General Staff Academy is responsible for training officers for the General Staff. The wartime command post for the General Staff is buried deep underground nearby Chekhov, Moscow Oblast. [ [ page on Chekhov] ] The Chief of the General Staff is appointed by the President of Russia, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The current Chief of the General Staff is General of the Army Nikolai Makarov .


In the Soviet Armed Forces, the Soviet General Staff acted as the main commanding and supervising body of the military. The Red Army Staff was first formed in 1921 but, historian John Erickson says, until 1924 developed into an unwieldy grouping dealing with combat training, routine Red Army affairs, and defence policy, all without real definition Erickson dates the development of the Staff as the Soviet 'military brain' from Mikhail Frunze's appointment to the post of Chief of Staff by Order No.78 of 1 April 1924.'From this date.. the history of the Soviet General Staff - as it was to become - begins'. [(Erickson, 1964, p.173). (Erickson, 1964, 203-4, 796)]

On September 22, 1935, the authorities renamed the RKKA Staff as the General Staff, which essentially reincarnated the General Staff of the Russian Empire. [See Philip Bayer, Evolution of the Soviet General Staff 1917-1941, New York, Garland, 1987] Many of the former RKKA Staff officers had served as General Staff officers in the Russian Empire and became General Staff officers in the USSR. General Staff officers typically had extensive combat experience and solid academic training.

William Odom wrote that 'during World War II [the General Staff] became Stalin's main organ for operational direction of all military forces. After the war it became the most powerful centre for virtually all aspects of military planning, operations, and determination of resource requirements. The minister of defence had only a limited staff for his own support, leaving him heavily dependent on the General Staff.'...'Within the Ministry of Defence, all the resource allocation issues were normally resolved by the chief of the General Staff before going to the minister, and finally, after consultation with GOSPLAN, to the Politburo.' [Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale, 1998, p.27]

After the first Chechen war began, the government, in the person of Boris Yeltsin, began to encourage the General Staff’s participation in the direct leadership of military actions. Moreover, on 11 January 1995 at a meeting between Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin and the Chairmen of the Chambers of the Federal Assembly, Vladimir Shumeyko and Ivan Rybkin, President Yeltsin announced his intention to pull the General Staff completely out of the Defense Ministry and attach it directly to himself. Yeltsin never implemented his plan, possibly because at that time the General Staff was headed by General Mikhail Kolesnikov, a modest person who respected official subordination, or possibly because he did not find the right person for the job. It is very difficult to judge the motives behind Yeltsin’s actions. In any case, this proposal apparently did not win much support in military circles.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and especially since 2004 the General Staff and the Russian Ministry of Defence have attempted to divide direction of the armed forces between them, often in bouts of bureaucratic bickering. It has been reported that the General Staff's main role now is that of the Russian Ministry of Defence's department of strategic planning, and the Minister of Defence himself is now gaining executive authority over the troops. However some Russian commentators dispute this. [Pavel Felgenhauer, [ Russia's Imperial General Staff] , Perspective, Volume XVI Number 1 (October-November 2005)]

Main Directorates

*Armaments: Liaison with defense industry/military-industrial complex
*Armor Staff: supervision of maintenance and modernization of combat vehicles
*Artillery Staff: supervision of maintenance and modernization of weapons
*Billeting and Maintenance: Maintenance and operation of military facilities and barracks
*Cadres- Management of careers of professional military officers and warrant officers
*Construction- Supervision of funding and resources for new military construction
*Construction Industry of Ministry of Defense- Supervision of classified construction projects.
*Education- Education and training of cadres and specialists
*Foreign Relations- Direction of military aid programs and military attachés
*Main Intelligence Directorate - successor to the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU); military intelligence
*Military Counterintelligence- counter-intelligence
*Motor Vehicles- Supervision of maintenance and modernization of wheeled vehicles
*Organization- Development and dissemination of mobilization plans for national emergencies
*Personnel Work- Successor to Soviet political office, for management of enlisted personnel
*Trade- Foreign military sales
*8th Directorate- Information security
*10th Directorate
*12th Main Directorate- Nuclear weapons
*15th Main Directorate- Biological weapons
*16th Directorate

War time headquarters

According to, Chekhov and the nearby Sharapovo were constructed in the late 1950s, and underwent modernization and expansion beginning in the early 1970s. Although these two installations may constitute one interrelated complex, the US intelligence community believes that the facilities at Sharapovo are probably for the wartime Defense Council and those at Chekhov for the General Staff. According to a 1983 US intelligence assessment, the deep underground facilities at these complexes for the National Command Authority are "harder, deeper and much less vulnerable than previously estimated".


External links

* [ Does Russia Need A General Staff?] (European Security Winter 2001 Vol. 10, No. 3, translation by Foreign Military Studies Office)
*Dr S J Main, [ The "Brain" of the Russian Army: The Centre for Military-Strategic Research, General Staff, 1985-2000] , Conflict Studies Research Centre, UK MOD

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