Reforming the GRU

In the aftermath of the Georgia War last year, the Russian government made the decision to reform the military intelligence service (GRU). According to a recent report, the proximate cause for the reform was the perception that the GRU had failed to inform the minister of defense and other top officials about the possibility of a Georgian attack.

Since the forced retirement of the head of the GRU last year, the government has been entirely silent regarding the specifics of the reform. Speculation centers on cuts in personnel and a reduction in the GRU’s sphere of activity. Most significantly, the special forces were removed from the GRU’s jurisdiction last spring and reassigned to the military districts. As a result, the GRU is left as an agency focused exclusively on intelligence — including branches dedicated to signals intelligence, human intelligence, and analysis.

The report leaves open the question of whether these changes will increase the GRU’s effectiveness. There is no doubt, however, that the changes (combined with Korabelnikov’s resignation last spring) will lead to a significant reduction in the GRU’s political influence within the Ministry of Defense and in the government as a whole. It seems that the FSB is now close to victory in the long-running competition for power and influence between the civilian and military intelligence agencies.